03
Jun
09

On This Day, June 3: Tiananmen Square

June 3, 1989

Crackdown at Tiananmen begins

With protests for democratic reforms entering their seventh week, the Chinese government authorizes its soldiers and tanks to reclaim Beijing’s Tiananmen Square at all costs. By nightfall on June 4, Chinese troops had forcibly cleared the square, killing hundreds and arresting thousands of demonstrators and suspected dissidents.

On April 15, the death of Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party head who supported democratic reforms, roused some 100,000 students to gather at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to commemorate the leader and voice their discontent with China’s authoritative government. On April 22, an official memorial service for Hu Yaobang was held in Tiananmen’s Great Hall of the People, and student representatives carried a petition to the steps of the Great Hall, demanding to meet with Premier Li Peng. The Chinese government refused the meeting, leading to a general boycott of Chinese universities across the country and widespread calls for democratic reforms.

Ignoring government warnings of suppression of any mass demonstration, students from more than 40 universities began a march to Tiananmen on April 27. The students were joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, and by mid-May more than a million people filled the square, the site of Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

On May 20, the government formally declared martial law in Beijing, and troops and tanks were called in to disperse the dissidents. However, large numbers of students and citizens blocked the army’s advance, and by May 23 government forces had pulled back to the outskirts of Beijing. On June 3, with negotiations to end the protests stalled and calls for democratic reforms escalating, the troops received orders from the Chinese government to seize control of Tiananmen Square and the streets of Beijing. Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested.

In the weeks after the government crackdown, an unknown number of dissidents were executed, and hard-liners in the government took firm control of the country. The international community was outraged by the incident, and economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries sent China’s economy into decline. By late 1990, however, international trade had resumed, thanks in part to China’s release of several hundred imprisoned dissidents.

Crackdown at Tiananmen begins [Internet]. 2009. The History Channel website. Available from : http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5063 [Accessed 3 Jun 2009].

 

On This Day

1098 – Christian Crusaders of the First Crusade seized Antioch, Turkey.

1539 – Hernando De Soto claimed Florida for Spain.

1805 – A peace treaty between the U.S. and Tripoli was completed in the captain’s cabin on board the USS Constitution.

1871 – Jesse James, then 24, and his gang robbed the Obocock bank in Corydon, Iowa. They stole $15,000.

1923 – In Italy, Benito Mussolini granted women the right to vote.

1938 – The German Reich voted to confiscate so-called “degenerate art.”

1965 – Edward White became the first American astronaut to do a “space walk” when he left the Gemini 4 capsule.

1968 – Andy Warhol was shot and critically wounded in his New York film studio by Valerie Solanas.

1989 – Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died.

2003 – Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs) broke a bat when he grounded out against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The bat he was using was a corked bat.

June 3, 1864

Union disaster at Cold Harbor

On this day, Union General Ulysses S. Grant makes what he later recognizes to be his greatest mistake by ordering a frontal assault on entrenched Confederates at Cold Harbor. The result was some 7,000 Union casualties in less than an hour of fighting.

Grant’s Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had already inflicted frightful losses upon each other as they wheeled along an arc around Richmond—from the Wilderness to Spotsylvania and numerous smaller battle sites—the previous month.

On May 30, Lee and Grant collided at Bethesda Church. The next day, the advance units of the armies arrived at the strategic crossroads of Cold Harbor, just 10 miles from Richmond, where a Yankee attack seized the intersection. Sensing that there was a chance to destroy Lee at the gates of Richmond, Grant prepared for a major assault along the entire Confederate front on June 2.

But when Winfield Hancock’s Union corps did not arrive on schedule, the operation was postponed until the following day. The delay was tragic for the Union, because it gave Lee’s troops time to entrench. Perhaps frustrated with the protracted pursuit of Lee’s army, Grant gave the order to attack on June 3—a decision that resulted in an unmitigated disaster. The Yankees met murderous fire, and were only able to reach the Confederate trenches in a few places. The 7,000 Union casualties, compared to only 1,500 for the Confederates, were all lost in under an hour.

Grant pulled out of Cold Harbor nine days later and continued to try to flank Lee’s army. The next stop was Petersburg, south of Richmond, where a nine-month siege ensued. There would be no more attacks on the scale of Cold Harbor.

Union disaster at Cold Harbor [Internet]. 2009. The History Channel website. Available from : http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2196 [Accessed 3 Jun 2009].

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