Posts Tagged ‘American Civil War

14
Jun
09

On This Day, June 14: Lee Invades the North

June 14, 1863

Battle of Second Winchester

A small Union garrison in the Shenandoah Valley town of Winchester, Virginia, is easily defeated by the Army of Northern Virginia on the path of the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania.

In early June, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began an invasion of the North. Lee’s men pulled out of defenses along the Rappahannock River and swung north and west into the Shenandoah Valley. Using the Blue Ridge Mountains as a screen, the Confederates worked their way northward with little opposition. General Joseph Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac, was unsure of the Confederates’ intentions. He tracked Lee’s army from a distance, staying safely away to protect Washington, D.C.

During this time, Winchester was in Union hands. The city was literally at the crossroads of the war, so it changed hands continually. Robert Milroy, the commander of the Yankees in Winchester, was unaware that the vanguard of Lee’s army was heading his way. He had received some warnings from Washington, but an order to evacuate Winchester did not reach him because the Confederates had cut the telegraph lines. As late as June 11, Milroy bragged that he could hold the town against any Confederate force. His assertion was rendered ridiculous when Richard Ewell’s Rebel corps crashed down on his tiny garrison.

Ewell’s force quickly surrounded the Yankee’s. After a sharp battle, Ewell captured about 4,000 Federals, while Milroy and 2,700 soldiers escaped to safety. Ewell lost just 270 men but captured 300 wagons, hundreds of horses, and 23 artillery pieces. Milroy was relieved of his command and later arrested, although a court of inquiry found that he was not culpable in the disaster.

“Battle of Second Winchester,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2212 [accessed Jun 14, 2009]

On This Day

1775 – The Continental Army was founded by the Continental Congress for purposes of common defense. This event is considered to be the birth of the United States Army. On June 15, George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief.

1777 – The Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the “Stars and Stripes” as the national flag of the United States.

1834 – Cyrus Hall McCormick received a patent for his reaping machine.

1841 – The first Canadian parliament opened in Kingston.

1846 – A group of U.S. settlers in Sonoma proclaimed the Republic of California.

1917 – General John Pershing arrived in Paris during World War I.

1922 – Warren G. Harding became the first U.S. president to be heard on radio. The event was the dedication of the Francis Scott Key memorial at Fort McHenry.

1940 – German troops entered Paris. As Paris became occupied loud speakers announced the implementation of a curfew being imposed for 8 p.m.

1944 – Sixty U.S. B-29 Superfortress’ attacked an iron and steel works factory on Honshu Island. It was the first U.S. raid against mainland Japan.

1951 – “Univac I” was unveiled. It was a computer designed for the U.S. Census Bureau and billed as the world’s first commercial computer.

1954 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an order adding the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.

1982 – Argentine forces surrendered to British troops on the Falkland Islands.

1996 – The FBI released that the White House had done bureau background reports on at least 408 people without justification.

June 14, 1954

First nationwide civil defense drill held

Over 12 million Americans “die” in a mock nuclear attack, as the United States goes through its first nationwide civil defense drill. Though American officials were satisfied with the results of the drill, the event stood as a stark reminder that the United States–and the world-was now living under a nuclear shadow.

The June 1954 civil defense drill was organized and evaluated by the Civil Defense Administration, and included operations in 54 cities in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Alaska, and Hawaii. Canada also participated in the exercise. The basic premise of the drill was that the United States was under massive nuclear assault from both aircraft and submarines, and that most major urban areas had been targeted. At 10 a.m., alarms were sounded in selected cities, at which time all citizens were supposed to get off the streets, seek shelter, and prepare for the onslaught. Each citizen was supposed to know where the closest fallout shelter was located; these included the basements of government buildings and schools, underground subway tunnels, and private shelters. Even President Dwight D. Eisenhower took part in the show, heading to an underground bunker in Washington, D.C. The entire drill lasted only about 10 minutes, at which time an all-clear signal was broadcast and life returned to normal. Civil Defense Administration officials estimated that New York City would suffer the most in such an attack, losing over 2 million people. Other cities, including Washington, D.C., would also endure massive loss of life. In all, it was estimated that over 12 million Americans would die in an attack.

Despite those rather mind-numbing figures, government officials pronounced themselves very pleased with the drill. Minor problems in communication occurred, and one woman in New York City managed to create a massive traffic jam by simply stopping her car in the middle of the road, leaping out, and running for cover. In most cities, however, the streets were deserted just moments after the alarms sounded and there were no signs of panic or criminal behavior. A more cautious assessment came from a retired military officer, who observed that the recent development of the hydrogen bomb by the Soviet Union had “outstripped the progress made in our civil defense strides to defend against it.”

“First nationwide civil defense drill held,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2698 [accessed Jun 14, 2009]

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10
Jun
09

On This Day, June 10: Battle of Brice’s Crossroads

June 10, 1864

Battle of Brice’s Crossroads

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s legend grows substantially when his Confederate cavalry routs a much larger Union force in Mississippi.

When Union General William T. Sherman inched toward Atlanta, Georgia, in the summer of 1864, he left behind a vulnerable supply line through Tennessee. Of utmost concern to Sherman was the Rebel cavalry under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a daring leader who gave Union commanders in the west difficulty throughout the war. Sherman insisted that Forrest be neutralized and ordered a force from Memphis to hunt down Forrest’s command, which at that time was in northern Alabama.

On June 1, some 5,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry troopers under the command of General Samuel D. Sturgis trudged out of Memphis in search of the elusive Forrest. But rain and poor roads slowed them, and a week’s travel found the Yankees only 50 miles from Memphis.

Forrest had been preparing for an assault on central Tennessee, but Sturgis’s expedition forced him back to northern Mississippi. The Confederates spread out along a railroad between Tupelo and Corinth and awaited the Union advance. On June 8, Forrest learned that Sturgis was moving on Tupelo. He carefully selected Brice’s Crossroads for its muddy roads and dense woods to mitigate the Union’s numerical advantage and called for his men to attack the leading Yankee cavalry, which would force the trailing infantry to hurry to the battle and fight before recovering from the march.

The plan worked to perfection. Around 10 a.m. on June 10, the cavalry forces began fighting, and the Union infantry made a five-mile dash in intense heat and humidity to aid their fellow soldiers. In the afternoon, Forrest orchestrated a series of attacks all along the Union front, which broke the Yankee lines and sent the Federals from the field in disarray with the Confederates in hot pursuit. The chase continued into the next day.

Sturgis’s command suffered over 600 killed and wounded and over 1,600 captured—more than a quarter of the entire force. Forrest’s force suffered less than 600 killed and wounded, and the Confederates captured 16 cannons and 176 supply wagons. Forrest was never able to disrupt Sherman’s supply lines. However, the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads stands as his greatest military victory.

“Battle of Brice’s Crossroads,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2206 (accessed Jun 10, 2009).

On This Day

1190 – Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa drowned in the Saleph River while leading an army of the Third Crusade to free Jerusalem.

1776 – The Continental Congress appointed a committee to write a Declaration of Independence.

1801 – The North African State of Tripoli declared war on the U.S. The dispute was over merchant vessels being able to travel safely through the Mediterranean.

1854 – The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, held its first graduation.

1916 – Mecca, under control of the Turks, fell to the Arabs during the Great Arab Revolt.

1924 – The Italian socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti was kidnapped and murdered by Fascists in Rome.

1948 – Chuck Yeager exceeded the speed of sound in the Bell XS-1.

1967 – Israel and Syria agreed to a cease-fire that ended the Six-Day War.

1984 – The U.S. Army successfully tested an antiballistic missile.

1997 – Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot killed his defense chief Son Sen and 11 members of his family. He then fled his northern stronghold. The news did not emerge for three days.

June 10, 1953

Eisenhower rejects calls for U.S. “isolationism”

In a forceful speech, President Dwight D. Eisenhower strikes back at critics of his Cold War foreign policy. He insisted that the United States was committed to the worldwide battle against communism and that he would maintain a strong U.S. defense. Just a few months into his presidency, and with the Korean War still raging, Eisenhower staked out his basic approach to foreign policy with this speech.

In the weeks prior to Eisenhower’s talk, Senator Robert Taft and Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg issued challenges to the president’s conduct of foreign policy. Taft argued that if efforts to reach a peace agreement in Korea failed, the United States should withdraw from the United Nations forces and make its own policy for dealing with North Korea. Vandenberg was upset over Eisenhower’s proposal to cut $5 billion from the Air Force budget.

Without naming either man, Eisenhower responded to both during a speech at the National Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting in Minneapolis. He began by characterizing the Cold War as a battle “for the soul of man himself.” He rejected Taft’s idea that the United States should pursue a completely independent foreign policy, or what one “might call the ‘fortress’ theory of defense.” Instead, he insisted that all free nations had to stand together: “There is no such thing as partial unity.” To Vandenberg’s criticisms of the new Air Force budget, the president explained that vast numbers of aircraft were not needed in the new atomic age. Just a few planes armed with nuclear weapons could “visit on an enemy as much explosive violence as was hurled against Germany by our entire air effort throughout four years of World War II.”

With this speech, Eisenhower thus enunciated two major points of what came to be known at the time as his “New Look” foreign policy. First was his advocacy of multi-nation responses to communist aggression in preference to unilateral action by the United States. Second was the idea that came to be known as the “bigger bang for the buck” defense strategy. This postulated that a cheaper and more efficient defense could be built around the nation’s nuclear arsenal rather than a massive increase in conventional land, air, and sea forces.

“Eisenhower rejects calls for U.S. “isolationism”,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2694 (accessed Jun 10, 2009).

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].

02
Jun
09

On This Day, June 2: American Civil War Ends

June 2, 1865

American Civil War ends

In an event that is generally regarded as marking the end of the Civil War, Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi, signs the surrender terms offered by Union negotiators. With Smith’s surrender, the last Confederate army ceased to exist, bringing a formal end to the bloodiest four years in U.S. history.

The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate shore batteries under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. During 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort, and on April 13 U.S. Major Robert Anderson, commander of the Union garrison, surrendered. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to help quell the Southern “insurrection.” Four long years later, the Confederacy was defeated at the total cost of 620,000 Union and Confederate dead.

American Civil War ends,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=5057 [accessed Jun 2, 2009]

On This Day

1537 – Pope Paul III banned the enslavement of Indians.

1793 – Maximillian Robespierre initiated the “Reign of Terror”. It was an effort to purge those suspected of treason against the French Republic.

1896 – Guglieimo Marconi’s radio was patented in the U.S.

1928 – Nationalist Chiang Kai-shek captured Peking, China.

1933 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the first swimming pool to be built inside the White House.

1954 – U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy charged that there were communists working in the CIA and atomic weapons plants.

1966 – Surveyor 1, the U.S. space probe, landed on the moon and started sending photographs back to Earth of the Moon’s surface. It was the first soft landing on the Moon.

1979 – Pope John Paul II arrived in his native Poland on the first visit by a pope to a Communist country.

1998 – Voters in California passed Proposition 227. The act abolished the state’s 30-year-old bilingual education program by requiring that all children be taught in English.

2003 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that companies could not be sued under a trademark law for using information in the public domain without giving credit to the originator. The case had originated with 20th Century Fox against suing Dastar Corp. over their use of World War II footage.

June 2, 1924

The Indian Citizenship Act

With Congress’ passage of the Indian Citizenship Act, the government of the United States confers citizenship on all Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the country.

Before the Civil War, citizenship was often limited to Native Americans of one-half or less Indian blood. In the Reconstruction period, progressive Republicans in Congress sought to accelerate the granting of citizenship to friendly tribes, though state support for these measures was often limited. In 1888, most Native American women married to U.S. citizens were conferred with citizenship, and in 1919 Native American veterans of World War I were offered citizenship. In 1924, the Indian Citizenship Act, an all-inclusive act, was passed by Congress. The privileges of citizenship, however, were largely governed by state law, and the right to vote was often denied to Native Americans in the early 20th century.

“The Indian Citizenship Act,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=5059 [accessed Jun 2, 2009]

31
May
09

On This Day, May 31: Joseph Johnston Wounded

May 31, 1862

Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks), Virginia

Confederate forces strike Union troops in the Pen insular campaign. During May 1862, the Army of the Potomac, under the command of George B. McClellan, slowly advanced up the James Peninsula after sailing down the Chesapeake Bay by boat. Confederate commander Joseph Johnston had been cautiously backing his troops up the peninsula in the face of the larger Union force, giving ground until he was in the Richmond perimeter. When the Rebels had backed up to the capital, Johnston sought an opportunity to attack McClellan and halt his advance.

That chance came when McClellan’s forces were straddling the Chickahominy River. The swampy ground around the river was difficult to maneuver, and the river was now a raging torrent from the spring rains. A major storm on May 31 threatened to cut the only bridge links between the two wings of the Union army.

Johnston attacked one of McClellan’s corps south of the river on May 31 in a promising assault. The plan called for three divisions to hammer the Federal corps from three sides, but the inexperienced Confederates were delayed and confused. By the time the attack came, McClellan had time to muster reinforcements and drive the Rebels back. A Confederate attack the next day also produced no tangible results. The Yankees lost 5,000 casualties to the Rebels’ 6,000.

But the battle had two important consequences. McClellan was horrified by the sight of his dead and wounded soldiers, and became much more cautious and timid in battle—actions that would eventually doom the campaign. And since Johnston was wounded during the battle’s first day, Robert E. Lee replaced him. Lee had been serving as Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ military advisor since his undistinguished service in western Virginia during the war’s first year. The history of the war in the eastern theater drastically changed as Lee ascended the ranks. His leadership and exploits soon became legend.

“Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks), Virginia,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2051 [accessed May 31, 2009]

 

On This Day

1854 – The Kansas-Nebraska Act passed by the U.S. Congress.

1889 – In Johnstown, PA, more than 2,200 people died after the South Fork Dam collapsed.

1902 – The Boer War ended between the Boers of South Africa and Great Britain with the Treaty of Vereeniging.

1909 – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held its first conference.

1913 – The 17th Amendment went into effect. It provided for popular election of U.S. senators.

1947 – Communists seized control of Hungary.

1955 – The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that all states must end racial segregation “with all deliberate speed.”

1962 – Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel. Eichmann was a Gestapo official and was executed for his actions in the Nazi Holocaust.

2003 – In North Carolina, Eric Robert Rudolph was captured. He had been on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list for five years for several bombings including the 1996 Olympic bombing.

May 31, 1775

Mecklenburg Resolutions reject the power of the British in North Carolina

On this day in 1775, the committeemen of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, meet and respond to news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolution, with a series of 20 patriotic resolutions.

This meeting gave rise to a lasting historical myth better known than the event itself. In 1819, the Raleigh Register published a document that it claimed was the “Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence” from May 20, 1775. Controversy continues regarding the declaration’s authenticity, but it is likely that the so-called declaration was a misdated and edited version of the resolves that were actually recorded on May 31.

The so-called Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence printed in 1819 contained five resolutions. The first charges, “That whosoever directly or indirectly abetted, or in any way, form, or manner, countenanced the unchartered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to this County, to America, and to the inherent and inalienable rights of man.” The second resolution “dissolved” Mecklenburg County’s ties “to the Mother Country” and removed “all allegiance to the British Crown,” which had “shed the innocent blood of American Patriots at Lexington. The third resolution declared the Mecklenbergers, “a free and independent people.” The fourth and fifth resolutions dissolved the power of all British appointments and called every officer in the county to resume “his former command and authority… until a more general and organized government be established in this province.”

The myth of the May 20, 1775, declaration is deeply entrenched: North Carolina’s state seal and flag bear the dates May 20, 1775, and April 12, 1776. April 12, 1776, was the date of the Halifax Resolves, with which the North Carolina Provincial Congress empowered its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote in favor of independence from Britain. Despite the continued popularity of the “Mecklenburg Declaration” in popular lore, the less emphatic set of 20 resolves issued on May 31, which suspended crown authority in North Carolina without overtly declaring independence, are the only ones confirmed to have existed by contemporary documents.

“Mecklenburg Resolutions reject the power of the British in North Carolina,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=639 [accessed May 31, 2009]

26
May
09

On This Day, May 26: Pequot Massacres

May 26, 1637

Pequot massacres begin

During the Pequot War, an allied Puritan and Mohegan force under English Captain John Mason attacks a Pequot village in Connecticut, burning or massacring some 500 Indian women, men, and children.

As the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay spread further into Connecticut, they came into increasing conflict with the Pequots, a war-like tribe centered on the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut. By the spring of 1637, 13 English colonists and traders had been killed by the Pequot, and Massachusetts Bay Governor John Endecott organized a large military force to punish the Indians. On April 23, 200 Pequot warriors responded defiantly to the colonial mobilization by attacking a Connecticut settlement, killing six men and three women and taking two girls away.

On May 26, 1637, two hours before dawn, the Puritans and their Indian allies marched on the Pequot village at Mystic, slaughtering all but a handful of its inhabitants. On June 5, Captain Mason attacked another Pequot village, this one near present-day Stonington, and again the Indian inhabitants were defeated and massacred. On July 28, a third attack and massacre occurred near present-day Fairfield, and the Pequot War came to an end. Most of the surviving Pequot were sold into slavery, though a handful escaped to join other southern New England tribes.

“Pequot massacres begin,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5035 [accessed May 26, 2009]

On This Day

0017 – Germanicus of Rome celebrated his victory over the Germans.

1521 – Martin Luther was banned by the Edict of Worms because of his religious beliefs and writings.

1647 – A new law banned Catholic priests from the colony of Massachusetts. The penalty was banishment or death for a second offense.

1736 – The British and Chickasaw Indians defeated the French at the Battle of Ackia.

1805 – Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned King of Italy in Milan Cathedral.

1864 – The Territory of Montana was organized.

1868 – U.S. President Andrew Johnson was acquitted, by one vote, of all charges in his impeachment trial.

1938 – The House Committee on Un-American Activities began its work of searching for subversives in the United States.

1940 – The evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France, began during World War II.

1946 – A patent was filed in the United States for an H-bomb.

1948 – The U.S. Congress passed Public Law 557 which permanently established the Civil Air Patrol as the Auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force.

1961 – Civil rights activist group Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee was established in Atlanta, GA.

1969 – The Apollo 10 astronauts returned to Earth after a successful eight-day dress rehearsal for the first manned moon landing.

1972 – The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) was signed by the U.S. and USSR. The short-term agreement put a freeze on the testing and deployment of intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles for a 5-year period.

1994 – U.S. President Clinton renewed trade privileges for China, and announced that his administration would no longer link China’s trade status with its human rights record.

May 26, 1865

General Edmund Kirby Smith surrenders

Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi division, surrenders on this day in 1865, one of the last Confederate generals to capitulate. Smith, who had become commander of the area in January 1863, was charged with keeping the Mississippi River open to the Southerners. Yet he was more interested in recapturing Arkansas and Missouri largely because of the influence of Arkansans in the Confederate Congress who helped to secure his appointment.

Drawing sharp criticism for his failure to provide relief for Vicksburg in the summer of 1863, Smith later conducted the resistance to the failed Union Red River campaign of 1864. When the Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston surrendered in the spring of 1865, Smith continued to resist with his small army in Texas. He insisted that Lee and Johnston were prisoners of war and decried Confederate deserters of the cause. On May 26, General Simon Buckner, acting for Smith, met with Union officers in New Orleans to arrange the surrender of Smith’s force under terms similar to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Smith reluctantly agreed, and officially laid down his arms at Galveston on June 2. Smith himself fled to Mexico, and then to Cuba, before returning to Virginia in November 1865 to sign an amnesty oath. He was the last surviving full Confederate general until his death in 1893.

Twenty-three days after Smith’s surrender, Brigadier General Stand Watie, a Cherokee, became the last Confederate field general to surrender.

“General Edmund Kirby Smith surrenders,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2043 [accessed May 26, 2009]

13
May
09

On This Day, May 13: US Declares War on Mexico

May 13, 1846

President Polk declares war on Mexico

On May 13, 1846, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly votes in favor of President James K. Polk’s request to declare war on Mexico in a dispute over Texas.

Under the threat of war, the United States had refrained from annexing Texas after the latter won independence from Mexico in 1836. But in 1844, President John Tyler restarted negotiations with the Republic of Texas, culminating with a Treaty of Annexation.
The treaty was defeated by a wide margin in the Senate because it would upset the slave state/free state balance between North and South and risked war with Mexico, which had broken off relations with the United States. But shortly before leaving office and with the support of President-elect Polk, Tyler managed to get the joint resolution passed on March 1, 1845. Texas was admitted to the union on December 29.
While Mexico didn’t follow through with its threat to declare war, relations between the two nations remained tense over border disputes, and in July 1845, President Polk ordered troops into disputed lands that lay between the Neuces and Rio Grande rivers. In November, Polk sent the diplomat John Slidell to Mexico to seek boundary adjustments in return for the U.S. government’s settlement of the claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico and also to make an offer to purchase California and New Mexico. After the mission failed, the U.S. army under Gen. Zachary Taylor advanced to the mouth of the Rio Grande, the river that the state of Texas claimed as its southern boundary.

Mexico, claiming that the boundary was the Nueces River to the northeast of the Rio Grande, considered the advance of Taylor’s army an act of aggression and in April 1846 sent troops across the Rio Grande. Polk, in turn, declared the Mexican advance to be an invasion of U.S. soil, and on May 11, 1846, asked Congress to declare war on Mexico, which it did two days later.

After nearly two years of fighting, peace was established by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848. The Rio Grande was made the southern boundary of Texas, and California and New Mexico were ceded to the United States. In return, the United States paid Mexico the sum of $15 million and agreed to settle all claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico.

“President Polk declares war on Mexico,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=58864 [accessed May 13, 2009]

On This Day

1607 – Jamestown, Virginia, was settled as a colony of England.

1648 – Margaret Jones of Plymouth was found guilty of witchcraft and was sentenced to be hanged by the neck.

1865 – The last land engagement of the American Civil War was fought at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in far south Texas, more than a month after Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, VA.

1867 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis became a free man after spending two years in prison for his role in the American Civil War.

1888 – Slavery was abolished in Brazil.

1912 – Royal Flying Corps was established in England.

1954 – U.S. President Eisenhower signed into law the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Act.

1968 – Peace talks between the U.S. and North Vietnam began in Paris.

1981 – Pope John Paul II was shot and seriously wounded in St. Peter’s Square by Turkish assailant Mehmet Ali Agca.

1985 – A confrontation between Philadelphia authorities and the radical group MOVE ended as police dropped an explosive onto the group’s headquarters. 11 people died in the fire that resulted.

May 13, 1958

Vice President Nixon is attacked

During a goodwill trip through Latin America, Vice President Richard Nixon’s car is attacked by an angry crowd and nearly overturned while traveling through Caracas, Venezuela. The incident was the dramatic highlight of trip characterized by Latin American anger over some of America’s Cold War policies.

By 1958, relations between the United States and Latin America had reached their lowest point in years. Latin Americans complained that the U.S. focus on the Cold War and anticommunism failed to address the pressing economic and political needs of many Latin American nations. In particular, they argued that their countries needed more basic economic assistance, not more arms to repel communism. They also questioned the American support of dictatorial regimes in Latin America simply because those regimes claimed to be anticommunist-for example, the U.S. awarded the Legion of Merit medal to Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez in 1954; Jimenez was overthrown by a military coup early in 1958.

This was the atmosphere into which Vice President Richard Nixon arrived during his goodwill trip through Latin America in April and May 1958. The trip began with some controversy, as Nixon engaged in loud and bitter debates with student groups during his travels through Peru and Uruguay. In Caracas, Venezuela, however, things took a dangerous turn. A large crowd of angry Venezuelans who shouted anti-American slogans stopped Nixon’s motorcade through the capital city. They attacked the car, damaged its body and smashed the windows. Inside the vehicle, Secret Service agents covered the vice president and at least one reportedly pulled out his weapon. Miraculously, they escaped from the crowd and sped away. In Washington, President Eisenhower dispatched U.S. troops to the Caribbean area to rescue Nixon from further threats if necessary. None occurred, and the vice president left Venezuela ahead of schedule.

The riot in Caracas served as a wake-up call to U.S. officials in Washington, alerting them to America’s deteriorating relations with Latin America. In the next few months, the United States increased both its military and economic assistance to the region. However, it was not until communist Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba beginning in 1959 that the United States truly realized the extent of discontent and rebelliousness in Latin America.

“Vice President Nixon is attacked,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2666 [accessed May 13, 2009]




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