Posts Tagged ‘Mexican-American War

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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25
Apr
09

On This Day, April 25: Yuri Andropov

April 25, 1983

Andropov writes to an American fifth-grader

The Soviet Union releases a letter that Russian leader Yuri Andropov wrote to Samantha Smith, an American fifth-grader. This rather unusual piece of Soviet propaganda was in direct response to President Ronald Reagan’s vigorous attacks on what he called “the evil empire” of the Soviet Union.

In 1983, President Reagan was in the midst of a harsh rhetorical campaign against the Soviet Union. A passionate anticommunist, President Reagan called for massive increases in U.S. defense spending to meet the perceived Soviet threat. In Russia, however, events were leading to a different Soviet approach to the West. In 1982, long-time leader Leonid Brezhnev died; Yuri Andropov was his successor. While Andropov was not radical in his approach to politics and economics, he did seem to sincerely desire a better relationship with the United States. In an attempt to blunt the Reagan attacks, the Soviet government on released a letter that Andropov had written in response to one sent by Samantha Smith, a fifth-grade student from Manchester, Maine.

Smith had written the Soviet leader as part of a class assignment, one that was common enough for students in the Cold War years. Most of these missives received a form letter response, if any at all, but Andropov answered Smith’s letter personally. He explained that the Soviet Union had suffered horrible losses in World War II, an experience that convinced the Russian people that they wanted to “live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on the globe, no matter how close or far away they are, and, certainly, with such a great country as the United States of America.” In response to Smith’s question about whether the Soviet Union wished to prevent nuclear war, Andropov declared, “Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries, so that there will be no war at all on earth. This is the wish of everyone in the Soviet Union. That’s what we were taught to do by Vladimir Lenin, the great founder of our state.” He vowed that Russia would “never, but never, be the first to use nuclear weapons against any country.” Andropov complimented Smith, comparing her to the spunky character of Becky from the Mark Twain novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. “All kids in our country, boys and girls alike, know and love this book,” he added. Andropov ended by inviting Samantha and her parents to visit the Soviet Union. In July 1983, Samantha accepted the invitation and flew to Russia for a three-week tour.

Soviet propaganda had never been known for its human qualities. Generally speaking, it was given to heavy-handed diatribes and communist cliches. In his public relations duel with Reagan-the American president known as the “Great Communicator”-Andropov tried something different by assuming a folksy, almost grandfatherly approach. Whether this would have borne fruit is unknown; just a year later, Andropov died. Tragically, Samantha Smith, aged 13, died just one year after Andropov’s passing, in August 1985 in a plane crash.

“Andropov writes to an American fifth-grader,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2648 [accessed Apr 25, 2009]

On This Day

1792 – The guillotine was first used to execute highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier.

1846 – The Mexican-American War ignited as a result of disputes over claims to Texas boundaries. The outcome of the war fixed Texas‘ southern boundary at the Rio Grande River.

1859 – Work began on the Suez Canal in Egypt.

1862 – Union Admiral Farragut occupied New Orleans, LA.

1864 – After facing defeat in the Red River Campaign, Union General Nathaniel Bank returned to Alexandria, LA.

1898 – The U.S. declared war on Spain. Spain had declared war on the U.S. the day before.

1915 – During World War I, Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli in Turkey in hopes of attacking the Central Powers from below. The attack was unsuccessful.

1952 – After a three-day fight against Chinese Communist Forces, the Gloucestershire Regiment was annihilated on “Gloucester Hill,” in Korea.

1959 – St. Lawrence Seaway opened to shipping. The water way connects the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

1962 – The U.S. spacecraft, Ranger, crashed on the Moon.

1971 – The country of Bangladesh was established.

1980 – In Iran, a commando mission to rescue hostages was aborted after mechanical problems disabled three of the eight helicopters involved. During the evacuation, a helicopter and a transport plan collided and exploded. Eight U.S. servicemen were killed. The mission was aimed at freeing American hostages that had been taken at the U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979. The event took place April 24th Washington, DC, time.

1983 – The Pioneer 10 spacecraft crossed Pluto’s orbit, speeding on its endless voyage through the Milky Way.

1990 – The U.S. Hubble Space Telescope was placed into Earth’s orbit. It was released by the space shuttle Discovery.

April 25, 1945

Americans and Russians link up, cut Germany in two

On this day in 1945, eight Russian armies completely encircle Berlin, linking up with the U.S. First Army patrol, first on the western bank of the Elbe, then later at Torgau. Germany is, for all intents and purposes, Allied territory.

The Allies sounded the death knell of their common enemy by celebrating. In Moscow, news of the link-up between the two armies resulted in a 324-gun salute; in New York, crowds burst into song and dance in the middle of Times Square. Among the Soviet commanders who participated in this historic meeting of the two armies was the renowned Russian Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, who warned a skeptical Stalin as early as June 1941 that Germany posed a serious threat to the Soviet Union. Zhukov would become invaluable in battling German forces within Russia (Stalingrad and Moscow) and without. It was also Zhukov who would demand and receive unconditional surrender of Berlin from German General Krebs less than a week after encircling the German capital. At the end of the war, Zhukov was awarded a military medal of honor from Great Britain.

“Americans and Russians link up, cut Germany in two,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6433 [accessed Apr 25, 2009]




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