Posts Tagged ‘USS Constitution

05
May
09

On This Day, May 5, Alan B Shepard

May 5, 1961

The first American in space

From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. is launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space. The suborbital flight, which lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles into the atmosphere, was a major triumph for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

NASA was established in 1958 to keep U.S. space efforts abreast of recent Soviet achievements, such as the launching of the world’s first artificial satellite–Sputnik 1–in 1957. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the two superpowers raced to become the first country to put a man in space and return him to Earth. On April 12, 1961, the Soviet space program won the race when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into space, put in orbit around the planet, and safely returned to Earth. One month later, Shepard’s suborbital flight restored faith in the U.S. space program.

NASA continued to trail the Soviets closely until the late 1960s and the successes of the Apollo lunar program. In July 1969, the Americans took a giant leap forward with Apollo 11, a three-stage spacecraft that took U.S. astronauts to the surface of the moon and returned them to Earth. On February 5, 1971, Alan Shepard, the first American in space, became the fifth astronaut to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 14 lunar landing mission.

“The first American in space,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4977 [accessed May 5, 2009]

On This Day

1494 – Christopher Columbus sighted Jamaica on his second trip to the Western Hemisphere. He named the island Santa Gloria.

1798 – U.S. Secretary of War William McHenry ordered that the USS Constitution be made ready for sea. The frigate was launched on October 21, 1797, but had never been put to sea.

1814 – The British attack the American forces at Ft. Ontario, Oswego, NY.

1821 – Napoleon Bonaparte died on the island of St. Helena, where he had been in exile.

1862 – The Battle of Puebla took place. It is celebrated as Cinco de Mayo Day.

1865 – The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery in the U.S.

1901 – The first Catholic mass for night workers was held at the Church of St. Andrew in New York City.

1917 – Eugene Jacques Bullard becomes the first African-American aviator when he earned his flying certificate with the French Air Service.

1925 – John T. Scopes, a biology teacher in Dayton, TN, was arrested for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.

1942 – General Joseph Stilwell learned that the Japanese had cut his railway out of China and was forced to lead his troops into India.

1945 – The Netherlands and Denmark were liberated from Nazi control.

1955 – The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) became a sovereign state.

1981 – Irish Republican Army hunger-striker Bobby Sands died at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. It was his 66th day without food.

May 5, 1945

Six killed in Oregon by Japanese bomb

In Lakeview, Oregon, Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five neighborhood children are killed while attempting to drag a Japanese balloon out the woods. Unbeknownst to Mitchell and the children, the balloon was armed, and it exploded soon after they began tampering with it. They were the first and only known American civilians to be killed in the continental United States during World War II. The U.S. government eventually gave $5,000 in compensation to Mitchell’s husband, and $3,000 each to the families of Edward Engen, Sherman Shoemaker, Jay Gifford, and Richard and Ethel Patzke, the five slain children.

The explosive balloon found at Lakeview was a product of one of only a handful of Japanese attacks against the continental United States, which were conducted early in the war by Japanese submarines and later by high-altitude balloons carrying explosives or incendiaries. In comparison, three years earlier, on April 18, 1942, the first squadron of U.S. bombers dropped bombs on the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kobe, and Nagoyo, surprising the Japanese military command, who believed their home islands to be out of reach of Allied air attacks. When the war ended on August 14, 1945, some 160,000 tons of conventional explosives and two atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan by the United States. Approximately 500,000 Japanese civilians were killed as a result of these bombing attacks.

“Six killed in Oregon by Japanese bomb,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4976 [accessed May 5, 2009]

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21
Oct
08

On This Day, 10-21-2008: USS Constitution

October 21, 1797

USS Constitution launched

The USS Constitution, a 44-gun U.S. Navy frigate built to fight Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli, is launched in Boston Harbor. The vessel performed commendably during the Barbary conflicts, and in 1805 a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on the Constitution‘s deck.

During the War of 1812, the Constitution won its enduring nickname “Old Ironsides” after defeating the British warship GuerriÈre in a furious engagement off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shots merely bounced off the Constitution‘s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. The success of the Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous morale boost for the young American republic.

In 1855, the Constitution retired from active military service, but the famous vessel continued to serve the United States, first as a training ship and later as a touring national landmark. Since 1934, it has been based at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. Over the years, Old Ironsides has enjoyed a number of restorations, the most recent of which was completed in 1997, allowing it to sail for the first time in 116 years. Today, the Constitution is one of the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.

“USS Constitution launched.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Oct 2008, 12:04 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5456.

 

On This Day

1917 – The first U.S. soldiers entered combat during World War I near Nancy, France.

1925 – The photoelectric cell was first demonstrated at the Electric Show in New York City, NY.

1944 – During World War II, the German city of Aachen was captured by U.S. troops.

1945 – Women in France were allowed to vote for the first time.

1950 – Chinese forces invaded Tibet.

1959 – The Guggenheim Museum was opened to the public in New York. The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

1966 – In south Wales, 140 people were killed by a coal waste landslide engulfed a school and several houses.

1983 – The Pentagon reported that 2,000 Marines were headed to Grenada to protect and evacuate Americans living there.

1994 – North Korea and the U.S. signed an agreement requiring North Korea to halt its nuclear program and agree to inspections.

1998 – Cancer specialist Dr. Jane Henney became the FDA’s first female commissioner.

 

October 21, 1805

Battle of Trafalgar

In one of the most decisive naval battles in history, a British fleet under Admiral Lord Nelson defeats a combined French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off the coast of Spain.

At sea, Lord Nelson and the Royal Navy consistently thwarted Napoleon Bonaparte, who led France to preeminence on the European mainland. Nelson’s last and greatest victory against the French was the Battle of Trafalgar, which began after Nelson caught sight of a Franco-Spanish force of 33 ships. Preparing to engage the enemy force on October 21, Nelson divided his 27 ships into two divisions and signaled a famous message from the flagship Victory: “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

In five hours of fighting, the British devastated the enemy fleet, destroying 19 enemy ships. No British ships were lost, but 1,500 British seamen were killed or wounded in the heavy fighting. The battle raged at its fiercest around the Victory, and a French sniper shot Nelson in the shoulder and chest. The admiral was taken below and died about 30 minutes before the end of the battle. Nelson’s last words, after being informed that victory was imminent, were “Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty.”

Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar ensured that Napoleon would never invade Britain. Nelson, hailed as the savior of his nation, was given a magnificent funeral in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. A column was erected to his memory in the newly named Trafalgar Square, and numerous streets were renamed in his honor.

“Battle of Trafalgar.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Oct 2008, 12:05 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5457.

19
Aug
08

Urban Legend: Old Ironsides

Sifting through myth and finding only the facts creates problems for historians and for someone not trained in history can lead to accepting myth for fact.  An urban legend that surrounds “Old Ironsides” illustrates the problem quite well.  I had another blog before I started this one.  An experimental blog that taught me about posting on the Internet and how people would react to those posts.  One of my posts for that blog was as follows:

 

Old Ironsides

The U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) as a combat vessel carried 48,600 gallons of fresh (remember that figure) water for her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (fresh water distillers). However, let it be noted that according to her log, “On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum.”

Her mission: “To destroy and harass English shipping.”

Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on, according to her log, 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum.

She then headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine. On 18 November, she set sail for England.

In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchantmen, salvaging only the rum aboard each. By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, and though unarmed, she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Her landing party captured a whiskey distillery and took aboard 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn.

Then she headed home.

The U.S.S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, seven [7] months after her departure, with NO cannon shot, NO food, NO powder, NO rum, NO wine, NO whiskey, and 38,600 gallons of stagnant water.*

*According to my calculations that is two and a half gallons of alcohol per man per day.

 

This post got the attention of a few people who then commented.  Here is one of those comments:

 

True story(ask the Navy):
http://www.navy.mil/navydata/people/secnav/dalton/speeches/aapa1008.txt

 

That comment got a rather spirited reply from Henry Sirotin, who is apparently well-versed in the history of that time period.  Henry made a compelling argument for why he felt this story is nothing more than an urban legend.  He refutes the validity of the claim by breaking down the inconsistencies with the story and placing them within known facts.

I don’t care if Dalton gave this story and the Navy included it in his speech list. It is false on the face of it- we weren’t fighting the British in 1798-1799, we were fighting the French, so this whole scenario would have been a declaration of war on Britain, and the Constitution never made European waters until 1803. And anyone who knows where the Firth of Clyde is would know that such a raid would be more than suicidal- totally constricted waters, for which you would need a pilot, no means of escape if pinned in, and a general location where she would easily be trapped, unarmed, and forced to run the gamut of the entire Irish Sea and RN units at Liverpool, Bristol, and Plymouth if the North Channel to the Atlantic were blocked.

I thanked Henry for his help with this story and was glad to have a great illustration on how to tell myth from truth.

19
Aug
08

On This Day, 8-19-2008: "Old Ironsides"

Old Ironsides earns its names

During the War of 1812, the U.S. Navy frigate Constitution defeats the British frigate Guerrière in a furious engagement off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shot merely bounced off the Constitution‘s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. By the war’s end, “Old Ironsides” destroyed or captured seven more British ships. The success of the USS Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous boost in morale for the young American republic.

The Constitution was one of six frigates that Congress requested be built in 1794 to help protect American merchant fleets from attacks by Barbary pirates and harassment by British and French forces. It was constructed in Boston, and the bolts fastening its timbers and copper sheathing were provided by the industrialist and patriot Paul Revere. Launched on October 21, 1797, the Constitution was 204 feet long, displaced 2,200 tons, and was rated as a 44-gun frigate (although it often carried as many as 50 guns).

In July 1798 it was put to sea with a crew of 450 and cruised the West Indies, protecting U.S. shipping from French privateers. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson ordered the American warship to the Mediterranean to fight Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli. The vessel performed commendably during the conflict, and in 1805 a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on the Constitution‘s deck.

When war broke out with Britain in June 1812, the Constitution was commanded by Isaac Hull, who served as lieutenant on the ship during the Tripolitan War. Scarcely a month later, on July 16, the Constitution encountered a squadron of five British ships off Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Finding itself surrounded, the Constitution was preparing to escape when suddenly the wind died. With both sides dead in the water and just out of gunnery range, a legendary slow-speed chase ensued. For 36 hours, the Constitution‘s crew kept their ship just ahead of the British by towing the frigate with rowboats and by tossing the ship’s anchor ahead of the ship and then reeling it in. At dawn on July 18, a breeze sprang, and the Constitution was far enough ahead of its pursuers to escape by sail.

One month later, on August 19, the Constitution caught the British warship Guerrière alone about 600 miles east of Boston. After considerable maneuvering, the Constitution delivered its first broadside, and for 20 minutes the American and British vessels bombarded each other in close and violent action. The British man-of-war was de-masted and rendered a wreck while the Constitution escaped with only minimal damage. The unexpected victory of Old Ironsides against a British frigate helped unite America behind the war effort and made Commander Hull a national hero. The Constitution went on to defeat or capture seven more British ships in the War of 1812 and ran the British blockade of Boston twice.

After the war, Old Ironsides served as the flagship of the navy’s Mediterranean squadron and in 1828 was laid up in Boston. Two years later, the navy considered scrapping the Constitution, which had become unseaworthy, leading to an outcry of public support for preserving the famous warship. The navy refurbished the Constitution, and it went on to serve as the flagship of the Mediterranean, Pacific, and Home squadrons. In 1844, the frigate left New York City on a global journey that included visits to numerous international ports as a goodwill agent of the United States. In the early 1850s, it served as flagship of the African Squadron and patrolled the West African coast looking for slave traders.

In 1855, the Constitution retired from active military service, but the famous vessel continued to serve the United States, first as a training ship and later as a touring national landmark. Since 1934, it has been based at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. Over the years, Old Ironsides has enjoyed a number of restorations, the most recent of which was completed in 1997, allowing it to sail for the first time in 116 years. Today, the Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.

“Old Ironsides earns its names.” 2008. The History Channel website. 18 Aug 2008, 12:53 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6994.

 

On This Day

1692 – Five women and a clergyman were executed after being convicted of witchcraft in Salem, MA.

1848 – The discovery of gold in California was reported by the New York Herald.

1856 – The process of processing condensed milk was patented by Gail Borden.

1909 – The first car race to be run on brick occurred at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

1917 – Team managers John McGraw and Christy Matthewson were arrested for breaking New York City’s blue laws. The crime was their teams were playing baseball on Sunday.

1919 – Afghanistan gained independence from Britain.

1934 – Adolf Hitler was approved for sole executive power in Germany as Fuehrer.

1942 – About 6,000 Canadian and British soldiers launched a raid against the Germans at Dieppe, France. The suffered about 50 percent casualties.

1955 – Severe flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Diane, in the Northeast United States, claimed 200 lives.

1960 – Francis Gary Powers, an American U-2 pilot, was convicted of espionage in Moscow.

1981 – Two Libyan SU-22s were shot down by two U.S. Navy F-14 fighters in the Gulf of Sidra.

 

CIA-assisted coup overthrows government of Iran

The Iranian military, with the support and financial assistance of the United States government, overthrows the government of Premier Mohammed Mosaddeq and reinstates the Shah of Iran. Iran remained a solid Cold War ally of the United States until a revolution ended the Shah’s rule in 1979.

Mosaddeq came to prominence in Iran in 1951 when he was appointed premier. A fierce nationalist, Mosaddeq immediately began attacks on British oil companies operating in his country, calling for expropriation and nationalization of the oil fields. His actions brought him into conflict with the pro-Western elites of Iran and the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlevi. Indeed, the Shah dismissed Mossadeq in mid-1952, but massive public riots condemning the action forced the Shah to reinstate Mossadeq a short time later. U.S. officials watched events in Iran with growing suspicion. British intelligence sources, working with the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), came to the conclusion that Mossadeq had communist leanings and would move Iran into the Soviet orbit if allowed to stay in power. Working with Shah, the CIA and British intelligence began to engineer a plot to overthrow Mossadeq. The Iranian premier, however, got wind of the plan and called his supporters to take to the streets in protest. At this point, the Shah left the country for “medical reasons.” While British intelligence backed away from the debacle, the CIA continued its covert operations in Iran. Working with pro-Shah forces and, most importantly, the Iranian military, the CIA cajoled, threatened, and bribed its way into influence and helped to organize another coup attempt against Mossadeq. On August 19, 1953, the military, backed by street protests organized and financed by the CIA, overthrew Mossadeq. The Shah quickly returned to take power and, as thanks for the American help, signed over 40 percent of Iran’s oil fields to U.S. companies.

Mossadeq was arrested, served three years in prison, and died under house arrest in 1967. The Shah became one of America’s most trusted Cold War allies, and U.S. economic and military aid poured into Iran during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In 1978, however, anti-Shah and anti-American protests broke out in Iran and the Shah was toppled from power in 1979. Angry militants seized the U.S. embassy and held the American staff hostage until January 1981. Nationalism, not communism, proved to be the most serious threat to U.S. power in Iran.

“CIA-assisted coup overthrows government of Iran.” 2008. The History Channel website. 18 Aug 2008, 12:57 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2764.

14
Aug
08

On This Day, 8-14-2008: Japan Surrenders

Japan’s surrender made public

On this day in 1945, an official announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies is made public to the Japanese people.

Even though Japan’s War Council, urged by Emperor Hirohito, had already submitted a formal declaration of surrender to the Allies, via ambassadors, on August 10, fighting continued between the Japanese and the Soviets in Manchuria and between the Japanese and the United States in the South Pacific. In fact, two days after the Council agreed to surrender, a Japanese submarine sank the Oak Hill, an American landing ship, and the Thomas F. Nickel, an American destroyer, both east of Okinawa.

In the afternoon of August 14, Japanese radio announced that an Imperial Proclamation was soon to be made, accepting the terms of unconditional surrender drawn up at the Potsdam Conference. That proclamation had already been recorded by the emperor. The news did not go over well, as more than 1,000 Japanese soldiers stormed the Imperial Palace in an attempt to find the proclamation and prevent its being transmitted to the Allies. Soldiers still loyal to Emperor Hirohito repulsed the attackers.

That evening, General Anami, the member of the War Council most adamant against surrender, committed suicide. His reason: to atone for the Japanese army’s defeat, and to be spared having to hear his emperor speak the words of surrender.

“Japan’s surrender made public.” 2008. The History Channel website. 13 Aug 2008, 12:46 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6551.

 

On This Day

1248 – The rebuilding of the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany, began after being destroyed by fire.

1756 – Daniel Boone married 16-year-old Rebecca Bryan.

1805 – A peace treaty between the U.S. and Tunis was signed on board the USS Constitution.

1848 – The Oregon Territory was established.

1873 – “Field and Stream” magazine published its first issue.

1880 – The Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany was completed after 632 years of rebuilding.

1917 – China declared war on Germany and Austria during World War I.

1935 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. The act created unemployment insurance and pension plans for the elderly.

1941 – U.S. President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter. The charter was a statement of principles that renounced aggression.

1947 – Pakistan became independent from British rule.

1980 – People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was incorporated.

1995 – Shannon Faulkner became the first female cadet in the history of The Citadel, South Carolina‘s state military college. She quit the school less than a week later.

1997 – Timothy McVeigh was formally sentenced to death for the Oklahoma City bombing.

2000 – A Russian submarine Kursk sank to the bottom of the Barrent Sea. There were 118 sailors on the nuclear-powered vessel. All of the crew were pronounced dead on August 22.

 

Peking relieved by multinational force

During the Boxer Rebellion, an international force featuring British, Russian, American, Japanese, French, and German troops relieves the Chinese capital of Peking after fighting its way 80 miles from the port of Tientsin. The Chinese nationalists besieging Peking’s diplomatic quarter were crushed, and the Boxer Rebellion effectively came to an end.

“Peking relieved by multinational force.” 2008. The History Channel website. 13 Aug 2008, 12:42 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6989.

Confederate invasion of Kentucky begins

Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith begins an invasion of Kentucky as part of a Confederate plan to draw the Yankee army of General Don Carlos Buell away from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and to raise support for the Southern cause in Kentucky.

“Confederate invasion of Kentucky begins.” 2008. The History Channel website. 13 Aug 2008, 12:44 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2283.

U.S. bombing of Cambodia ceases

After several days of intense bombing in support of Lon Nol’s forces fighting the communist Khmer Rouge in the area around Phnom Penh, Operations Arc Light and Freedom Deal end as the United States ceases bombing Cambodia at midnight. This was in accordance with June Congressional legislation passed in June and ended 12 years of combat activity in Indochina. President Nixon denounced Congress for cutting off the funding for further bombing operations, saying that it had undermined the “prospects for world peace.” The United States continued unarmed reconnaissance flights and military aid to Cambodia, but ultimately the Khmer Rouge prevailed in 1975.

“U.S. bombing of Cambodia ceases.” 2008. The History Channel website. 13 Aug 2008, 12:47 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1270.

Massive labor strikes hit Poland

Workers in Gdansk, Poland, seize the Lenin Shipyard and demand pay raises and the right to form a union free from communist control. The massive strike also saw the rise to prominence of labor leader Lech Walesa, who would be a key figure in bringing an end to communist rule in Poland.

“Massive labor strikes hit Poland.” 2008. The History Channel website. 13 Aug 2008, 12:45 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2759.

03
Aug
08

Boscobel Civil War Reenactment: Cavalry

In 1861 my ancestor Henry Gleason answered President Lincoln’s first call and volunteered for the ninety day militia as part of the 4th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.  The ninety days would be up before the unit could be brought together, shipped east and fight.  After the First Battle of Bull Run, Union leadership realized the war might take longer than ninety days.  The 4th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry became regular army with more volunteers called.  My great-great-great grandfather Salem Gleason joined his brother in the newly named 4th Wisconsin Infantry. 

The 4th Wisconsin shipped east by rail to join the Army of the Potomac, but was later transferred to Ben Butler’s command as part of the invasion of New Orleans.  The 4th Wisconsin embarked from Baltimore, Maryland aboard the USS Constitution and set sail for New Orleans.  In an abortive attempt to take Vicksburg in 1862 the 4th Wisconsin distinguished itself in a rear guard action, allowing the rest of the army to safely return to New Orleans.  Because of that action the 4th Wisconsin was given horses and their designation was changed to 4th Wisconsin Mounted Infantry.

Later in 1863, after having gone up against Bedford Forest twice and stopping him twice, the 4th Wisconsin Mounted infantry was officially recognized as the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry.  Late in 1864, while on a scouting mission, Captain Henry Gleason was shot and wounded by a rebel sharpshooter.  Henry survived the wounds and seemed on the road to recovery until about a month after the war ended when Henry contacted dysentery and died in a hospital near Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he is buried.  His brother Salem survived the war and moved into Wisconsin where he married and later pioneered the town of Gleason, Wisconsin.

IMG_1311

The cavalry horses here are part of the reenactment at Boscobel.  They belong to the 8th Illinois Cavalry.

IMG_1310

This Cavalryman’s favorite weapon would be the Colt 44 caliber.

IMG_1312

A saber was also included.

IMG_1313

As well as a Sharpes or Spencer carbine.

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The troopers of the 8th Illinois gladly discussed the importance and history of cavalry in the Civil War, making the tour of their camp interesting and informative.

23
Jul
08

On This Day, 7-23-08: Virginia Park

The 12th Street riot

In the early morning hours of July 23, 1967, one of the worst riots in U.S. history breaks out on 12th Street in the heart of Detroit’s predominantly African-American inner city. By the time it was quelled four days later by 7,000 National Guard and U.S. Army troops, 43 people were dead, 342 injured, and nearly 1,400 buildings had been burned.

By the summer of 1967, the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Virginia Park was ready to explode. Some 60,000 poor people were crammed into the neighborhood’s 460 acres, living in squalor in divided and sub-divided apartments. The Detroit Police Department, which had only about 50 African Americans at the time, was viewed as a white occupying army. The only other whites seen in the neighborhood commuted from the suburbs to run their stores on 12th Street.

At night, 12th Street was a center of Detroit inner-city nightlife, both legal and illegal. At the corner of 12th and Clairmount, William Scott operated an illegal after-hours club on weekends out of the office of the United Community League for Civic Action, a civil rights group. The police vice squad often raided establishments like this on 12th Street, and at 3:35 a.m. on Sunday morning, July 23, they moved against Scott’s club.

That night, the establishment was hosting a party for several veterans, including two servicemen recently returned from Vietnam, and the bar’s patrons were reluctant to leave. Out in the street, a crowd began to gather as police waited for paddy wagons to take the 85 patrons away. Tensions between area blacks and police were high at the time, partly because of a rumor (later proved to be untrue) that police had shot and killed a black prostitute two days before. Then a rumor began to circulate that the vice squad had beaten one of the women being arrested.

An hour passed before the last prisoner was taken away, and by then about 200 onlookers lined the street. A bottle crashed into the street. The remaining police ignored it, but then more bottles were thrown, including one through the window of a patrol car. The police fled as a riot erupted. Within an hour, thousands of people had spilled out onto the street. Looting began on 12th Street, and some whites arrived to join in. Around 6:30 a.m., the first fire broke out, and soon much of the street was set ablaze. By midmorning, every policeman and fireman in Detroit was called to duty. On 12th Street, officers fought to control the mob. Firemen were attacked as they tried to battle the flames.

Detroit Mayor Jerome P. Cavanaugh asked Michigan Governor George Romney to send in the state police, but these 300 more officers could not keep the riot from spreading to a 100-block area around Virginia Park. The National Guard was called in shortly after but didn’t arrive until evening. By the end of the day, more than 1,000 were arrested, but still the riot kept growing. Five people were dead.

On Monday, 16 people were killed, most by police or guardsmen. Snipers fired at firemen, and fire hoses were cut. Governor Romney asked President Lyndon Johnson to send in U.S. troops. Nearly 2,000 army paratroopers arrived on Tuesday and began patrolling the street in tanks and armored carriers. Ten more people died that day, and 12 more on Wednesday. On Thursday, July 27, order was finally restored. More than 7,000 people were arrested during the four days of rioting. A total of 43 were killed. Some 1,700 stores were looted and nearly 1,400 buildings burned, causing $50 million in property damage. Some 5,000 people were left homeless.

The so-called 12th Street Riot was the worst U.S. riot in 100 years, occurring during a period of numerous riots in America. A report by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, appointed by President Johnson, identified more than 150 riots or major disorders between 1965 and 1968. In 1967 alone, 83 people were killed and 1,800 were injured–the majority of them African Americans–and property valued at more than $100 million was damaged, looted, or destroyed.

“The 12th Street riot.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Jul 2008, 01:08 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6967.

 

On This Day

1715 – The first lighthouse in America was authorized for construction at Little Brewster Island, Massachusetts.

1829 – William Burt patented the typographer, which was the first typewriter.

1904 – The ice cream cone was invented by Charles E. Menches during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, MO.

1914 – Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia following the killing of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by a Serb assassin. The dispute led to World War I.

1938 – The first federal game preserve was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The area was 2,000 acres in Utah.

1952 – Egyptian military officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew King Farouk I.

1954 – A law is passed that states that “The Secretary of the Navy is authorized to repair, equip, and restore the United States Ship Constitution, as far as may be practicable, to her original appearance, but not for active service, and thereafter to maintain the United States Ship Constitution at Boston, Massachusetts.”

1958 – The submarine Nautilus departed from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, under orders to conduct “Operation Sunshine.” The mission was to be the first vessel to cross the north pole by ship. The Nautils achieved the goal on August 3, 1958.

1998 – U.S. scientists at the University of Hawaii turned out more than 50 “carbon-copy” mice, with a cloning technique.

 

Connecticut Patriot Roger Sherman dies

On this day in 1793, Roger Sherman, a Connecticut Patriot and member of the Committee of Five selected to draft the Declaration of Independence, dies of typhoid in New Haven, Connecticut, at age 72. Sherman alone among the Patriots of the American Revolution signed all four documents gradually assigning sovereignty to the new United States: the Continental Association of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. Thomas Jefferson credited Sherman with having never said a foolish thing in his life. Although Sherman was a self-educated shoemaker, raised on the western frontier of Massachusetts, he would eventually distinguish himself as a surveyor and astronomer; join the Bar of Litchfield, Connecticut; and serve as both a professor of religion and treasurer of Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut. He served in numerous elective and judicial offices, including in the Second Continental Congress, in the Connecticut General Assembly, and as justice of the peace, justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut and a representative in the first United States Congress. Sherman was the mayor of New Haven and a member of the United States Senate at the time of his death. Sherman was as prolific in his personal life as he was in his political career. He had seven children with his first wife, Elizabeth Hartwell, and eight more with his second wife, Rebecca Minot Prescott. Sherman was buried near the Yale campus. He is remembered with a statue at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and a street named in his honor in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Connecticut Patriot Roger Sherman dies.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Jul 2008, 01:08 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=50391.

Sherman’s most notable achievement in life is the “Connecticut Compromise” which resolved the dispute at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 between the so-called big states and little states.  While convening in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 a dispute had overtaken the Constitutional Convention between the big states who wanted congressional representation based on a states population thus giving states with more people more power.  The little states wanted congressional representation based on one state one vote thus giving states with lesser populations an equal amount of power. 

Roger Sherman’s idea was to have two houses.  One:  The House of Representatives would be based on proportional representation thus giving the big states greater power.  Two:  The Senate would have two representatives for each state thus giving the smaller states an equal say in government.  Sherman further argued that the two should have powers that counter-balanced each other.  For instance, the Senate can vote for war, but the House of Representatives has the power to decide whether or not to pay for that war.  Sherman’s compromise resolved the dispute between the big states and the little states and led to the formation of the United States Congress.




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