1789 – George Washington left Mount Vernon, Va., for the first presidential inauguration in New York.
1818 – U.S. Senate ratified the Rush-Bagot amendment to form an unarmed U.S.-Canada border. The Rush-Bagot Agreement between Great Britain and the U.S. had to do with mutual disarmament on the Great Lakes. In the exchange of notes between British minister to the U.S. Charles Bagot and Richard Rush, Acting Secretary of State, the countries agreed to limits on their inland naval forces. A sequel to the Treaty of Ghent, the agreement was approved by the U.S. Senate on April 16, 1818.
1861 – US president Lincoln outlawed business with confederate states.
1862 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis approved conscription act for white males between 18 and 35.
1862 – The District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia, becomes law.
1862 – Battle at Dam No. 1 in Virginia. Part of the Battle of Yorktown or Siege of Yorktown that was fought from April 5 to May 4, 1862, as part of the Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War. On April 16, the Union probed the defensive line at Dam No. 1, the point on the Warwick River near Lee’s Mill where Hancock had reported a potential weakness on April 6. After the brief skirmish with Hancock’s men, Magruder realized the weakness of his position and ordered it strengthened. Three regiments under Brig. Gen. Howell Cobb, with six other regiments nearby, were improving their position on the west bank of the river overlooking the dam. McClellan became concerned that this strengthening might impede his installation of siege batteries. His order to Brig. Gen. William F. “Baldy” Smith, a division commander in the IV Corps, was to avoid a general engagement, but to “hamper the enemy” in completing their defensive works. Following an artillery bombardment at 8 a.m., Brig. Gen. William T. H. Brooks and his Vermont Brigade sent skirmishers forward to fire on the Confederates. In a visit to the front, McClellan told Smith to cross the river if it appeared the Confederates were withdrawing, a movement that was already underway by early afternoon. At 3 p.m., four companies of the 3rd Vermont Infantry crossed the dam and routed the remaining defenders. Behind the lines, Cobb organized a defense with his brother, Colonel Thomas Cobb of the Georgia Legion, and attacked the Vermonters, who had occupied the Confederate rifle pits. In battle, drummer Julian Scott made several trips across the fire-swept creek in order to assist in bringing off wounded soldiers. Later he was awarded the Medal of Honor, along with First Sergeant Edward Holton and Captain Samuel E. Pingree. Unable to obtain reinforcements, the Vermont companies withdrew across the dam, suffering casualties as they retreated. At about 5 p.m., Baldy Smith ordered the 6th Vermont to attack Confederate positions downstream from the dam while the 4th Vermont demonstrated at the dam itself. This maneuver failed as the 6th Vermont came under heavy Confederate fire and were forced to withdraw. Some of the wounded men were drowned as they fell into the shallow pond behind the dam. From a Union perspective, the action at Dam No. 1 was pointless, but it cost them casualties of 35 dead and 121 wounded; the Confederate casualties were between 60 and 75. Baldy Smith, who was thrown from his unruly horse twice during action, was accused of drunkenness on duty, but a congressional investigation found the allegation to be groundless.
1863 – Gunboats under Rear Admiral Porter engaged and ran past the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg shepherding Army transports to New Carthage below the Southern citadel. The force included U.S.S. Benton, Lafayette, Louisville, Pittsburg, Mound City, Carondelet, and Tuscumbia; U.S.S. General Sterling Price was lashed to the starboard side of Lafayette for the passage, as was tug Ivy to Benton. Each hip, except Benton, also towed a coal barge containing 10,000 bushels of coal. Lafayette, Captain Walke, hampered by the ship lashed to her side, received nine ”effective” shots through her casemate and had her coal barge sunk. Transport Henry Clay was sunk, with no loss of life, during the passage and another, Forest Queen, was temporarily disabled but was successfully aided by Tuscumbia, Lieutenant Commander James W. Shirk. Under fire for 2 1/2 hours, beginning shortly after 11 p.m. on the 16th, the squadron suffered what Porter termed only “very light” loss. He reported that all ships were ready for service within half an hour after the passage. ”Altogether,” he remarked, ”we were very fortunate; the vessels had some narrow escapes, but were saved in most instances by the precautions taken to protect them. They were covered with heavy logs and bales of wet hay, which were found to be an excellent defense.” A memorandum in the Secretary of the Navy’s office recorded: “The passage of the fleet by Vicks-burg was a damper to the spirits of all rebel sympathizers along the Mississippi for everyone was so impressed with the absurdity of our gunboats getting safely past their batteries without being knocked to pieces that they would not admit to themselves that it would be undertaken until they saw the gunboats moving down the river all safe and sound. Vicksburg was despaired of from that moment.” The successful steaming of the squadron past the heavy batteries contributed to the early seizure of Grand Gulf, the eventual fall of Vicksburg itself, and ultimately the total control of the entire Mississippi.
1865 – The Navy Department directed that on 17 April a gun be fired in honor of the late President Lincoln each half hour, from sunrise to sunset, that all flags be kept at half-mast until after the funeral, and that officers wear mourning crepe for six months.
1917 – Vladimir Lenin, leader of the revolutionary Bolshevik Party, returns to Petrograd after a decade of exile to take the reins of the Russian Revolution. One month before, Czar Nicholas II had been forced from power when Russian army troops joined a workers’ revolt in Petrograd, the Russian capital. Born Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov in 1870, Lenin was drawn to the revolutionary cause after his brother was executed in 1887 for plotting to assassinate Czar Alexander III. He studied law and took up practice in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), where he associated with revolutionary Marxist circles. In 1895, he helped organize Marxist groups in the capital into the “Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class,” which attempted to enlist workers to the Marxist cause. In December 1895, Lenin and the other leaders of the Union were arrested. Lenin was jailed for a year and then exiled to Siberia for a term of three years. After the end of his exile, in 1900, Lenin went to Western Europe, where he continued his revolutionary activity. It was during this time that he adopted the pseudonym Lenin. In 1902, he published a pamphlet titled What Is to Be Done? which argued that only a disciplined party of professional revolutionaries could bring socialism to Russia. In 1903, he met with other Russian Marxists in London and established the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (RSDWP). However, from the start there was a split between Lenin’s Bolsheviks (Majoritarians), who advocated militarism, and the Mensheviks (Minoritarians), who advocated a democratic movement toward socialism. These two groups increasingly opposed each other within the framework of the RSDWP, and Lenin made the split official at a 1912 conference of the Bolshevik Party. After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Lenin returned to Russia. The revolution, which consisted mainly of strikes throughout the Russian empire, came to an end when Nicholas II promised reforms, including the adoption of a Russian constitution and the establishment of an elected legislature. However, once order was restored, the czar nullified most of these reforms, and in 1907 Lenin was again forced into exile. Lenin opposed World War I, which began in 1914, as an imperialistic conflict and called on proletariat soldiers to turn their guns on the capitalist leaders who sent them down into the murderous trenches. For Russia, World War I was an unprecedented disaster: Russian casualties were greater than those sustained by any nation in any previous war. Meanwhile, the economy was hopelessly disrupted by the costly war effort, and in March 1917 riots and strikes broke out in Petrograd over the scarcity of food. Demoralized army troops joined the strikers, and on March 15 Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, ending centuries of czarist rule. In the aftermath of the February Revolution (known as such because of Russia’s use of the Julian calendar), power was shared between the ineffectual Provincial Government and the soviets, or “councils,” of soldiers’ and workers’ committees. After the outbreak of the February Revolution, German authorities allowed Lenin and his lieutenants to cross Germany en route from Switzerland to Sweden in a sealed railway car. Berlin hoped (correctly) that the return of the anti-war Socialists to Russia would undermine the Russian war effort, which was continuing under the Provincial Government. Lenin called for the overthrow of the Provincial Government by the soviets, and he was condemned as a “German agent” by the government’s leaders. In July, he was forced to flee to Finland, but his call for “peace, land, and bread” met with increasing popular support, and the Bolsheviks won a majority in the Petrograd soviet. In October, Lenin secretly returned to Petrograd, and on November 7 the Bolshevik-led Red Guards deposed the Provisional Government and proclaimed soviet rule. Lenin became the virtual dictator of the world’s first Marxist state. His government made peace with Germany, nationalized industry, and distributed land but, beginning in 1918, had to fight a devastating civil war against czarist forces. In 1920, the czarists were defeated, and in 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established. Upon Lenin’s death in early 1924, his body was embalmed and placed in a mausoleum near the Moscow Kremlin. Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honor. After a struggle of succession, fellow revolutionary Joseph Stalin succeeded Lenin as leader of the Soviet Union.
1942 – Japanese overcome all resistance on Cebu and land 4000 troops on Panay.
1944 – The destroyer USS Laffey survived horrific damage from attacks by 22 Japanese aircraft off Okinawa.
1944 – The Coast Guard-manned destroyer escort (DE) USS Joyce, along with her sister ship USS Peterson and a Navy DE sank the U-550 off New York after the U-boat torpedoed a tanker that was part of a convoy the warships were escorting to England.
1945 – In his first speech to Congress, President Truman pledged to carry out the war and peace policies of his predecessor, President Roosevelt.
1945 – Just four days after President Franklin Roosevelt passed away–the federal government tacked another year on to the term of one of Roosevelt’s key pieces of wartime legislation, the Lend-Lease Act. The Lend-Lease bill was originally enacted in 1941, when the U.S. was wavering between entering World War II and remaining neutral. Roosevelt, however, was increasingly committed to the fight against fascism; he was also under growing pressure from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to cease the practice of selling, rather than lending or outright giving, war materials to England. The Lend-Lease legislation remedied this situation, as America now served as “the great arsenal of democracy,” providing Great Britain with money and military machinery; in return, England could make repayments either “in kind or property, or any other direct or indirect benefit which the President deems satisfactory.” As the war progressed, the U.S. expanded the Lend Lease system to include China and Russia. All told, the U.S. funneled $50.6 billion worth of Lend-Lease aid to the Allies during the war, the majority of which went to Britain and the USSR.
1945 – US 7th Army units reach the outskirts of Nuremberg. The special prisoner of war camp at Colditz is liberated by other Allied units during the day.
1945 – The US 77th Infantry Division lands on the small island of Ie Shima and encounters heavy Japanese resistance.
1945 – American forces land on Fort Frank and find it abandoned. This completes the capture of the islands in Manila Bay.
1946 – 1st US launch of captured V-2 rocket was at White Sands, NM. It reached 8 km.
1947 – Multimillionaire and financier Bernard Baruch, in a speech given during the unveiling of his portrait in the South Carolina House of Representatives, coins the term “Cold War” to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The phrase stuck, and for over 40 years it was a mainstay in the language of American diplomacy. Baruch had served as an advisor to presidents on economic and foreign policy issues since the days of Woodrow Wilson. In 1919, he was one of the U.S. advisers at the Paris Peace Conference that ended World War I. During the 1930s, he frequently advised Franklin D. Roosevelt and members of Congress on international finance and issues of neutrality. After World War II, he remained a trusted adviser to the new administration of Harry S. Truman. His speech in April 1947, however, was given in a completely different context. A portrait of the native South Carolinian was to be hung in the state’s House of Representatives, and Baruch was invited for its unveiling. Most guests expected that he would give a brief talk, but Baruch instead launched into a scorching attack on the industrial labor problems in the country. It was only through “unity” between labor and management, he declared, that the United States could hope to play its role as the major force by which “the world can renew itself physically or spiritually.” He called for longer workweeks, no-strike pledges from unions, and no-layoff pledges from management. It was imperative that American business and industry pull itself together, Baruch warned. “Let us not be deceived-we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system; it is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us. We can depend only on ourselves.” The term “Cold War” was instantly embraced by American newspapers and magazines as an apt description of the situation between the United States and the Soviet Union: a war without fighting or bloodshed, but a battle nonetheless.
1947 – Act of Congress gives Navy Nurse Corps members commissioned rank.
1951 – General and Mrs. MacArthur departed Haneda Airport for the United States. Nearly 500,000 Japanese turned out to say goodbye.
1953 – During the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, the 17th and 31st Infantry Regiments of the 7th Infantry Division were hit hard by the Communist Chinese and sustained heavy casualties.
1954 – Vice-President Nixon tells a convention of newspaper editors that the United States may be ‘putting our own boys in [Indochina]…regardless of allied support.’ in Washington the desire to see colonialism end has given way to the desire to ‘contain’ Communism and to the belief that the was fostered from the outside. Nixon claims there would be no war were it not for Communist China.
1961 – In a nationally broadcast speech, Cuban leader Fidel Castro declares that he is a Marxist–Leninist and that Cuba is going to adopt Communism.
1961 – Pres. Kennedy called off the CIA air strikes in Cuba. The message did not reach the 1,511 commandos headed for the Bay of Pigs.
1968 – The Pentagon announced the “Vietnamization” of the war; troops will begin coming home.
1969 – President Nixon sends a message of Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia; “In conformity with the UN Charter, the United States recognizes and respects the sovereignty, independence, neutrality, and territorial integrity of the kingdom of Cambodia within its present frontiers.” Sihanouk reports he is ready to resume diplomatic relations with the US.
1970 – At least 100 ethnic Vietnamese civilians are killed by rampaging Cambodian troops at Takeo, 50 miles south of Phnompenh.
1972 – From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Apollo 16, the fifth of six U.S. lunar landing missions, is successfully launched on its 238,000-mile journey to the moon. On April 20, astronauts John W. Young and Charles M. Duke descended to the lunar surface from Apollo 16, which remained in orbit around the moon with a third astronaut, Thomas K. Mattingly, in command. Young and Duke remained on the moon for nearly three days, and spent more than 20 hours exploring the surface of Earth’s only satellite. The two astronauts used the Lunar Rover vehicle to collect more than 200 pounds of rock before returning to Apollo 16 on April 23. Four days later, the three astronauts returned to Earth, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
1972 – In an effort to help blunt the ongoing North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive, the United States resumes bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong after a four-year lull. In the first use of B-52s against both Hanoi and Haiphong, and the first attacks against both cities since November 1968, 18 B-52s and about 100 U.S. Navy and Air Force fighter-bombers struck supply dumps near Haiphong’s harbor. Sixty fighter-bombers hit petroleum storage facilities near Hanoi, with another wave of planes striking later in the afternoon. White House spokesmen announced that the United States would bomb military targets anywhere in Vietnam in order to help the South Vietnamese defend against the communist onslaught. These actions were part of the U.S. response to the North Vietnamese offensive, which had begun on March 30. The North Vietnamese had launched a massive invasion designed to strike the knockout blow that would win the war for the communists. The attack was called the Nguyen Hue Offensive by the North Vietnamese, but was also more commonly known to Americans as the “Easter Offensive.” The attacking force of North Vietnamese included 14 infantry divisions and 26 separate regiments, with more than 120,000 troops and approximately 1,200 tanks and other armored vehicles. The main North Vietnamese objectives, in addition to Quang Tri in the north, were Kontum in the Central Highlands, and An Loc farther to the south. The fighting, which continued into the fall, was some of the most desperate of the war as the South Vietnamese fought for their very survival. They prevailed against the invaders with the help of U.S. advisors and massive American airpower.
1975 – Cambodian Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh.
1977 – The ban on women attending West Point was lifted.
1978 – Lucius D. Clay (80), gen., gov. US zone W-Germany (airlift), died.
1991 – President Bush announced that US forces would be sent into northern Iraq to assist Kurdish refugees.
1999 – President Clinton defended NATO airstrikes against Serbian targets during visits to Michigan and Massachusetts, saying U.S. involvement in Kosovo was a moral imperative.
1999 – Thousands of refugees poured out of Kosovo as NATO blasted oil refineries, military barracks and airports around Yugoslavia. At least 5,000 refugees crossed into Macedonia, and 8,000 into Albania. Some 100,000 were believed to be enroute to Macedonia.
1999 – NATO troops began to pull out of refugee camps in Macedonia. Management of the camps was turned over to Macedonian NGOs supervised by the UNHCR. Refugees were reported to be in fear of the Macedonian police.
2000 – In Washington DC police blocked some 10,000 protesters from disrupting the meetings of the World Bank and the IMF. Finance ministers and central bankers issued a statement that pledged to seek greater debt relief for the poorest countries and to reform the IMF to prevent future financial crises.
2003 – During a visit to a fighter jet factory in St. Louis, President Bush called for lifting economic sanctions against Iraq as commanders of both the U.S. military and the reconstruction effort prepared to move into the country.
2003 – NATO agreed to take command of the UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.2004 – Pres. Bush said he is handing over the lead role in the Iraqi political transition to the UN’s top envoy.
2004 – In Iraq U.S. military and civilian officials met with leaders from Fallujah, the first known direct negotiations between Americans and city representatives since the siege of Fallujah began April 5.
2013 – Mail to the US Senate is suspended after letter sent to U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) tests positive for the poisonous substance ricin at an offsite Congressional mail facility. The letter is being sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, for further testing.
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