1781 – Gen. Nathanael Greene engaged British forces at Hobkirk’s Hill, South Carolina, and was forced to retreat.
1819 – The Revenue cutter Active captured the pirate vessel Irresistible in the Chesapeake Bay.
1846 – With the Thornton Affair, open conflict begins over the disputed border of Texas, triggering the Mexican–American War. The Thornton Affair, also known as the Thornton Skirmish, Thornton’s Defeat, or Rancho Carricitos was a battle in 1846 between the military forces of the United States and Mexico twenty miles west along the Rio Grande from Zachary Taylor’s camp along the Rio Grande. The much larger Mexican force completely defeated the Americans in the opening of hostilities, and was the primary justification for U.S. President James K. Polk’s call to Congress to declare war. Although the United States had annexed Texas, both the US and Mexico claimed the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Polk had ordered Taylor’s Army of Occupation to the Rio Grande early in 1846 soon after Mexican President Mariano Paredes declared in his inaugural address to uphold the integrity of Mexican territory to the Sabine River. Taylor received two reports on 24 April of Mexicans crossing the Rio Grande, the first crossing below his camp, the other a crossing upriver. Taylor ordered Captain Croghan Ker to investigate downriver and Captain Seth B. Thornton with two Dragoon companies to investigate upriver. Ker found nothing but Thornton rode into an ambush and his 80 man force was quickly overwhelmed by Torrejon’s 1600, resulting in the capture of those not immediately killed. Thornton’s guide brought news of the hostilities to Taylor and was followed by a cart from Torrejon containing the six wounded, Torrejon stating he could not care for them. Upon learning of the incident, President Polk asked for a Declaration of War before a joint session of the United States Congress, and summed up his justification for war by famously stating:
“The cup of forbearance had been exhausted even before the recent information from the frontier of the Del Norte [Rio Grande]. But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are now at war.”
On May 13, 1846, Congress declared war on Mexico, despite the Mexican government’s position that Thornton had crossed the border into Mexican Texas, which Mexico maintained began south of the Nueces River (the historical border of the province of Texas).
1854 – The Gadsden Purchase was ratified in the US.
1862 – Flag Officer Farragut’s fleet, having silenced Confederate batteries at Chalmette en route, anchored before New Orleans. High water in the river allowed the ships’ guns to dominate the city over the levee top. Captain Bailey went ashore to demand the surrender. The Common Council of New Orleans resolved that: “. . . having been advised by the military authorities that the city is indefensible, [we] declare that no resistance will be made to the forces of the United States.” Loss of New Orleans, the largest and wealthiest seaport in the South, was a critical blow to the Confederacy. With the rapid capitulation of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, the delta of the Mis¬sissippi was open to the water-borne movement of Union forces which were free to steam river to join those coming south in the great pincer which would sever the Confederacy. “Thus, reported Secretary of the Navy Welles, ”the great southern depot of the trade of the immense central valley of the Union was once more opened to commercial intercourse and the emporium of that wealthy region was restored to national authority; the mouth of the Mississippi was under our control and an outlet for the great West to the ocean was secured.”
1864 – For the second time in a week, a Confederate force captures a Union wagon train trying to supply the Federal force at Camden, Arkansas. This time, the loss forced Union General Frederick Steele to withdraw back to Little Rock. Steele captured Camden on April 15 as he moved southwest towards Shreveport, Louisiana. This was part of a larger Union operation in the region. General Nathaniel Banks moved up the Red River into northwest Louisiana on a planned invasion of Texas, but he was turned back at the Battle of Mansfield on April 8. Steele was to pinch Confederate forces around Shreveport with a move from central Arkansas. After taking Camden, Steele sent 1,100 men west to capture a store of corn. That force was badly defeated by a Confederate detachment at the Battle of Poison Springs on April 18. Now, with provisions dwindling, Steele sent another wagon train northeast from Camden towards Pine Bluff to fetch supplies. Lieutenant Colonel Francis Drake and 1,700 troops accompanied the 240 wagons that left Camden on April 22. Three hundred runaway slaves traveled along as well. Three days later, Confederate troops under General James Fagan pounced on Drake’s command near Mark’s Mills. They came from two sides, and Drake was wounded and captured early in the battle along with 1,400 of his troops. The Confederates lost 41 killed and 108 wounded, but they captured the entire wagon train. Tragically, the Rebels followed up their victory much as they had at Poison Springs on April 18, where they massacred captured black soldiers. At Mark’s Mills, at least half of the runaways were killed in cold blood. Even one of the Confederate officers admitted in his report that “No orders, threat, or commands could restrain the men from vengeance on the Negroes…” Steele’s army was now in dangerous territory. With Confederate forces lurking all around Camden and with supplies running low, Steele retreated to Little Rock, leaving southern Arkansas under Rebel control. Drake survived his wounds and later became governor of Iowa. Drake University in Des Moines now bears his name.
1864 – After facing defeat in the Red River Campaign, Union General Nathaniel Bank returned to Alexandria, Louisiana.
1865 – Four of the five Lincoln assassination suspects arrested on the 17th were imprisoned on the monitors U.S.S. Montauk and Saugus which had been prepared for this purpose on the 15th and were anchored off the Washington Navy Yard in the Anacostia River. Mrs. Mary E. Surratt was taken into custody at the boarding house she operated after it was learned that her son was a close friend of John Wilkes Booth and that the actor was a frequent visitor at the boarding house. Mrs. Surratt was jailed in the Carroll Annex of Old Capitol Prison. Lewis Paine was also taken into custody when he came to Mrs. Surratt’s house during her arrest. Edward Spangler, stagehand at the Ford Theater and Booth’s aide, along with Michael O’Laughlin and Samuel B. Arnold, close associates of Booth during the months leading up to the assassination, were also caught up in the dragnet. O’Laughlin and Paine, after overnight imprisonment in the Old Capitol Prison, were transferred to the monitors at the Navy Yard. They were joined by Arnold on the 19th and Spangler on the 24th. George A. Atzerodt, the would-be assassin of Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Ernest Hartman Richter, at whose home Atzerodt was captured, were brought on board the ships on the 20th. Joao Celestino, Portuguese sea captain who had been heard to say on the 14th that Seward ought to be assassinated, was transferred from Old Capitol Prison to Montauk on the 25th The last of the eight conspiracy suspects to be incarcerated on board the monitors was David E. Herold. The prisoners were kept below decks under heavy guard and were manacled with both wrist and leg irons. In addition, their heads were covered with canvas hoods the interior of which were fitted with cotton pads that tightly covered the prisoners’ eyes and ears. The hoods contained two small openings to permit breathing and the consumption of food. An added security measure was taken with Paine by attaching a ball and chain to each ankle.
1898 – The United States formally declared war on Spain. The US House passed the declaration 311 to 6. After the Maine was destroyed on 15 February, newspaper publishers Hearst and Pulitzer decided that the Spanish were to blame, and they publicized this theory as fact in their New York City papers using sensationalistic and astonishing accounts of “atrocities” committed by the Spanish in Cuba by using headlines in their newspapers, such as “Spanish Murderers” and “Remember The Maine”. Their press exaggerated what was happening and how the Spanish were treating the Cuban prisoners. The stories were based on factual accounts, but most of the time, the articles that were published were embellished and written with incendiary language causing emotional and often heated responses among readers. A common myth states, that Randolph Hurst responding to the opinion of his illustrator, Frederic Remington, that conditions in Cuba were not bad enough to warrant hostilities, said: “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” This new “yellow journalism” was, however, uncommon outside New York City, and historians no longer consider it the major force shaping the national mood. Public opinion nationwide did demand immediate action, overwhelming the efforts of President McKinley, Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed, and the business community to find a negotiated solution. A speech delivered by Republican Senator Redfield Proctor of Vermont on March 17, 1898 thoroughly analyzed the situation, concluding that war was the only answer. The speech helped provide one final push for the United States to declare war. Many in the business and religious communities which had until then opposed war, switched sides, leaving McKinley and Speaker Reed almost alone in their resistance to a war. On April 11, McKinley ended his resistance and asked Congress for authority to send American troops to Cuba to end the civil war there, knowing that Congress would force a war. On April 19, while Congress was considering joint resolutions supporting Cuban independence, Republican Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado proposed the Teller Amendment to ensure that the U.S. would not establish permanent control over Cuba after the war. The amendment, disclaiming any intention to annex Cuba, passed the Senate 42 to 35; the House concurred the same day, 311 to 6. The amended resolution demanded Spanish withdrawal and authorized the President to use as much military force as he thought necessary to help Cuba gain independence from Spain. President McKinley signed the joint resolution on April 20, 1898, and the ultimatum was sent to Spain. In response, Spain severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21. On the same day, the U.S. Navy began a blockade of Cuba. Spain declared war on April 23. On April 25, Congress declared that a state of war between the U.S. and Spain had existed since April 21, the day the blockade of Cuba had begun. The Navy was ready, but the Army was not well-prepared for the war and made radical changes in plans and quickly purchased supplies. In the spring of 1898, the strength of the Regular U.S. Army was just 28,000 men. The Army wanted 50,000 new men but received over 220,000, through volunteers and the mobilization of state National Guard units.
1913 – The formal charter of the Marine Corps Association was established.
1914 – First combat observation mission by Navy plane, at Veracruz, Mexico.
1943 – American bombers raid an airfield around Bari, Italy in the south.
1945 – Elbe Day: United States and Soviet troops meet in Torgau along the River Elbe, cutting the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany in two, a milestone in the approaching end of World War II in Europe.
1945 – Liberation Day (Italy): The Nazi occupation army surrenders and leaves Northern Italy after a general partisan insurrection by the Italian resistance movement. The puppet fascist regime dissolves and Benito Mussolini is captured after trying to escape. This day was set as a public holiday to celebrate the Liberation of Italy.
1945 – Delegates from some 50 countries met in San Francisco to organize the United Nations. Charles Easton Rothwell (d.1987) headed the 500-member group that helped establish the UN Charter.
1945 – Soviet forces complete the encirclement of Berlin near Ketzin. The 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian froms continue to attack, from the east and south, into the city. South of the capital, elements of 1st Ukrainian Front advancing toward the Elbe River, link up with American units at Torgau. Meanwhile, in East Prussia, Pillau is taken. (Since early in the year, about 140,000 wounded and 40,000 refugees have been evacuated to the west from Pillau.) A few German troops continue to hold out at the tip of the Samland Peninsula. US 3rd Army crosses the Danube near Regensburg and assault the city.
1945 – American planes strike Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, nominally the Skoda Works.
1945 – Clandestine Radio 1212, used to hoax Nazi Germany, made its final transmission.
1951 – Eighth Army was pushed back 20 miles. The volunteer battalion from Belgium and Luxembourg was cut off but fought its way to safety after a 20-hour siege. Members of the battalion had high praise for the support provided by U.S. Marine Corsairs.
1953 – 1953 – Francis Crick and James D. Watson publish “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” describing the double helix structure of DNA.
1954 – The first practical solar cell is publicly demonstrated by Bell Telephone Laboratories.
1954 – UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill rejects the US proposed Radford Plan, initially conceived of as a nuclear strike but negotiated down to a massive US air strike against the Viet Minh in response to the fall of Dienbienphu. Churchill states, “What we are being asked to do is assist in misleading the Congress into approving a military operation which would be in itself ineffective, and might well bring the world to the verge of a major war.”
1957 – The 1st experimental sodium nuclear reactor operated.
1960 – First submerged circumnavigation of the Earth was completed by a Triton submarine. Operation Sandblast was the code name for the first submerged circumnavigation of the world executed by the United States Navy nuclear-powered radar picket submarine USS Triton (SSRN-586) in 1960 while under the command of Captain Edward L. Beach, USN. The New York Times described Triton ’s submerged circumnavigation of the Earth as “a triumph of human prowess and engineering skill, a feat which the United States Navy can rank as one of its bright victories in man’s ultimate conquest of the seas.” The actual circumnavigation took place between 24 February and 25 April 1960, covering 26,723 nautical miles (49,491 km; 30,752 mi) over 60 days and 21 hours. Operation Sandblast used the St. Peter and Paul Rocks, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean near the Equator, as the starting point and terminus for the circumnavigation. During the course of the circumnavigation, Triton crossed the Equator four times while maintaining an average speed of advance (SOA) of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). Triton ’s overall navigational track during Operation Sandblast generally followed the same course for the first circumnavigation of the world led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan between 1519-1522. The initial impetus for Operation Sandblast was to enhance American technological and scientific prestige prior to the May 1960 Paris Summit between U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Additionally, Operation Sandblast provided a high-profile public demonstration of the capability of U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarines to carry out long-range submerged operations independent of external support and undetected by hostile forces, presaging the initial deployment of the U.S Navy’s Polaris ballistic missile submarines later in 1960. Finally, Operation Sandblast gathered extensive oceanographic, hydrographic, gravimetric, geophysical, and psychological data during Triton ’s circumnavigation. Although official celebrations for Operation Sandblast were cancelled following the diplomatic furor arising from the shooting down of a CIA U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in early May 1960, the Triton did receive the Presidential Unit Citation with a special clasp in the form of a golden replica of the globe in recognition of the successful completion of its mission, and Captain Beach received the Legion of Merit for his role as Triton ’s commanding officer. In 1961, Beach received the Magellanic Premium, the United States’ oldest and most prestigious scientific award, from the American Philosophical Society in “recognition of his navigation of the U.S. submarine Triton around the globe.”
1961 – Robert Noyce patented the integrated circuit.
1961 – Mercury-Atlas rocket lifted off with an electronic mannequin. An unmanned Mercury test exploded on launch pad.
1962 – U.S. Ranger spacecraft crash landed on the Moon.
1964 – President Lyndon B. Johnson announces that Gen. William Westmoreland will replace Gen. Paul Harkins as head of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) as of June 20. The assignment would put Westmoreland in charge of all American military forces in Vietnam. One of the war’s most controversial figures, General Westmoreland was given many honors when the fighting was going well, but when the war turned sour, many Americans saw him as a cause of U.S. problems in Vietnam. Negative feeling about Westmoreland grew particularly strong following the Tet Offensive of 1968, when he had requested a large number of additional troops for deployment to Vietnam. On March 22, 1968, President Johnson announced that Westmoreland would depart South Vietnam to take on the post of Army Chief of Staff; Gen. Creighton Abrams replaced him as the senior U.S. commander in South Vietnam.
1972 – Hanoi’s 320th Division drives 5,000 South Vietnamese troops into retreat and traps about 2,500 others in a border outpost northwest of Kontum in the Central Highlands. This was part of the ongoing North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive, also known as the “Easter Offensive,” which included an invasion by 120,000 North Vietnamese troops. The offensive was based on three objectives: Quang Tri in the north, Kontum in the Central Highlands, and An Loc in the south–just 65 miles north of Saigon. If successful, the attack at Kontum would effectively cut South Vietnam in two across the Central Highlands, giving North Vietnam control of the northern half of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese defenders were able to hold out and prevent this from happening.
1975 – Fearing impending coup, President Thieu flees Saigon following his resignation and transfer of authority to Vice President Tran Van Huong.
1976 – All-Vietnam elections are held for a new National Assembly. 249 deputies are elected from the North and 243 from the South with 6 seats of the total 492 reserved for minorities.
1980 – President Jimmy Carter announced the hostage rescue disaster in Iran.
1982 – In accordance with Camp David agreements, Israel completed the Sinai withdrawal. Ariel Sharon, as defense minister, directed the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the Sinai Peninsula. Nearly 5,000 residents and many more sympathizers were dragged off roofs and bundled onto buses.
1983 – The Pioneer 10 spacecraft crossed Pluto’s orbit, speeding on its endless voyage through the Milky Way.
1988 – NASA launched space vehicle S-211.
1990 – The crew of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery places the Hubble Space Telescope, a long-term space-based observatory, into a low orbit around Earth. The space telescope, conceived in the 1940s, designed in the 1970s, and built in the 1980s, was designed to give astronomers an unparalleled view of the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe. Initially, Hubble’s operators suffered a setback when a lens aberration was discovered, but a repair mission by space-walking astronauts in December 1993 successfully fixed the problem, and Hubble began sending back its first breathtaking images of the universe. Free of atmospheric distortions, Hubble has a resolution 10 times that of ground-based observatories. About the size of a bus, the telescope is solar-powered and orbits Earth once every 97 minutes. Among its many astronomical achievements, Hubble has been used to record a comet’s collision with Jupiter, provide a direct look at the surface of Pluto, view distant galaxies, gas clouds, and black holes, and see billions of years into the universe’s past.
1991 – The White House threatened to “take whatever steps are necessary” should Iraq fail to meet a deadline for withdrawing its security forces from the refugee zone in northern Iraq.
1999 – On the third and final day of their Washington summit, NATO leaders promised military protection and economic aid to Yugoslavia’s neighbors for standing with the West against Slobodan Milosevic. Pres. Yeltsin called Pres. Clinton to search for a solution to Kosovo.
1999 – NATO airstrikes in Yugoslavia destroyed the last bridge in Novi Sad along with other targets in northern and central Serbia. The KLA staged a new conference in Kukes and pleaded anew for a battlefield alliance with NATO.
1999 – In Iraq US warplanes struck air defense sites in the northern no fly zone after being threatened by radar.
2000 – Royal Dutch Shell agrees to pay a $2 million fine for transporting smuggled Iraqi oil aboard a Russian tanker. Defence Department spokesman Kenneth Bacon states that Shell appeared to have acquired the Iraqi oil unwittingly, and would therefore be allowed to keep the cargo. The fine will go into a United Nations fund for the enforcement of sanctions.
2001 – In unusually blunt terms, President Bush warned China that an attack on Taiwan could provoke a U.S. military response.
2003 – Nuclear talks in Beijing ended after U.S. officials said North Korea claimed to have nuclear weapons and might test, export or use them.
2003 – Farouk Hijazi, who once helped run Saddam Hussein’s intelligence service and was linked to al-Qaida, was delivered by Syria to US forces.
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