1793 – Thomas Paine is arrested in France for treason. Though the charges against him were never detailed, he had been tried in absentia on December 26 and convicted. Before moving to France, Paine was an instrumental figure in the American Revolution as the author of Common Sense, writings used by George Washington to inspire the American troops. Paine moved to Paris to become involved with the French Revolution, but the chaotic political climate turned against him, and he was arrested and jailed for crimes against the country. When he first arrived in Paris, Paine was heartily welcomed and granted honorary citizenship by leaders of the revolution who enjoyed his anti-royalty book The Rights of Man. However, before long, he ran afoul of his new hosts. Paine was strictly opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances and he vocally opposed the French revolutionaries who were sending hundreds to the guillotine. He also began writing a provocative new book, The Age of Reason, which promoted the controversial notion that God did not influence the actions of people and that science and rationality would prevail over religion and superstition. Although Paine realized that sentiment was turning against him in the autumn of 1793, he remained in France because he believed he was helping the people. After he was arrested, Paine was taken to Luxembourg Prison. The jail was formerly a palace and was unlike any other detainment center in the world. He was treated to a large room with two windows and was locked inside only at night. His meals were catered from outside, and servants were permitted, though Paine did not take advantage of that particular luxury. However, he did carry a small sword that was permitted by jail authorities. While in prison, he continued to work on The Age of Reason and began an affair with actress Muriel Alette, who had been sentenced to death for being the mistress of a nobleman. Paine’s imprisonment in France caused a general uproar in America and future President James Monroe used all of his diplomatic connections to get Paine released in November 1794. Ironically, it wasn’t long before Paine came to be despised in the United States, as well. After The Age of Reason was published, he was called an anti-Christ, and his reputation was ruined. Thomas Paine died a poor man in 1809 in New York.
1822 – Confederate General William Taliaferro is born in Gloucester County, Virginia. Taliaferro served in under General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson for the first part of the war, then spent the second half preparing coastal defenses in the lower South. Taliaferro attended William and Mary College and Harvard Law School. He practiced law in Virginia before volunteering during the Mexican War, where he rose to the rank of major. Before the Civil War, he served in the Virginia legislature and the state militia. He was at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 when John Brown made his raid on the arsenal in an attempt to stir up a slave insurrection. Taliaferro became a colonel in the Confederate Army when the war began. He fought in western Virginia in 1861, then served under Jackson in 1862. His relationship with Jackson was rocky at first, as he became involved in a dispute between Jackson and General William Loring. Taliaferro signed a petition circulated by Loring that protested Jackson’s placement of troops at Romney, Virginia. Taliaferro fought alongside Jackson during the 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign, and he impressed his commander later in the summer at the Battle of Cedar Mountain. Jackson gave him permanent command of Jackson’s old division for the Second Battle of Bull Run in late August, but a wound kept Taliaferro from seeing action. Shortly after the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, Taliaferro was transferred to Charleston. He helped General Pierre G. T. Beauregard fortify the city, for which Beauregard gave him an enthusiastic commendation. Taliaferro’s work made Charleston impenetrable for the Union; it did not fall until the end of the war. He helped evacuate Savannah, Georgia, before William T. Sherman’s army captured the city in 1864. Taliaferro ended the war fighting with General Joseph Johnston’s army at Bentonville, North Carolina. He spent the years after the war practicing law and serving in the Virginia legislature and as a county judge before his death in 1898.
1832 – Citing political differences with President Andrew Jackson and a desire to fill a vacant Senate seat in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun becomes the first vice president in U.S. history to resign the office. Born near Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1782, Calhoun was an advocate of states’ rights and a defender of the agrarian South against the industrial North. Calhoun served as secretary of war under President James Monroe and in 1824 ran for the presidency. However, bitter partisan attacks from other contenders forced him out of the race, and he had to settle for the vice presidency under President John Quincy Adams. In 1828, he was again elected vice president while Andrew Jackson won the presidency. Calhoun soon found himself politically isolated from national affairs under President Jackson. On December 12, 1832, Calhoun was elected to fill a South Carolina Senate seat left vacant after the resignation of Senator Robert Hayne. Sixteen days later, he resigned the vice presidency. For the rest of his political life, Calhoun defended the slave-plantation system against the growing anti-slavery stance of the free states. In the early 1840s, while secretary of state under President John Tyler, he secured the admission of Texas into the Union as a slave state. Together with Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun dominated American political life in the first half of the 19th century.
1846 – Iowa became the 29th state to be admitted to the Union.
1856 – Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United States (1912-1921), who brought the country into World War I, was born in Staunton, Va. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919. “The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.”
1862 – Rear Admiral D. D. Porter’s gunboats supported General Sherman’s attempt to capture Confederate-held Chickasaw Bluffs, a vantage point upstream from Vicksburg. “Throughout these operations,” Porter wrote, “the Navy did everything that could be done to ensure the success of General Sherman’s movement.” Though the Navy supplied shore bombardment from the squadron and created diversionary movements, the Union troops, hindered by heavy rains and faced by the timely arrival of Confederate reinforcements, were forced to withdraw.
1864 – The military situation having been stabilized in the Tulifinny River area of South Carolina (see 5-9 Dec.), Rear Admiral Dahlgren withdrew the naval brigade under Commander Preble and returned the sailors and marines comprising it to their respective ships. The 500-man brigade, hastily brought together and trained in infantry tactics, performed vital service in the arduous four-week campaign. Major General Foster, commanding the Military District of the South, complimented Dahlgren on the Brigade’s courage and skill: “-its gallantry in action and good conduct during the irksome life in camp won from all the land forces with which it served the highest praises.” Although the Savannah-Charleston railroad was not cut by the expedition, it did succeed in diverting Confederate troops opposing Sherman’s march across Georgia.
1867 – U.S. claims Midway Island, first territory annexed outside Continental limits.
1872 – A U.S. Army force defeated a group of Apache warriors at Salt River Canyon, Arizona Territory, with 57 Indians killed but only one soldier.
1905 – Drydock Dewey left Solomon’s Island, MD, enroute through the Suez Canal to the Philippines to serve as repair base. This, the longest towing job ever accomplished, was completed by Brutus, Caesar, and Glacier on 10 July 1906.
1917 – The New York Evening Mail published a facetious and fictitious essay by H.L. Mencken on the history of the bathtub in America. Mencken claimed, for example, that Millard Fillmore was the first president to have a bathtub installed in the White House.
1933 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “The definite policy of the U.S. from now on is one opposed to armed intervention.”
1936 – Benito Mussolini sent planes to Spain to support Francisco Franco’s forces.
1941 – In the Philippines, American and allied troops continue to fall back. They are now at the Tarlac-Cabanatuan line. Japanese attacks continue.
1941 – Chief of Bureau of Yards and Docks requests that construction battalions be recruited. The need for a militarized Naval Construction Force to build advance bases in the war zone was self-evident. Therefore, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell determined to activate, organize, and man Navy construction units. On 28 December 1941, he requested specific authority to carry out this decision, and on 5 January 1942, he gained authority from the Bureau of Navigation to recruit men from the construction trades for assignment to a Naval Construction Regiment composed of three Naval Construction Battalions. This is the actual beginning of the renowned Seabees, who obtained their designation from the initial letters of Construction Battalion. Admiral Moreell personally furnished them with their official motto: Construimus, Batuimus — “We Build, We Fight.”
1942 – US President Roosevelt confirms the policy of non cooperation with the British that his advisors have been recommending. He orders than no information be given to British scientists unless it is in a area in which they are directly working. The British are upset at the decision.
1943 – On New Britain, the US 1st Marine Division begins advancing to attack the Japanese airfield at Cape Gloucester.
1944 – The US 5th Army, fighting in the Italian Serchio valley, has pulled back from the town of Barga in response to German counterattacks.
1944 – AEF Commander in Chief General Eisenhower meets with British 21st Army Group command Field Marshal Montgomery to coordinate the counteroffensive in the Ardennes.
1944 – About 1200 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, escorted by 700 fighters, attacked Coblenz and other targets. Late in the day, Bomber Command bombs Cologne.
1945 – Congress officially recognized the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
1946 – The French declared martial law in Vietnam as a full-scale war appeared inevitable.
1950 – Chinese troops crossed the 38th Parallel into South Korea.
1951 – The U.S. paid $120,000 to free four fliers convicted of espionage in Hungary.
1952 – The Far East Air Force mounted its heaviest bombing attack since August 1952 with a 200-plane attack against targets southwest of Pyongyang.
1964 – South Vietnamese troops retake Binh Gia in a costly battle. The Viet Cong launched a major offensive on December 4 and took the village of Binh Gia, 40 miles southeast of Saigon. The South Vietnamese forces recaptured the village, but only after an eight-hour battle and three battalions of reinforcements were brought in on helicopters. The operation continued into the first week of January. Losses included an estimated 200 South Vietnamese and five U.S. advisors killed, plus 300 more South Vietnamese wounded or missing. Battles such this, in which the South Vietnamese suffered such heavy losses at the hands of the Viet Cong, convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that the South Vietnamese could not defeat the communist without the commitment of U.S. ground troops to the war.
1972 – After 11 days of round-the-clock bombing (with the exception of a 36-hour break for Christmas), North Vietnamese officials agree to return to the peace negotiations in Paris. The Linebacker II bombing was initiated on December 18 by President Richard Nixon when the North Vietnamese, who walked out of the peace negotiations in Paris, refused his ultimatum to return to the talks. During the course of the bombing, 700 B-52 sorties and more than 1,000 fighter-bomber sorties dropped an estimated 20,000 tons of bombs, mostly over the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong. During the ensuing battle, the North Vietnamese launched their entire stock of more than 1,200 surface-to-air missiles against the U.S. planes. Fifteen B-52s and 11 other U.S. aircraft were lost, along with 93 flyers downed, killed, missing or captured. Hanoi claimed heavy damage and destruction of densely populated civilian areas in Hanoi, Haiphong, and their suburbs. The bombing resulted in the deaths of 1,318 in Hanoi. While some news reporters alleged that the U.S. was guilty of “carpet bombing” the area (deliberately targetting civilian areas with intensive bombing to “carpet” a city with bombs), the bombing was intended to focus on specific military targets. The Linebacker II bombing was effective in bringing the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. When they returned to Paris, the peace talks moved along quickly. On January 23, 1973, the United States, North Vietnam, the Republic of Vietnam, and the Viet Cong signed a cease-fire agreement that took effect five days later.
1982 – Recommissioning of USS New Jersey (BB-62), the first of four Iowa-class battleships that were returned to service in 1980s.
1988 – British authorities investigating the explosion that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, concluded that a bomb caused the blast aboard the jumbo jet.
1990 – LCDR Darlene M. Iskra becomes commander of USS Opportune, a salvage vessel.
1990 – USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and USS America (CV-66) Carrier Battle Groups deploy from Norfolk, VA, for Middle East to join Operation Desert Shield.
1992 – Somalia’s two main warlords, Mohamed Farrah Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, promised an end to their hostilities.
1998 – American aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone in Iraq destroyed an air defense site after the battery opened fire on them. President Clinton said there would be no letup in American and British pressure on Saddam Hussein.
2001 – Gen. Mohammad Fahim, Afghanistan’s new defense minister, called for an end to US bombing. Meanwhile al Qaeda remnants in the Tora Bora region fired missiles at a joint Afghan-American command base.
2002 – Iraq delivered a list to UN officials naming over 500 scientists who have worked on nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs.
2002 – The U.N. nuclear agency said its inspectors would leave North Korea early next week after the communist state said it would expel them and press on with its nuclear plans.
2003 – A team led by U.N. nuclear chief Mohammed ElBaradei toured 4 atomic facilities in Libya and found dismantled equipment. ElBaradei said Libya appeared to reach only an experimental level in its attempts to enrich uranium, essential for a nuclear bomb.
2004 – Insurgents launched multiple attacks on Iraqi police across the dangerous Sunni Triangle, killing at least 33 police officers and national guardsmen. 12 of the policemen near Tikrit had their throats slit.
2004 – Insurgents lured police to a house in west Baghdad with an anonymous tip about a rebel hideout, then set off explosives, killing at least 29 people and wounding 18.
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