St. Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day probably has its origins in the Roman feast of Lupercalia, which was held on February 15. One of the traditions associated with this feast was young men drawing the names of young women whom they would court during the following year–a custom that may have grown into the giving of valentine’s cards. Another legend associated with Valentine’s Day was the martyrdom of the Christian priest St. Valentine on February 14. The Roman emperor believed that men would remain soldiers longer if they were not married, but Valentine earned the wrath of the emperor by secretly marrying young couples. The first American publisher of valentines was printer and artist Esther Howland, who sold elaborate handmade cards for as much as $35 at the end of the 19th century. Complex and beautiful machine-made cards brought the custom of valentine exchanging within the reach of many Americans.
1645 – Robert Ingle, commissioned by the English Parliament and captain of the tobacco ship Reformation, sailed to St. Mary’s (Maryland) and seized a Dutch trading ship. This marked the beginning of what came to known as “The Plundering Time.”
1688 – The Carolina colonial assembly denies the power of the Lords Proprietor, agents of the King, to invalidate the Fundamental Constitutions of 1669.
1778 – The American ship Ranger carried the recently adopted Star and Stripes to a foreign port for the first time as it arrived in France. The United States Flag is formally recognized by a foreign naval vessel for the first time, when French Admiral Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte renders a nine gun salute to USS Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones.
1779 – American Loyalists are defeated by Patriots at Kettle Creek, Ga. Colonel James Boyd and 700 loyalists set up camp along Kettle Creek on February 14, 1779, they knew to be prepared for an attack. Only a couple of days before, on February 11, 100 Patriots attacked them while crossing Van(n)’s Creek in spite of being outnumbered. Things were not going well for these Loyalists. Boyd expected additional men to assist in a strike against the Patriots. The skirmish at Vann’s Creek had alerted Colonels John Dooly and Andrew Pickens to the Loyalist’s presence in Wilkes County. As was the custom, the Loyalist sent scavengers out to find food. About 150 men were out searching for food when Pickens attacked with a combined total of 340 men in three columns, Col. Dooly on the right, Pickens in the middle and Elijah Clark, Dooly’s second in command on the left. A small advance guard was sent in front of the columns to scout the enemy. Col. Pickens scouts were surprised by Boyd’s Loyalist sentries and opened fire. Alerted to the attack by the sound of gunfire, Boyd rallied his men and advanced with a small group to the top of a nearby hill, where they wait behind rocks and fallen trees for the Patriots. To the left and right the men under command of Dooly and Clarke had problems crossing the high water of the creek and nearby swamps. Pickens continued his advance to the fence on top of the hill, where Boyd’s men awaited the advancing Americans. On the approach of Pickens, the Loyalists opened fire. Men at the lead of the column fell victim to the first rounds. Clarke and Dooly, unable to advance quickly through the cane, were helpless. By all accounts, outnumbered and caught by surprise, the Patriots were losing the battle. After the successful ambush, Boyd ordered his men to retreat to the camp by Kettle Creek. In one of those events frequently labeled as fate, Boyd fell to the ground, dying from a musket ball. Seeing this, his troops paniced and an orderly withdrawal turned into a nightmare for the 600 men under his command. Pickens rallied and advanced his men towards the Loyalist camp. At the same time Dooly’s men emerged from the swamp. Surrounded on three fronts, with the creek to their back, about 450 Tories followed Boyd’s second in command, Major Spurgen, across Kettle Creek. While they were crossing the creek, Lt. Col Elijah Clarke emerged on the other side and charged with 50 men. The Loyalists fled, soundly defeated. Total losses: Loyalists 40-70 dead, 70 captured, Patriots 9 dead, 23 wounded. The men who fled the battlefield eventually made their way back to Wrightsville, although some were captured and hung later that year. Pickens, who became famous for his many battles in the Revolution would later write that Kettle Creek was the “severest chastisement” for the Loyalists in South Carolina and Georgia. Dooly was later brutally murdered by British Regulars.
1813 – Essex becomes first U.S. warship to round Cape Horn and enter the Pacific Ocean.
1814 – USS Constitution captures British Lovely Ann and Pictou.
1824 – Winfield Scott Hancock (d.1886), Major General (Union volunteers), was born.
1840 – Officers from USS Vincennes make first landing in Antarctica on floating ice.
1846 – James Polk became the first U.S. President to be photographed in office. President Polk and his cabinet assembled in the White House Dining Room—Thomas Jefferson’s old office—and sat for a formal portrait by John Plumbe, Jr., the first photograph of a president and his advisers and the first photograph known to have been taken inside the White House.
1855 – Texas is linked by telegraph to the rest of the United States, with the completion of a connection between New Orleans and Marshall, Texas.
1859 – Oregon was admitted to the Union as the 33rd state. Oregon’s area was inhabited by many indigenous tribes before traders, explorers, and settlers arrived. An autonomous government was formed in Oregon Country in 1843, Oregon Territory was created in 1848.
1862 – Galena, the 1st US iron-clad warship for service at sea, was launched in Conn.
1862 – Gunboats U.S.S. St. Louis, Carondelet, Louisville, Pittsburg, Tyler, and Conestoga under Flag Officer Foote joined with General Grant in attacking Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. Donelson, on high ground, could subject the gunboats to a plunging fire and was a more difficult objective than Fort Henry. Foote did not consider the gunboats properly prepared for the assault on Donelson so soon after the heavy action at Fort Henry; nevertheless, at the ”urgent request” of both Grant and General Halleck to reduce the fortifications, Foote moved against the Confederate works. Bitter fire at close range opened on both sides. St. Louis, the flagship, was hit fifty-nine times and lost steering control, as did Louisville. Both disabled vessels drifted down stream; the gunboat attack was broken off. Flag Officer Foote sustained injuries which forced him to give up command three months later.
1864 – Union General William T. Sherman enters Meridian, Mississippi, during a winter campaign that served as a precursor to Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” This often-overlooked campaign was the first attempt by the Union at total warfare, a strike aimed not just at military objectives but also at the will of the southern people. Sherman launched the campaign from Vicksburg, Mississippi, with the goal of destroying the rail center at Meridian and clearing central Mississippi of Confederate resistance. Sherman believed this would free additional Federal troops that he hoped to use on his planned campaign against Atlanta, Georgia, in the following months. Sherman led 25,000 troops east from Vicksburg and ordered another 7,000 under General William Sooy Smith to march southeast from Memphis, Tennessee. They planned to meet at Meridian in eastern Mississippi. The Confederates had few troops with which to stop Sherman. General Leonidas Polk had less than 10,000 men to defend the state. Polk retreated from the capital at Jackson as Sherman approached, and some scattered cavalry units could not impede the Yankees’ progress. Polk tried to block the roads to Meridian so the Confederates could move as many supplies as possible from the city’s warehouses, but Sherman pushed into the city on February 14 in the middle of a torrential rain. After capturing Meridian, Sherman began to destroy the railroad and storage facilities while he waited for the arrival of Smith. Sherman later wrote: “For five days, 10,000 men worked hard and with a will in that work of destruction…Meridian, with its depots, storehouses, arsenals, hospitals, offices, hotels, and cantonments no longer exists.” Sherman waited until February 20 for Smith to arrive, but Smith never reached Meridian. On February 21, Confederate troops under General Nathan Bedford Forrest waylaid Smith at West Point, Mississippi, and dealt the Federals a resounding defeat. Smith returned to Memphis, and Sherman turned back towards Vicksburg. Ultimately, Sherman failed to clear Mississippi of Rebels, and the Confederates repaired the rail lines within a month. Sherman did learn how to live off the land, however, and took notes on how to strike a blow against the civilian population of the South. He used that knowledge with devastating results in Georgia later that year.
1891 – William Tecumseh Sherman (b.1820), Union Civil War general, died. His famous “March to the Sea” changed the face of modern warfare. “Vox populi, vox humbug.” (The voice of the people is the voice of humbug).
1899 – Congress approved, and President McKinley signed, legislation authorizing states to use voting machines for federal elections.
1903 -An Act of Congress (31 Stat. L., 826, 827) that created the Department of Commerce and Labor provided for the transfer of the Lighthouse Service from the Treasury Department. This allowed the Secretary of Commerce and Labor to succeed to the authority vested in the Secretary of the Treasury under the existing legislation.
1912 – Arizona became the 48th state of the Union. Arizona is the 48th state and last of the contiguous states to be admitted to the Union. It was previously part of the territory of Alta California in New Spain before being passed down to independent Mexico and later ceded to the United States after the Mexican–American War. The southernmost portion of the state was acquired in 1853 through the Gadsden Purchase.
1912 – The 1st US submarine, the USS E-1, with diesel engines were commissioned at Groton, Ct. USS E-1 (SS-24) was an E-class submarine of the United States Navy. Originally named Skipjack, the boat was launched on 27 May 1911 by the Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts; sponsored by Mrs. D. R. Battles; renamed E-1 on 17 November 1911, Lieutenant Chester W. Nimitz in command.
1939 – The Reich launched the battleship Bismarck.
1940 – The British government announces that all British merchant ships in the North Sea will be armed. In addition, it will allow British citizens to volunteer for the Finnish Foreign Legion.
1942 – This Is War, a 13-week anti-fascist radio series, debuted in the midst of World War II. The only radio series to air on all four networks-ABC, NBC, CBS, and Mutual- the show featured such Hollywood stars as James Stewart, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Tyrone Power in shows that promoted the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
1943 – German General Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps launch an offensive against an Allied defensive line in Tunisia, North Africa. The Kasserine Pass was the site of the United States’ first major battle defeat of the war. General Erwin Rommel was dispatched to North Africa in February 1942, along with the new Afrika Korps, to prevent his Italian Axis partner from losing its territorial gains in the region to the British. Despite his skill, until this point Rommel had been unable to do much more than manage his own forces’ retreats, but the Battle of Kasserine Pass would finally display the “Desert Fox’s” strategic genius. In the Battle of El Alamein in August 1942, British General Bernard Montgomery pushed Rommel out of Egypt and into Tunisia, behind the Mareth Line, a defensive fortification built by Vichy French forces. After taking several months to regroup, Rommel decided on a bold move. Rommel set his sites on Tunis, Tunisia’s capital and a key strategic goal for both Allied and Axis forces. Rommel determined that the weakest point in the Allied defensive line was at the Kasserine Pass, a 2-mile-wide gap in Tunisia’s Dorsal Mountains, which was defended by American troops. His first strike was repulsed, but with tank reinforcements, Rommel broke through on February 20, inflicting devastating casualties on the U.S. forces. The Americans withdrew from their position, leaving behind most of their equipment. More than 1,000 American soldiers were killed by Rommel’s offensive, and hundreds were taken prisoner.
1944 – American and New Zealand forces land on the Green Islands.
1945 – 521 American heavy bombers flew daylight raids over Dresden, Germany following the British assault. The firestorm killed an estimated 135,000 people. At least 35,000 died and some people place the toll closer to 70,000. The novel “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut was set in Dresden during the firebombing where he was being held as a prisoner of war. US B-17 bombers dropped 771 more tons on Dresden while P-51 Mustang fighters strafed roads packed with soldiers and civilians fleeing the burning city.
1945 – American USAAF B-24 and B-29 bombers raid Iwo Jima in preparation for the landings later in the month. They drop a daily average of 450 tons of bombs over the course of 15 days (6800 tons).
1945 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt meets with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia aboard the USS Quincy, officially beginning U.S.-Saudi diplomatic relations.
1949 – The United States charged the USSR with interning up to 14 million in labor camps.
1951 – Operation ROUNDUP officially concluded and the 30-day battle of Wonju began as the 2nd Infantry Division repelled repeated attacks from seven Chinese divisions.
1953 – U.S. Air Force Colonel Royal N. “The King” Baker, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, downed his tenth enemy aircraft and became the third double ace of the war. (An ace has five enemy kills.) His F-86 Sabre was called “Angel Face & the Babes.”
1962 – President John F. Kennedy authorizes U.S. military advisors in Vietnam to return fire if fired upon. At a news conference, he said, “The training missions we have [in South Vietnam] have been instructed that if they are fired upon, they are of course to fire back, but we have not sent combat troops in [the] generally understood sense of the word.” In effect, Kennedy was acknowledging that U.S. forces were involved in the fighting, but he wished to downplay any appearance of increased American involvement in the war. The next day former Vice President Nixon expressed hopes that President Kennedy would “step up the build-up and under no circumstances curtail it because of possible criticism.”
1971 – Richard Nixon installed a secret taping system in White House.
1973 – U.S. and Hanoi set up a group to channel reconstruction aid directly to Hanoi. In 1972 the U.S. had begun to “de-Americanize” the Vietnam war. It was a policy of gradual withdrawal.
1978 – The 1st “micro on a chip” was patented by Texas Instruments.
1979 – Adolph Dubs, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was kidnapped in Kabul by Muslim extremists and killed in a shootout between his abductors and police.
1979 – Armed guerrillas attacked the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
1989 – At a meeting of the presidents of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador, the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua agrees to free a number of political prisoners and hold free elections within a year; in return, Honduras promises to close bases being used by anti-Sandinista rebels. Within a year, elections in Nicaragua resulted in the defeat of the Sandinistas, removing what officials during the administration of President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) referred to as a “beachhead of communism” in the Western Hemisphere. Nicaragua had been a Cold War battlefield ever since the Sandinista regime came to power in 1979, following the overthrow of long-time dictator Anastacio Somoza. Almost immediately, U.S. officials criticized the new government, claiming that it was leftist-possibly Marxist-in its orientation. As relations between the United States and Nicaragua worsened, and Nicaragua moved toward a closer relationship with the communist bloc, the Reagan administration took action to bring down the Sandinista government. The foundation of this effort was economic and military aid totaling nearly one billion dollars by 1988 to the so-called Contras-anti-Sandinista rebels operating from Honduras and Costa Rica. By the late 1980s, concerns about regional stability and the widening Contra war effort spurred other Central American governments to work toward a solution to the Nicaraguan conflict. The February 1989 agreement was the culmination of that work, with Nicaragua promising free elections within a year in exchange for Honduran promises to close the Contra bases within its borders. Contra leaders were quick to criticize the agreement, but it was obvious that their days were numbered. The Sandinista government declared that the agreement symbolized the failure of the U.S. effort to bring it down through force. Officials of the new administration of President George Bush in the United States adopted a wait-and-see attitude towards events in the region. Ronald Reagan and other officials who served during his tenure, however, were quick to take credit for the outcome of the meeting-despite the fact that they had not participated in it. They claimed that the U.S. pressure during the previous eight years, particularly support of the Contras, had forced the Sandinistas to agree to elections. When the Sandinistas-who were heavily favored to win the election–went down to a shocking electoral defeat in February 1990, Reaganites claimed total victory.
1990 – Space probe Voyager 1 took photographs of entire solar system.
1991 – The Iraqi weapons depot at Ukhaydir was bombed. Iraqi authorities revealed to US authorities in 1996 that the site stored hundreds of rockets filled with mustard gas and nerve gas.
1998 – Authorities officially declared Eric Rudolph a suspect in the bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic and offered a $100,000 reward.
1999 – John D. Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s domestic affairs adviser imprisoned for his role in the Watergate cover-up that ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation, died in Atlanta at age 73. He wrote at least 4 novels and the memoir “Witness to Power: The Nixon Years.”
1999 – Iraq threatened Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with missile attacks for permitting US warplanes to fly from their countries.
1999 – In Rambouillet, France, Madeline Albright brought together the Serb and Albanian sides in the Kosovo peace talks and the talks were extended one week. The plan for a 3-year interim settlement included a NATO force of some 25,000 troops, who would collect the weapons of the Albanian rebels. In the plan the KLA was given 120 days to surrender its arms.
2000 – The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft began its orbit around the asteroid Eros.
2002 – In Kabul, Afghanistan, Abdul Rahman, the Air Transportation Minister, was reported killed by a mob of Muslim pilgrims at Kabul Airport seeking transport to Mecca. Hamid Karzai later said senior officials were responsible and blamed the killing on a personal vendetta. Gen. Tawhidi and Gen. Beg were among the accused. Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah later said the attack was not premeditated.
2002 – In the Netherlands Slobodan Milosevic spoke on his own behalf on the 3rd day of his trial. He denied all blame for a decade of carnage in the Balkans and displayed pictures of victims of NATO air raids. Milosevic justified his actions as a “struggle against terrorism” and said he was a victim of twisted facts and “terrible fabrication.”
2002 – Palestinian Abu Zubaydah (30) was identified as the new chief of operations for al Qaeda and was believed to be organizing al Qaeda remnants for new attacks against the US.
2003 – Major powers rebuffed the United States in the U.N. Security Council and insisted on more time for weapons inspections in Iraq. Earlier, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told the Council his teams had not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but also stating that Iraq has still failed to fully cooperate.
2005 – President Bush asked Congress for an estimated $82 billion in additional funds to cover the costs of continuing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
2007 – Operation Imposing Law, also known as Operation Law and Order, Operation Fardh al-Qanoon or Baghdad Security Plan(BSP), a joint Coalition-Iraqi security plan conducted throughout Baghdad, begins. Under the Surge plan developed in late 2006, Baghdad was to be divided into nine zones, with Iraqi and American soldiers working side-by-side to clear each sector of Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents and establish Joint Security Stations so that reconstruction programs could begin in safety. The U.S. military commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, went so far as to say Iraq would be “doomed” if this plan failed. Numerous members of Congress stated the plan was a critical period for the U.S. presence in Iraq.
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