1776 – In the early morning hours of January 13, 1776, British forces raid Prudence Island, Rhode Island, in an effort to steal a large quantity of sheep. But, upon landing on the island’s southern beaches, the British were ambushed by fifteen Minutemen from Rhode Island’s Second Company led by Captain Joseph Knight, who had been tipped off to the Brits’ plans and rowed across Narragansett Bay from Warwick Neck the previous morning. A brief but deadly battle ensued before the British were forced to retreat. Three British marines were killed and seven injured during the ambush. Two Minutemen were wounded; one died and the other was taken prisoner. Afraid of further violence, residents abandoned the island between 1776 and 1777, and the island’s homes and windmill were burned.
1807 – Union General Napoleon Bonaparte Buford is born in Woodford, Kentucky. Buford held many commands in the west and was a hero at the Battle of Belmont early in the war. Buford attended West Point and graduated in 1827, sixth out of 38 in his class. After a stint with the frontier military, he was given leave to study law at Harvard. He taught at West Point before leaving the service to become a businessman. He was an engineer and banker in Illinois during the 1840s and 1850s. When the war began, the 54-year-old Buford raised his own regiment, the 27th Illinois. He was commissioned as a colonel, and his unit was sent to Cairo, Illinois, and placed in General Ulysses S. Grant’s army. On November 7, 1861, Grant attacked a Confederate camp at Belmont, Missouri, and quickly drove the Rebels away. But Grant’s men became preoccupied with plundering the area, and a Confederate counterattack nearly turned to disaster for the Yankees. Buford’s regiment was nearly cut off from the main Union force. He rallied his men and they fought their way out of the Confederate trap. Buford was commended for his bravery. After Belmont, Buford participated in the capture of Island No. 10, a Confederate stronghold in the Mississippi River, and Buford was left in command after its capture. Buford and his regiment fought at Corinth in October 1862, but the colonel fell seriously ill from sunstroke. He left field command and sat on the court martial of General Fitz John Porter in Washington. Buford returned to the west and was promoted to Brigadier General in charge of the District of Eastern Arkansas. He remained there for the remainder of the war, although his main military action came in chasing off Confederate raiders in the area. Buford generated controversy in his dealings with black troops. He had drawn earlier criticism for not helping refugee slaves, and now he proclaimed his preference for commanding white troops. He justified it by saying that black troops were not as well trained and they were more likely to fall prey to drawn attention from southern bushwackers. He silenced some of the criticism by implementing programs for freed slaves in Arkansas that generally succeeded in taking care of their immediate needs. Poor health forced his resignation in March 1865, just before the end of the war. He was brevetted to major general following his retirement. He worked in a variety of businesses after the war and died in Chicago in 1883. Napoleon Bonaparte Buford was the older half-brother of John Buford, a Union General who commanded the Union force that first engaged the Confederates at Gettysburg in 1863.
1813 – Captain Oliver Hazard Perry arrives in Presque Isle (Michigan) where he will supervise the construction of a flotilla. Two brigs, a schooner, and three gunboats will be constructed from materials transported overland and by inland waterway from Philadelphia, by way of Pittsburgh, in preparation for the naval battle for Lake Erie.
1815 – British troops capture Fort Peter in St. Marys, Georgia, the only battle of the War of 1812 to take place in the state. The Battle of Fort Point Peter was a successful attack by a British force on St. Marys, Georgia, and a smaller force of American soldiers at a fort on Point Peter on the Georgia side of the St. Marys River. The river was part of the international border between the US and British-allied Spanish Florida. Occupying coastal Camden County allowed the British to blockade American transportation on the Intracoastal Waterway. The attack on Fort Peter occurred after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which would end the War of 1812, but before the treaty’s ratification. The attack on Fort Peter occurred at the same time as the siege of Fort St. Philip in Louisiana and was part of the British occupation of St. Marys and Cumberland Island.
1833 – President Andrew Jackson writes to Vice President Martin Van Buren expressing his opposition to South Carolina’s defiance of federal authority in the Nullification Crisis. The Nullification Crisis was a sectional crisis during the presidency of Andrew Jackson created by South Carolina’s 1832 Ordinance of Nullification. This ordinance declared by the power of the State that the federal Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and therefore null and void within the sovereign boundaries of South Carolina. The controversial and highly protective Tariff of 1828 (known to its detractors as the “Tariff of Abominations”) was enacted into law during the presidency of John Quincy Adams. The tariff was opposed in the South and parts of New England. Its opponents expected that the election of Jackson as President would result in the tariff being significantly reduced. In July of 1832, Jackson signed into law the Tariff of 1832. This compromise tariff received the support of most northerners and half of the southerners in Congress. The reductions were too little for South Carolina, and in November 1832 a state convention declared that the tariffs of both 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and unenforceable in South Carolina after February 1, 1833. Military preparations to resist anticipated federal enforcement were initiated by the state. In late February both a Force Bill, authorizing the President to use military forces against South Carolina, and a new negotiated tariff, the Compromise Tariff of 1833, satisfactory to South Carolina were passed by Congress. The South Carolina convention reconvened and repealed its Nullification Ordinance on March 11, 1833.
1838 – Canadian rebels surrender their arms to US militamen along the Canadian frontier. Many rebels took refuge in the northern United States, where, with the help of American supporters, they formed secret friends called Hunters’ Lodges to renew the rebellion. The lodges will conduct several raids across the border, leading to another short-lived rising in Lower Canada (Quebec).
1846 – President James Polk dispatched General Zachary Taylor and 4,000 troops to the Texas Border as war with Mexico loomed. Mexico had severed relations with the United States in March 1845, shortly after the U.S. annexation of Texas. In September President Polk sent John Slidell on a secret mission to Mexico City to negotiate the disputed Texas border, settle U.S. claims against Mexico, and purchase New Mexico and California for up to $30,000,000. Mexican officials, aware in advance of Slidell’s intention of dismembering their country, refused to receive him. When Polk learned of the snub, he ordered troops to occupy the disputed area between the Nueces and the Rio Grande rivers.
1862 – The Federal army fitted out a steamer with five guns and made a descent upon the Cedar Keys. The attack was not expected, and so only a 23 man Confederate force on the Island. It was too small to do more than burn the cotton and turpentine in the face of an attack from an overwhelming Union force. Confederate Brigadier General J. H. Trapier, CS army, had transferred the bulk of his forces (two Florida companies) to meet an expected attack at Fernandina on Amelia Island. While some Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner, were all returned. The 80 to 100 civilians on the island, according to Trapier’s report “were required to sign an oath not to take up arms against the Government of the (so-called) United States during the present war.” None of the three old rebel cannon were saved as they weren’t worth the effort. The Union assault was a successful one.
1865 – After the failure of his December expedition against Fort Fisher, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler was relieved of command. Maj. Gen. Alfred Terry was placed in command of a ‘Provisional Corps,’ including Paine’s Division of U.S. Colored Troops, and supported by a naval force of nearly 60 vessels, to renew operations against the fort. After a preliminary bombardment directed by Rear Adm. David D. Porter on January 13, Union forces landed and prepared an attack on Maj. Gen. Robert Hoke’s infantry line. On the 15th, a select force moved on the fort from the rear. A valiant attack late in the afternoon, following the bloody repulse of a naval landing party carried the parapet. The Confederate garrison surrendered, opening the way for a Federal thrust against Wilmington, the South’s last open seaport on the Atlantic coast.
1893 – U.S. Marines land in Honolulu, Hawaii from the USS Boston to prevent the queen from abrogating the Bayonet Constitution.
1910 – Lee De Forest, the American inventor of the vacuum tube, broadcasts a live performance of Enrico Caruso from the Metropolitan Opera. The broadcast over a telephone transmitter could be heard only by the small number of electronics hobbyists who had radio receivers. De Forest started regular nightly concerts in 1915, increasing interest in radio receivers, which at the time depended on the vacuum tubes manufactured by De Forest’s company. Many discoveries in the field of electricity led to the development of radio. In 1873, British physicist James Clerk Maxwell published his theory of electromagnetic waves. Inventor David Edward Hughes discovered that if one passed those waves through the junction of a steel point and a carbon block, it would conduct a current. In 1879, he showed how radio signals could be received from a transmitter hundreds of yards away. People had already been transmitting long-distance messages with light rays through a heliograph, but radio was more versatile because its waves could travel farther and could be amplified. Italian electrical engineer and inventor Guglielmo Marconi is traditionally recognized as the inventor of the radio for his 1896 invention, which transmitted signals over more than a mile. The following year, he transmitted signals from land to a ship that was sailing nearly 20 miles off shore. Soon, France and England began using the invention to communicate with each other, even during rainstorms, and by 1905 ships often used radios to communicate with stations on shore. Marconi’s work earned him a share of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics. Radio developed quickly after World War I, and amateur operators using short-wave radios made the first transatlantic radio transmission in 1921. Short-wave radio is still used today during emergencies when other modes of communication are rendered useless, and more than 1.5 million people around the world are licensed ham-radio operators. Development in radio (from high-tech equipment to extremely high frequency communication systems) has made space exploration possible, including the Apollo lunar-landing missions. Radio waves of different lengths have diverse characteristics and are identified by their frequencies (for instance, shorter waves have higher frequencies, or numbers of cycles per second). One cycle per second is called a hertz, in honor of German radio genius Heinrich Hertz. Commercial radio stations are broadcast on frequency modulation (FM) or amplitude modulation (AM) and are assigned bandwidths by the Federal Communications Commission.
1929 – Frontiersman Wyatt Earp died in LA, Ca., after an illustrious life in the West. Cowboy stars William S. Hart and Tom Mix served as pallbearers. Born in Illinois in 1848, he served as a lawman in Wichita and Dodge City, Kansas, as well as Tombstone, Arizona Territory, where Wyatt and his brothers Morgan and Virgil were notorious for violent clashes with outlaws. Western historians have disagreed about the particulars of Wyatt Earp’s life, but he is said to have been a freighter-teamster, railroad construction worker, policeman, prisoner, saloon keeper and horse farmer, and he was involved in several gunfights – for reasons that may or may not have been related to law enforcement. When Morgan was killed, Wyatt avenged his death by killing Frank Stilwell, an outlaw he had previously arrested. Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was buried in Colma, Ca.
1937 – The United States bars US citizens from serving in the Spanish Civil War.
1942 – German U-Boats begin operations of the US East Coast. The move is called operation Paukenschlag (Drum Roll). Admiral Doenitz has faced arguments from his superiors in the German Navy who do not favor the operation, and he has had the difficulty that only the larger 740-ton U-Boats are really suitable for such long range patrols. When Doenitz gives the order for the attack to begin there are 11 U-Boats in position and 10 more en route. Together they sink more than 150,000 tons during the first month. Intelligence sources have given reasonable warning of the attack but the U-Boats find virtually peace-time conditions in operation. Ship sail with lights on at night; lighthouses and bouys are still lit; there is no radio discipline – merchant ships often give their positions in plain text; there are destroyer patrols (not convoys with escorts) but these are regular and predictable and their crews are naturally inexperienced.
1942 – Japanese attacks on Bataan continue and, although they make progress on the east side of the peninsula, they are still held on the west.
1942 – Allied representatives meeting in London announce that Axis war criminals will be punished after the war.
1943 – US forces on Guadalcanal further develop their offensive, advancing westward along the north coast as well as attacking parallel to this advance further inland.
1943 – General Eichelberger, an American, is given overall command of the fighting troops on New Guinea.
1945 – Near the Philippines the escort carrier Salamaua is badly damaged in a Kamikaze attack. These are now becoming rare, however, because most of the Kamikaze aircraft have been lost and the rest withdrawn. Ashore, the US bridgehead is being extended and Damortis is taken.
1945 – In the Ardennes, units of the US First Army and the British XXX Corps from the west reach the Ourthe River between Laroche and Houffalize. Third Army forces are also moving on Houffalize.
1950 – For the second time in a week, Jacob Malik, the Soviet representative to the United Nations, storms out of a meeting of the Security Council, this time in reaction to the defeat of his proposal to expel the Nationalist Chinese representative. At the same time, he announced the Soviet Union’s intention to boycott further Security Council meetings. Several days before the January 13 meeting, Malik walked out to show his displeasure over the United Nations’ refusal to unseat the Nationalist Chinese delegation. The Soviet Union had recognized the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the true Chinese government, and wanted the PRC to replace the Nationalist Chinese delegation at the United Nations. Malik returned on January 13, however, to vote on the Soviet resolution to expel Nationalist China. Six countries–the United States, Nationalist China, Cuba, Ecuador, Cuba, and Egypt–voted against the resolution, and three–the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and India–voted in favor of it. Malik immediately left the meeting, declaring that the United States was “encouraging lawlessness” by refusing to recognize the “illegal presence” of the Nationalist Chinese representatives. He concluded that “even the most convinced reactionaries” had to recognize the justness of the Soviet resolution, and he vowed that the Soviet Union would not be bound by any decisions made by the Security Council if the Nationalist Chinese representative remained. Hoping to forestall any future Security Council action, Malik announced that the Soviet Union would no longer attend its meetings. The remaining members of the Security Council decided to carry on despite the Soviet boycott. In late June 1950, it became apparent that the Soviet action had backfired when the issue of North Korea’s invasion of South Korea was brought before the Security Council. By June 27, the Security Council voted to invoke military action by the United Nations for the first time in the organization’s history. The Soviets could have blocked the action in the Security Council, since the United States, Soviet Union, China, Britain, and France each had absolute veto power, but no Russian delegate was present. In just a short time, a multinational U.N. force arrived in South Korea and the grueling three-year Korean War was underway.
1951 – Far East Air Forces flew the first effective tarzon mission against an enemy-held bridge at Kanggye, dropping a six-ton radio-guided bomb on the center span, destroying fifty-eight feet of the structure.
1951 – President Truman told General MacArthur to withdraw his forces if continued resistance was no longer militarily possible, and even then, if practicable, continue to resist from islands off Korea’s coast. “In the worst case,” said Truman, “it would be important that, if we must withdraw from Korea, it be clear to the world that that course is forced upon us by military necessity, and that we shall not accept the result politically or militarily until the aggression has been rectified.”
1952 – Ten Okinawa-based Superfortresses dropped 396 high explosive 500-pound bombs on the railroad bridge east of Sinanju across the Chongchong River, rendering the bridge unserviceable.
1953 – Some twelve enemy fighters shot down a B-29 on a psychological warfare, leaflet-drop mission over North Korea. The crew included Col. John K. Arnold, Jr., USAF, Commander, 581st ARCW.
1962 – In the first Farm Gate combat missions, T-28 fighter-bombers are flown in support of a South Vietnamese outpost under Viet Cong attack. By the end of the month, U.S. Air Force pilots had flown 229 Farm Gate sorties. Operation Farm Gate was initially designed to provide advisory support to assist the South Vietnamese Air Force in increasing its capability. The 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron arrived at Bien Hoa Airfield in November 1961 and began training South Vietnamese Air Force personnel with older, propeller-driven aircraft. In December, President John F. Kennedy expanded Farm Gate to include limited combat missions by the U.S. Air Force pilots in support of South Vietnamese ground forces. By late 1962, communist activity and combat intensity had increased so much that President Kennedy ordered a further expansion of Farm Gate. In early 1963, additional aircraft arrived and new detachments were established at Pleiku and Soc Trang. In early 1964, Farm Gate was upgraded again with the arrival of more modern aircraft. In October 1965, another squadron of A-1E aircraft was established at Bien Hoa. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara approved the replacement of South Vietnamese markings on Farm Gate aircraft with regular U.S. Air Force markings. By this point in the war, the Farm Gate squadrons were flying 80 percent of all missions in support of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). With the build up of U.S. combat forces in South Vietnam and the increase in U.S. Air Force presence there, the role of the Farm Gate program gradually decreased in significance. The Farm Gate squadrons were moved to Thailand in 1967, and from there they launched missions against the North Vietnamese in Laos.
1964 – USS Manley evacuates 54 American and 36 allied nationals after Zanzibar government is overthrown.
1965 – Two U.S. planes were shot down in Laos while on a combat mission.
1968 – The U.S. reported shifting most air targets from North Vietnam to Laos.
1969 – R.W. White, poster of This Day in US Military History, is born in Topeka, KS.
1972 – President Nixon announces that 70,000 U.S. troops will leave South Vietnam over the next three months, reducing U.S. troop strength there by May 1 to 69,000 troops. Since taking office, Nixon had withdrawn more than 400,000 American troops from Vietnam. With the reduction in total troop strength, U.S. combat deaths were down to less than 10 per week. However, Nixon still came under heavy criticism from those who charged that he was pulling out troops but, by turning to the use of air power instead of ground troops, was continuing the U.S. involvement in Vietnam rather than disengaging from the war. The last American troops would be withdrawn in March 1973 under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords.
1980 – The United States offered Pakistan a two-year aid plan to counter the Soviet threat in Afghanistan.
1991 – UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar met with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in a bid to avoid war in the Persian Gulf.
1993 – American and allied warplanes raided southern Iraq.
1993 – Space Shuttle program: Endeavour heads for space for the third time as STS-54 launches from the Kennedy Space Center. STS-54 was a Space Transportation System (NASA Space Shuttle) mission using orbiter Endeavour. This was the third flight for Endeavour.
1996 – President Clinton paid a front-line visit to American forces in Bosnia, praising the troops as “warriors for peace.”
1997 – Seven black soldiers received the Medal of Honor for World War II valor; the lone survivor, former Lt. Vernon Baker, received his medal from President Clinton at the White House.
1998 – Iraq blocked a UN weapons inspection tem led by an American.
1999 – A KC-135 refueling tanker crashed while landing near Geilenkirchen, Germany, and 4 US airmen were killed. They were attached to an Air National Guard unit based in Spokane.
1999 – As many oil-producing countries try to cut excess global production, Iraq announces plans to raise its oil output to 3 million barrels per day from its current 2.5 million barrels per day, and then to 3.5 million barrels per day within two years. Faleh al-Khayat, the Iraqi Oil Ministry’s Director-General of Planning, says that the increases are contingent upon receiving spare parts for the country’s ailing oil industry, which has been under United Nations trade sanctions for more than eight years.
2000 – In Vitina, Kosovo, Merita Shabiu, an 11-year-old Albanian girl, was raped and murdered. On Jan 16 American soldier, Staff Sgt. Frank J. Ronghi (35), was charged for the rape and murder. Ronghi later confessed and was sentenced to life in prison.
2003 – US warplanes struck an anti-ship missile launcher in southern Iraq. US planes also dropped leaflets over An Najaf, about 85 miles southeast of Baghdad. It was the 14th drop in 3 months.
2003 – Protesters waved Puerto Rican flags and shouted “Navy get out!” as fighter jets dropped inert bombs over Vieques in what the Navy says will be its last round of training on the island.
2004 – A US soldier at Abu Ghraib prison reported US abuses of Iraqi prisoners. Criminal charges were lodged against 6 soldiers on Mar 20.
2006 – The U.S. CIA attempts to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri by bombing Damadola, Pakistan, a village near the Afghanistan border. Anonymous U.S. government sources claim he was invited to a feast in the village, but did not attend.
2011 – The WikiLeaks website honors a pledge made in July by offering financial aid to the legal team of Bradley Manning, a soldier accused by the United States of providing secret U.S. embassy cables for international public consumption.
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