1798 – A brawl broke out in the House of Representatives in Philadelphia. Matthew Lyon of Vermont spat in the face of Roger Griswold of Connecticut, who responded by attacking him with a hickory walking stick. Lyon was re -elected congressman while serving a jail sentence for violating the Sedition Acts of 1798.
1815 – The burned Library of Congress was reestablished with Jefferson’s 6,500 volumes.
1816 – Union General Nathaniel Banks is born in Waltham, Massachusetts. Banks was a “political general”–he had few military skills, but as an anti-slave Republican from Massachusetts, he helped the Lincoln administration maintain support in that region. Banks was born to a cotton mill worker and never attended college. Nonetheless, he studied law, languages, and oratory, and became a lawyer by the late 1830s. He served in the state legislature, and was Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In 1853, Banks was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. From 1857 to 1860, Banks served as governor of Massachusetts. He was considered a popular and effective governor. When the war began, Banks was commissioned as a general despite his complete lack of military experience. This was typical during the war. There were simply not enough qualified men to fill the positions, and the Lincoln administration had to make appointments with, in part, political motives in mind. Banks commanded an army in the Shenandoah Valley during Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s campaign there in 1862. He suffered two serious defeats to Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester, and his army lost so many supplies that the Confederates began calling him “Commissary Banks.” In August, Banks commanded a corps at the Battle of Cedar Mountain. He again found himself pitted against Jackson, and again lost to him. Banks was forced to retreat to Washington. Banks was then sent to New Orleans to command the Department of the Gulf. In 1863, Banks managed to capture Port Hudson, a key Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. His victory was difficult and came with a high price in casualties, but it was the general’s first victory of the war. In 1864, Banks commanded the Red River Campaign in northern Louisiana, which turned into a complete Union disaster. He did not command troops in the field again. Banks also managed the reconstruction of Louisiana during the war, and his record in doing so was also suspect. He used the state’s antebellum constitution to govern and simply deleted references to slavery, which did little to promote the rights of freed slaves. In fact, Banks actually forced many black “vagrants” back to work on plantations. After the war, Banks served two more stints in Congress and also spent time as a U.S. Marshall. He was serving in Congress when he died in 1894.
1835 – In the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol, President Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, survives the first attempt against the life of a U.S. president. During a funeral service honoring the late Representative Warren R. Davis of South Carolina, a man identified as Richard Lawrence discharged two separate pistols in the direction of President Jackson. Both weapons misfired, and Lawrence was promptly subdued and arrested. During the subsequent criminal investigation, the suspect was found to be insane and was sent to a mental prison. Three decades later, President Abraham Lincoln would become the first president to be assassinated.
1861 – Secretary John A. Dix of Treasury ordered Lt. Caldwell “to arrest Capt. Breshwood (Confederate sympathizer) assume command of cutter (McClelland) and if anyone attempts to haul down the flag, shoot him on the spot.” The message was not delivered by the telegraph office. Breshwood turned McClelland over to the State of Louisiana. She ended up in Confederate service.
1862 – U.S.S. Monitor, the Union’s first sea-going ironclad vessel, launched at Greenpoint, New York. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox wired John Ericsson, referring to Monitor’s launching: ”I congratulate you and trust she will be a success. Hurry her for sea, as the Merrimack is nearly ready at Norfolk, and we wish to send her here.”
1863 – U.S.S. Commodore Perry, Lieutenant Commander Charles W. Flusser, on a joint expedition with Army troops, landed at Hertford, North Carolina, and destroyed two bridges over the Perquimans River. As a result of the successful mission, Flusser reported: ”There are now no bridges remaining on the Perquimans, so that the goods sent from Norfolk to the enemy on the south side of the Chowan (by whom they are conveyed to Richmond) have to be passed over a ford, and the roads leading from that ford can be guarded by the troops at Winfield.” Three days later (2 February), Commodore Perry anchored at the mouth of the Yeopim River; two boats were sent into the river and succeeded in capturing three Confederate small boats. Two of the captures contained cargoes including salt. The constant harassment and interruption of supply lines through the Union Navy’s control of the waterways hurt the Confederacy sorely.
1865 – Returning from an afternoon reconnaissance of King’s Creek, Virginia, Acting Ensign James H. Kerens U.S.S. Henry Brinker, and his two boat crews “discovered 5 men, who, upon seeing us, immediately fled.” His suspicions aroused, Kerens determined to return under cover of darkness to search the vicinity. That night he and two boat crews returned to the mouth of King’s Creek and, after more than an hour of careful searching, found “two very suspicious looking mounds. . . . Removing the earth Kerens found two galvanic batteries and torpedoes, each containing some 150 pounds of powder. Acting Third Assistant Engineer Henry M. Hutchinson and Landsman John McKenna cut the connections from the batteries to the torpedoes and the weapons were safely removed and taken on board Henry Brinker.
1882 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933 -1945), was born in Hyde Park, N.Y. He led the country out of the Great Depression and through most of World War II.
1911 – The destroyer USS Terry makes the first airplane rescue at sea saving the life of James McCurdy 10 miles from Havana, Cuba.
1912 – Barbara Tuchman, U.S. historian best remembered for her book “The Guns of August,” was born.
1931 – The United States awarded civil government to the Virgin Islands.
1933 – German President Paul von Hindenburg made Adolf Hitler chancellor. After World War I, Germany fell into disarray and looked for a leader to strengthen it again. Hitler had emerged after joining the Nazi Party in 1919 and taking it over in 1921. In 1932 Hitler ran against von Hindenburg and lost – -but not by a wide margin. The Nazis won 230 seats in the German parliament and continued to gain influence, stifling democracy and communism by force and by making laws against them. After Hindenburg’s death in 1934, Hitler proclaimed himself Der Führer of the Third Reich and continued as Germany’s leader through World War II. Gen. Kurt von Hammerstein -Equord tried to block the appointment of Hitler as chancellor but was overruled by Pres. Hindenburg.
1934 – The House looked to put a halt to the oscillation in the value of the US Dollar by passing the Gold Reserve Act. The value of American currency ping-ponged up and down wildly throughout the Great Depression. The adoption of the act gave President Franklin Roosevelt license to peg the value of the dollar within a range of 50 to 60 cents in terms of gold. Roosevelt took swift action: the next day he announced that the dollar would be worth 59.06 cents, while gold would be valued at $35 per ounce. The Gold Reserve Act also paved the way for the “nationalization” of gold: as per the legislationýs mandate, the various Federal Reserve banks handed control of their gold supplies, including all coins, bullion and gold certificates, to the U.S. Treasury. The U.S. Treasury shuttled a good chunk of the gold to a well-protected spot in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
1942 – The capsized hulk of the CGC Alexander Hamilton was sunk by the US Navy after she was torpedoed off the coast of Iceland by the U-132 the previous day. She was the first cutter sunk by enemy action during World War II. 26 of her crew perish.
1942 – USS Wakefield, the former passenger liner SS Manhattan converted to a troop transport and manned by a Coast Guard crew, transported 20,000 British troops to Singapore. Having disembarked all 20,000 troops, she was bombed by Japanese aircraft while still in port. Five of her Coast Guard crew were killed, the first Coast Guard casualties of World War II. After quick temporary repairs, she evacuated 500 women and children to Bombay before the port fell to the Japanese.
1942 – The last pre-war automobiles produced by Chevrolet and DeSoto rolled off the assembly lines today. Wartime restrictions had shut down the commercial automobile industry almost completely, and auto manufacturers were racing to retool their factories for production of military gear.
1943 – On Guadalcanal American forces continue to advance against Japanese resistance. There is heavy fighting along the River Bonegi.
1943 –Second day of the Battle of Rennell Island. The USS Chicago is sunk and a U.S. destroyer is heavily damaged by Japanese torpedoes.
1944 – At Anzio the Allied offensive begins. There are heavy losses and no gains against the German defenses. To the south, along the German-held Gustav Line, the US 5th Army continues attacking. The British 5th Division (part of 10th Corps) breaks through the line and captures Monte Natale. Around Monte Cassino, the US 34th Division (part of 2nd Corps) holds its bridgehead on the west bank of the Rapido River.
1944 – US Task Force 58 continues the bombardment of Kwajalein, Roi, Namur and Eniwetok. There are 7 battleships involved and 400 bombing sorties are flown.
1945 – US Army Rangers and Filipino guerrillas executed a flawless rescue of 486 POWs from Camp Cabanatuan north of Manila. The Raid at Cabanatuan, also known as The Great Raid, was a rescue of Allied prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians from a Japanese camp near Cabanatuan City, in the Philippines. On January 30, 1945, during World War II, United States Army Rangers, Alamo Scouts, and Filipino guerrillas liberated more than 500 from the POW camp. After the surrender of tens of thousands of American troops during the Battle of Bataan, many were sent to a Cabanatuan prison camp following the Bataan Death March. The Japanese transferred most of the prisoners to other areas, leaving just over 500 American and other Allied POWs and civilians in the prison. Facing brutal conditions including disease, torture, and malnourishment, the prisoners feared they would all be executed as General Douglas MacArthur and his American forces returned to Luzon. In late January 1945, a plan was developed by Sixth Army leaders and Filipino guerrillas to send a small force to rescue the prisoners. A group of over a hundred Rangers and Scouts and several hundred guerrillas traveled 30 miles (48 km) behind Japanese lines to reach the camp. In a nighttime raid, under the cover of darkness and a distraction by a P-61 Black Widow, the group surprised the Japanese forces in and around the camp. Hundreds of Japanese troops were killed in the 30-minute coordinated attack; the Americans suffered minimal casualties. The Rangers, Scouts, and guerrillas escorted the POWs back to American lines. The rescue allowed the prisoners to tell of the death march and prison camp atrocities, which sparked a new rush of resolve for the war against Japan. The rescuers were awarded commendations by MacArthur, and were also recognized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A memorial now sits on the site of the former camp, and the events of the raid have been depicted in several films.
1945 – A US battalion is landed to take Gamble Island in Subic Bay. To the north, US 11th Corps begins to advance inland quickly and takes Olongapo on Luzon.
1945 – The Allies launched a drive on the Siegfried line in Germany.
1948 – Orville Wright (b.1871), US aviation pioneer, died.
1952 – Operation HIGHBOY, an attack by self-propelled 155mm howitzers with direct fire on enemy bunkers and fortifications located on steep slopes, met with limited success.
1953 – President Dwight Eisenhower announced that he would pull the Seventh Fleet out of Formosa to permit the Nationalists to attack Communist China.
1953 – U.S. Air Force Captain Benjamin L. Fithian, and his “backseater” Lieutenant Sam Lyons, 319th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, achieved the first F-94 aerial victory when they destroyed a Lavochkin La-9, a “Bedcheck Charlie,” which was the nickname given to small communist aircraft that regularly harassed U.N. troops after midnight. The two men made the kill at night using only their fire control radar, a combat first in its own right.
1953 – Lieutenant Raymond J. Kinsey, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, shot down the first communist bomber in more than a year, a twin engine TU-2.
1956 – American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home is bombed in retaliation for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
1964 – The United States launched Ranger 6 from Cape Canaveral. It was an unmanned spacecraft carrying six television cameras that was to crash -land on the moon.
1968 – In coordinated attacks all across South Vietnam, communist forces launch their largest offensive of the Vietnam War against South Vietnamese and U.S. troops. Dozens of cities, towns, and military bases–including the U.S. embassy in Saigon–were attacked. The massive offensive was not a military success for the communists, but its size and intensity shook the confidence of many Americans who were led to believe, by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, that the war would shortly be coming to a successful close. On January 30, 1968-during the Tet holiday cease-fire in South Vietnam-an estimated 80,000 troops of the North Vietnamese Army and National Liberation Front attacked cities and military establishments throughout South Vietnam. The most spectacular episode occurred when a group of NLF commandos blasted through the wall surrounding the American embassy in Saigon and unsuccessfully attempted to seize the embassy building. Most of the attacks were turned back, with the communist forces suffering heavy losses. Battles continued to rage throughout the country for weeks–the fight to reclaim the city of Hue from communist troops was particularly destructive. American and South Vietnamese forces lost over 3,000 men during the offensive. Estimates for communist losses ran as high as 40,000. While the communists did not succeed militarily, the impact of the Tet Offensive on public opinion in the United States was significant. The American people, who had been told a few months earlier that the war was successful and that U.S. troops might soon be allowed withdraw, were stunned to see fighting taking place on the grounds of the U.S. embassy. Despite assurances from the Johnson administration that all was well, the Tet Offensive led many Americans to begin seriously questioning such statements, and to wonder whether American military might could truly prevail over the communist threat on foreign shores. In the 1950s, Americans had almost unconditionally supported a vigorous American response to communism; the reaction to the Tet Offensive seemed to reflect the growing skepticism of the 1960s, when Americans felt increasingly doubtful about the efficacy of such Cold War tactics. In the wake of the Tet Offensive, support for the U.S. effort in Vietnam began steadily to decline, and public opinion turned sharply against President Johnson, who decided not to run for re-election.
1971 – Operation Dewey Canyon II begins as the initial phase of Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos that would commence on February 8. The purpose of the South Vietnamese operation was to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail, advance to Tchepone in Laos, and destroy the North Vietnamese supply dumps in the area. In Dewey Canyon II, the vanguard of the U.S. 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division began moving from Vandegrift Combat Base along highway Route 9 toward Khe Sanh with an armored cavalry/engineer task force. These units were to clear the way for the move of 20,000 South Vietnamese troops along the highway to reoccupy 1,000 square miles of territory in northwest South Vietnam and to mass at the Laotian border in preparation for Lam Son 719. U.S. ground forces were not to enter Laos, in accordance with a U.S. congressional ban. Instead they gave logistical support, with some 2,600 helicopters on call to airlift Saigon troops and supplies. In addition, U.S. artillerymen provided long-range artillery fires into Laos from American firebases just inside the South Vietnamese border.
1979 – The civilian government of Iran announced it had decided to allow Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who’d been living in exile in France, to return.
1981 – An estimated two million New Yorkers turned out for a ticker -tape parade honoring the freed American hostages from Iran.
1989 – The American embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan closes.
1990 – A federal judge ordered former President Reagan to provide excerpts of his personal diaries to John M. Poindexter for the former national security adviser’s Iran -Contra trial. The judge later reversed himself, deciding the material was not essential.
1992 – President George H.W. Bush and other world leaders gathered for an unprecedented U.N. Security Council summit to coordinate policy on peacekeeping, disarmament and quelling aggression.
1992 – The space shuttle Discovery landed in California, ending an eight -day mission.
1997 – The Marine Corps opened an investigation of two videotaped hazing incidents in 1991 and 1993 known as “blood pinings” in which elite paratroopers had golden jump pins beaten into their chests. One incident led to a recommended discharge for a sergeant.
1999 – UNSC Presidential Note issued. Establishes three panels (disarmament, humanitarian situation, and Kuwaiti issues) for Iraq. Disarmament panel to recommend how to reestablish effective disarmament/ongoing monitoring and verification regime in Iraq.
1999 – NATO authorized its secretary general to launch military action in Yugoslavia if the warring parties failed to negotiate an agreement for autonomy in Kosovo.
2001 – In the Netherlands a Scottish court convicted Abdel Basset Ali al -Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, of murder in the 1998 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. A 2nd Libyan, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted.
2002 – The satellite Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer, launched in 1992, broke up in Earth’s atmosphere over Egypt. It had surveyed the entire Milky Way and beyond and transmitted date until Jan 31 2001.
2002 – Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai visited the World Trade Center site and placed a wreath of yellow roses by a memorial wall as he surveyed the ruins of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
2002 – In Afghanistan war lords Padsha Khan Zadran and Saifullah led fighting for the control of Paktia province.
2003 – President Bush put allies on notice that diplomacy would give way to a decision on war with Iraq in “weeks, not months.” Wary world leaders and congressional critics urged patience and demanded proof of Iraq’s transgressions.
2003 – Spencer Abraham, US Energy Secretary, said the US would rejoin the $5 billion int’l. project to build an experimental fusion reactor. The US had left the project in 1998.
2003 – Richard Reid, the British citizen and al -Qaida follower who’d tried to blow up a trans -Atlantic jetliner with explosives hidden in his shoes, was sentenced to life in prison by a federal judge in Boston.
2003 – In Afghanistan 4 American soldiers were killed when special operations UH -60 Black Hawk helicopter went down seven miles east of the Bagram Air Base while on a training mission.
2004 – It was reported that Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange had filed their 1st suit against the US companies that produced the toxic defoliant used by American forces during the Vietnam War.
2005 – An estimated 58 percent of Iraq’s population defy threats of violence to vote in the first elections since Saddam Hussein’s ouster. Iraqis voted to elect 275 members of a transitional national assembly, which will write a constitution; 111 members of the Kurdish legislature; and local councils in Iraq’s 18 provinces. Insurgents struck polling stations with a string of suicide bombings and mortar volleys, killing at least 44 people, including 9 attackers. 5 people were killed and 17 injured when a suicide attacker blew himself up aboard a minibus bound for a polling station in central Iraq.
2008 – United States District Court judge Stanwood Duval dismisses a class action suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over flooding from a levee breach in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
2014 – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces that federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
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