1776 – Propagandist Thomas Paine anonymously published “Common Sense,” a scathing attack on King George III’s reign over the colonies and a call for complete independence. It sold more than 500,000 copies in just a few months, greatly affecting public sentiment and the deliberations of the Continental Congress leading up to the Declaration of Independence. He advocated an immediate declaration of independence from Britain. An instant bestseller in both the colonies and in Britain, Paine baldly stated that King George III was a tyrant and that Americans should shed any sentimental attachment to the monarchy. America, he argued, had a moral obligation to reject monarchy. “O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dare opposed not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the Old World is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted around the globe….O! receive the fugitive and prepare in time an asylum for mankind,” he urged. Within a few years, a land with a population of 2.5 million had bought 500,000 copies of Paine’s stirring call for independence.
1788 – Connecticut becomes the fifth state to be admitted to the United States. Connecticut prospered during the era following the American Revolution, as mills and textile factories were built and seaports flourished from trade and fisheries. In 1786, Connecticut ceded territory to the U.S. government that became part of the Northwest Territory. Connecticut retained land extending across the northern part of present-day Ohio, called the Connecticut Western Reserve. The Western Reserve section was settled largely by people from Connecticut, and they brought Connecticut place names to Ohio. Agreements with Pennsylvania and New York extinguished the land claims by Connecticut within its neighbors, creating the Connecticut Panhandle. Connecticut ceded the Western Reserve in 1800 to the federal government, which brought the state to its present boundaries other than minor adjustments with Massachusetts.
1789 – The governor of the Northwest Territory, General Arthur St. Clair, signs the Treaty of Fort Harmar with the Ohio Indians renewing the Treaty of Ft. McIntosh.
1808 – The Embargo Act of December 22, 1807 is supplemented by an additional Embargo Act, to be followed by a third Embargo Act on March 12. These Embargo Acts prove relatively ineffective as smugglers carry on an active trade across the Canadian border, as well as at seausing ships that remained abroad after the passage of the first Embargo Act.
1809 – Congress passes the Enforcement Act, which is designed to halt smuggling activities and other illegal avoidance of the Embargo Acts. The Enforcement Act authorizes the seizure of any goods in violation. In New England, hard hit economically by the legislation, town meetings are held attacking the Embargo and Enforcement Acts as being pro-French and anti-British.
1861 – A Union merchant ship, the “Star of the West,” is fired upon as it tries to bring supplies to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. This incident was the first time shots were exchanged between North and South but it not trigger the Civil War. When it seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, South Carolina demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. President James Buchanan refused to do so but was also careful not to make any provocative move. Inside the fort, Major Robert Anderson and his 80 soldiers needed supplies. The Buchanan administration decided to dispatch a civilian ship, the “Star of the West,” instead of a military transport, in order to keep tensions from flaring. The ship left New York on January 5. After it was en route, Secretary of War Joseph Holt received a dispatch from Anderson saying that the garrison was safe and supplies were not needed immediately. Anderson added that the secessionists were building gun emplacements overlooking the main shipping channel into Charleston Harbor. Holt realized that the ship was in great danger and that a war might erupt. He tried in vain to recall the “Star of the West,” and Anderson was not aware that the ship continued on its way. In the morning on January 9, ship captain John McGowan steered the ship into the channel near the fort. Two cannon shots roared from a South Carolina battery on Morris Island. They came from gunner George E. Haynsworth, a cadet at The Citadel in Charleston. They were poor shots, but they represented the opening salvo of the war. More shots were fired, and the ship suffered a minor hit. Anderson watched from Sumter but did not respond in support of the ship. If he had, the war may have started on that day. The incident resulted in strong talk on both sides, but they stopped short of war. The standoff at Fort Sumter continued until the Confederates attacked in April, triggering the Civil War.
1861 – Thirty Marines from Washington Navy Yard under First Lieutenant Andrew J. Hays, USMC, garrisoned Fort McHenry, Baltimore, until U.S. Army troops could relieve them.
1861 – Mississippi becomes the second state to secede from the Union before the outbreak of the American Civil War.
1862 – Orders from the Navy Department appointed Flag Officer Farragut to command Western Gulf Blockading Squadron, flagship U.S.S. Hartford, then at Philadelphia. The bounds of the command extended from West Florida to the Rio Grande, but a far larger purpose than even the important function of blockade lay behind Farragut’s appointment. Late in 1861 the administration had made a decision that would have fateful results on the war. The full list of senior officers in the Navy was reviewed for a commander for an enterprise of first importance—the capture of New Orleans, the South’s “richest and most populous city,” and the beginning of the drive of sea-based power up the Father of Waters to meet General Grant, who would soon move south behind the spearhead of the armored gunboats. On 21 December 1861, in Washington, Farragut had written his wife; ”Keep your lips closed, and burn my letters; for perfect silence is to be observed- the first injunction of the Secretary. I am to have a flag in the Gulf and the rest depends upon myself. Keep calm and silent. I shall sail in three weeks.” Meanwhile, the tight blockade was causing grave concern in New Orleans. The Commercial Bulletin reported: ”The situation of this port makes it a matter of vast moment to the whole Confederate State that it should be opened to the commerce of the world within the least possible period … We believe the blockading vessels of the enemy might have been driven away and kept away months ago, if the requisite energy had been put forth . . . The blockade has remained and the great port of New Orleans has been hermetically sealed. . .”
1863 – U.S.S. Baron De Kalb, Louisville, Cincinnati, Lexington, Rattler, and Black Hawk, under Rear Admiral Porter in tug Ivy, engaged and, with the troops of Major General W. T. Sherman, forced the surrender of Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post. Ascending the Arkansas River, Porter’s squadron covered the landing of the troops and shelled Confederates from their rifle pits, enabling McClernand’s troops on 9 January to take command of the woods below the fort and approach unseen. Though the Army was not in a position to press the attack on 10 January, the squadron moved to within 60 yards of the staunchly defended fort to soften the works for the next day’s assault. A blistering engagement ensued, the fort’s 11 guns pouring a withering fire into the gunboats. U.S.S. Rattler, Lieutenant Commander Watson Smith, attempted to run past the fort to provide enfilade support, but was caught on a snag placed in the river by the Confederates, received a heavy raking fire, and was forced to return downstream. Porter’s gunboats renewed the engagement the next morning, 11 January, when the Army launched its assault, and “after a well directed fire of about two and one-half hours every gun in the fort was dismounted or disabled and the fort knocked all to pieces. . .” Ram Monarch and U.S.S. Rattler and Glide, under Lieutenant Commander W. Smith, knifed upriver to cut off any attempted escape. Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill, CSA, surrendered the fort-including some 36 defending Confederate naval officers and men after a gallant resistance to the fearful pounding from the gunboats. Porter wrote Secretary of the Navy Welles: “No fort ever received a worse battering, and the highest compliment I can pay those engaged is to repeat what the rebels said: ‘You can’t expect men to stand up against the fire of those gunboats.’ ” After the loss of Fort Hindman, Confederates evacuated other positions on the White and St. Charles Rivers before falling waters forced the gunboats to retire downstream. Porter wrote: ‘The fight at Fort Hindman was one of the prettiest little affairs of the war, not so little either, for a very important post fell into our hands with 6,500 prisoners, and the destruction of a powerful ram at Little Rock [C.S.S. Pontchartrain], which could have caused the Federal Navy in the West a great deal of trouble, was ensured. . . . Certain it is, the success at Arkansas Post had a most exhilarating effect on the troops, and they were a different set of men when they arrived at Milliken’s Bend than they were when they left the Yazoo River.” A memorandum in the Secretary’s office added: ”The importance of this victory can not be estimated. It happened at a moment when the Union arms were unsuccessful on three or four battlefields. . . “
1918 – The Battle of Bear Valley was a small engagement fought in 1918 between a band of Yaquis and a detachment of United States Army soldiers. Elements of the American 10th Cavalry Regiment detected about thirty armed Yaquis in Bear Valley, Arizona, a large area that was commonly used as a passage across the international border with Mexico. A short firefight ensued, which resulted in the death of the Yaqui commander and the capture of nine others. Though the conflict was merely a skirmish, it was the last time the United States Army engaged hostile native Americans in combat and thus has been seen as one of the final battles of the American Indian Wars.
1924 – Sun Yat-sen appealed to the U.S. to seek international pressure for peace in China.
1942 – Japanese forces begin the assault on the Bataan Peninsula.
1943 – The Americans capture the village of Tarakena, New Guinea but their attempts to advance further toward Sanananda are held by the Japanese defenders.
1944 – On Bougainville, American engineers complete a second airfield at Piva.
1944 – Two divisions of the US 2nd Corps (part of 5th Army) attack Cervaro and Monte Trochio, to the east of Cassino.
1945 – Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the American 6th Army land on the Lingayen Gulf of Luzon, another step in the capture of the Philippine Islands from the Japanese. The Japanese controlled the Philippines from May 1942, when the defeat of American forces led to General MacArthur’s departure and Gen. Jonathan Wainwright’s capture. But in October 1944, more than 100,000 American soldiers landed on Leyte Island to launch one of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war-and herald the beginning of the end for Japan. Newsreels captured the event as MacArthur waded ashore at Leyte on October 20, returning to the Philippines as he had famously promised he would after the original defeat of American forces there. What the newsreels didn’t capture were the 67 days it took to subdue the island, with the loss of more than 55,000 Japanese soldiers during the two months of battle and approximately 25,000 more soldiers killed in smaller-scale engagements necessary to fully clear the area of enemy troops. The U.S. forces lost about 3,500. The sea battle of Leyte Gulf was the same story. The loss of ships and sailors was horrendous for both sides. That battle also saw the introduction of the Japanese kamikaze suicide bombers. More than 5,000 kamikaze pilots died in this gulf battle, taking down 34 ships. But the Japanese were not able to prevent the loss of their biggest and best warships, which meant the virtual end of the Japanese Imperial Fleet. These American victories on land and sea at Leyte opened the door for the landing of more than 60,000 American troops on Luzon on January 9. Once again, cameras recorded MacArthur walking ashore, this time to greet cheering Filipinos. Although the American troops met little opposition when they landed, American warships were in for a new surprise: kamikaze boats. Japanese boats loaded with explosives and piloted by kamikaze personnel rammed the light cruiser Columbia and the battleship Mississippi, killing a total of 49 American crewmen. The initial ease of the American fighters’ first week on land was explained when they discovered the intricate defensive network of caves and tunnels that the Japanese created on Luzon. The intention of the caves and tunnels was to draw the Americans inland, while allowing the Japanese to avoid the initial devastating bombardment of an invasion force. Once Americans reached them, the Japanese fought vigorously, convinced they were directing American strength away from the Japanese homeland. Despite their best efforts, the Japanese lost the battle for Luzon and eventually, the battle for control over all of the Philippines.
1945 – The fleet carriers of Task Force 38 attack targets on Okinawa and Formosa in conjunction with US Army Air Force B-29 Superfortress bombers from bases in China. This is intended to give cover to the landings on Luzon. One Japanese destroyer is sunk along with seven other ships.
1945 – The US 3rd Army renews its attacks northeast and southeast of Bastogne.
1945 – An Anglo-American joint statement is issued that notes increased U-boat activity in December 1944 and higher shipping losses. Nonetheless, it states that all forces are continuing to be supplied regularly.
1951 – General MacArthur indicated that he had little hope of defending Korea unless given reinforcements and authority to carry the war to the Chinese homeland. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with President Truman’s approval, informed MacArthur that the United States would continue to limit hostilities to Korea. MacArthur was expected to defend successive positions, inflicting as much damage on the enemy as possible.
1952 – In his 1952 State of the Union address, President Harry S. Truman warns Americans that they are “moving through a perilous time,” and calls for vigorous action to meet the communist threat. Though Truman’s popularity had nose-dived during the previous 18 months because of complaints about the way that he handled the Korean War, his speech received a standing ovation from congressmen and special guest Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Truman spent much of his speech addressing foreign policy concerns. The primary focus was on meeting the communist challenge. The president declared that the United States was confronted with “a terrible threat of aggression.” He also pointed with pride to U.S. action in meeting that threat. In Korea, combined U.S. and United Nations forces “turned back the Chinese Communist invasion;” elsewhere in Asia, U.S. assistance to its allies was helping to “hold back the Communist advance;” and in Europe and the Middle East, the fight against Soviet expansion was also ongoing. Truman was particularly proud of the Point Four program, which provided U.S. scientific and technical assistance (such as in the field of agriculture) to the underdeveloped world, claiming that it helped “feed the whole world so we would not have to stomach communism.” There could be no slacking of effort, however, since the Soviet Union was “increasing its armed might,” and with the Soviet acquisition of atomic bomb technology, the world was still walking “in the shadow of another world war.” Truman’s speech was a stirring rebuttal to domestic critics like Senator Joseph McCarthy, who attacked Truman’s “softness” on communism. Perhaps such criticism contributed to Truman’s decision not to run for re-election. Adlai Stevenson ran as the Democratic candidate, but he lost the election to Dwight Eisenhower.
1953 – B-29 Superfortress bombers and Fifth Air Force fighter-bombers struck Pyongyang and the Sinanju complex.
1964 – Anti-U.S. rioting broke out in the Panama Canal Zone, resulting in the deaths of 21 Panamanians and three U.S. soldiers. U.S. forces killed six Panamanian students protesting in the canal zone. Violent clashes between Panamanians and American soldiers, which resulted in the deaths of 21 Panamanians and four American soldiers, began when U.S. students’ attempted to raise the American flag at the Canal Zone high school. An order banning the flying of any flags in front of Canal Zone schools had been issued on December 30, 1963, because of Panamanian sensitivity to U.S. control of the Zone. These events led to attempts to renegotiate the Canal Zone’s status.
1965 – Under pressure from United States officials, Gen. Nguyen Khanh and the newly formed Armed Forces Council–generals who participated in the bloodless coup on December 19, 1964–agree to support the civilian government of Premier Tran Van Huong. The coup occurred when Khanh and a group of generals, led by Air Commodore Nguyen Cao Ky and Army Maj. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, arrested three dozen high officers and civilian officials and took control of the government. The coup was part of the continuing political instability that followed the November 1963 coup that resulted in the murder of President Ngo Dinh Diem. The period following the overthrow of Diem was marked by a series of coups and “revolving door” governments. In addition to pledging to support Huong, Khanh and the generals agreed to release five High National Council members and 50 others arrested during the coup. They also promised to confine their activities to the military sphere. A national convention was to be convened to “assume legislative powers” and to draw up a permanent constitution. However, this did not happen. Tran Van Huong was unable to put together a viable government and the Armed Forces Council ousted him on January 27 and installed General Khanh to power. Khanh was ousted by yet another coup on February 18, led by Ky and Thieu. Khanh then moved to the United States and settled in Palm Beach, Florida. A short-lived civilian government under Dr. Phan Huy Quat was installed, but it lasted only until June 12, 1965. At that time, Thieu and Ky formed a new government with Thieu as the chief of state and Ky as the prime minister. Thieu and Ky were elected as president and vice-president in general elections held in 1967. They served together until 1971, when Thieu was re-elected president.
1967 – The Agency for International Development (AID) attempts to respond to reports in the American media of widespread corruption and thievery of commodities sent to South Vietnam by the United States. In a report to the president, AID officials asserted, “No more than 5-6 percent of all economic assistance commodities delivered to Vietnam were stolen or otherwise diverted.”
1974 – Cambodian Government troops open a drive to avert insurgent attack on Phnom Penh.
1991 – Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz met for six hours in Geneva, but failed to resolve the Persian Gulf crisis. President Bush, in Washington, accused Iraq of “a total stiff-arm, a total rebuff.”
1995 – In New York, trials began for Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and 11 other defendants accused of conspiring to wage a holy war against the United States. Nine were convicted of seditious conspiracy, and two reached plea agreements with the government.
1998 – Ramzi Yousef was sentenced in New York to life in prison for the 1994 bombing of a Philippines airliner and 240 years for masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
2002 – A US KC-130 aerial refueler crashed at Kharan, Pakistan, and all 7 marines aboard were killed.
2002 – In the Philippines Gen. Diomedio Villanueva said some 100 US military advisers will be allowed to join front-line Philippine troops fighting Abu Sayyaf rebels.
2002 – The White House declares that the Guantanamo detainees are, as “enemy combatants,” not entitled to the protections accorded prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
2003 – The Bush administration said federal airport security screeners will not be allowed to unionize so as not to complicate the war on terrorism.
2005 – The U.S. military frees about 230 prisoners it was holding at Abu Ghraib. Around 7,400 remain in custody.
2014 – The government of Afghanistan announces the release of 72 Taliban fighters from jails, despite American objections that they pose a security threat.
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