1670 – Virginia passed a law that blacks arriving in the colonies as Christians could not be used as slaves.
1754 – American Revolutionary War heroine Molly Pitcher was born. During the American Revolution, at the Battle of Monmouth, NJ, Molly helped out as a water carrier, gaining her nickname, Molly Pitcher. Her husband, John, was wounded during the battle and Molly dropped the water pitcher, taking up her husband’s job of loading and firing a cannon. General George Washington appointed her a noncommissioned officer.
1775 – Navy Founded. The Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and manned by crews of eighty, and to send them out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America. This was the original legislation out of which the Continental Navy grew and as such constitutes the birth certificate of the navy. To understand the momentous significance of the decision to send two armed vessels to sea under the authority of the Continental Congress, we need to review the strategic situation in which it was made and to consider the political struggle that lay behind it. Americans first took up arms in the spring of 1775 not to sever their relationship with the king, but to defend their rights within the British Empire. By the autumn of 1775, the British North American colonies from Maine to Georgia were in open rebellion. Royal governments had been thrust out of many colonial capitals and revolutionary governments put in their places. The Continental Congress had assumed some of the responsibilities of a central government for the colonies, created a Continental Army, issued paper money for the support of the troops, and formed a committee to negotiate with foreign countries. Continental forces captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain and launched an invasion of Canada. In October 1775 the British held superiority at sea, from which they threatened to stop up the colonies’ trade and to wreak destruction on seaside settlements. In response a few of the states had commissioned small fleets of their own for defense of local waters. Congress had not yet authorized privateering. Some in Congress worried about pushing the armed struggle too far, hoping that reconciliation with the mother country was still possible. Yet, a small coterie of men in Congress had been advocating a Continental Navy from the outset of armed hostilities. Foremost among these men was John Adams, of Massachusetts. For months, he and a few others had been agitating in Congress for the establishment of an American fleet. They argued that a fleet would defend the seacoast towns, protect vital trade, retaliate against British raiders, and make it possible to seek out among neutral nations of the world the arms and stores that would make resistance possible. Still, the establishment of a navy seemed too bold a move for some of the timid men in Congress. Some southerners agreed that a fleet would protect and secure the trade of New England but denied that it would that of the southern colonies. Most of the delegates did not consider the break with England as final and feared that a navy implied sovereignty and independence. Others thought a navy a hasty and foolish challenge to the mightiest fleet the world had seen. The most the pro-navy men could do was to get Congress to urge each colony to fit out armed vessels for the protection of their coasts and harbors. Then, on 3 October, Rhode Island’s delegates laid before Congress a bold resolution for the building and equipping of an American fleet, as soon as possible. When the motion came to the floor for debate, Samuel Chase, of Maryland, attacked it, saying it was “the maddest Idea in the World to think of building an American Fleet.” Even pro-navy members found the proposal too vague. It lacked specifics and no one could tell how much it would cost. If Congress was yet unwilling to embrace the idea of establishing a navy as a permanent measure, it could be tempted by short-term opportunities. Fortuitously, on 5 October, Congress received intelligence of two English brigs, unarmed and without convoy, laden with munitions, leaving England bound for Quebec. Congress immediately appointed a committee to consider how to take advantage of this opportunity. Its members were all New Englanders and all ardent supporters of a navy. They recommended first that the governments of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut be asked to dispatch armed vessels to lay in wait to intercept the munitions ships; next they outlined a plan for the equipping by Congress of two armed vessels to cruise to the eastward to intercept any ships bearing supplies to the British army. Congress let this plan lie on the table until 13 October, when another fortuitous event occurred in favor of the naval movement. A letter from General Washington was read in Congress in which he reported that he had taken under his command, at Continental expense, three schooners to cruise off Massachusetts to intercept enemy supply ships. The commander in chief had preempted members of Congress reluctant to take the first step of fitting out warships under Continental authority. Since they already had armed vessels cruising in their name, it was not such a big step to approve two more. The committee’s proposal, now appearing eminently reasonable to the reluctant members, was adopted. The Continental Navy grew into an important force. Within a few days, Congress established a Naval Committee charged with equipping a fleet. This committee directed the purchasing, outfitting, manning, and operations of the first ships of the new navy, drafted subsequent naval legislation, and prepared rules and regulations to govern the Continental Navy’s conduct and internal administration. Over the course of the War of Independence, the Continental Navy sent to sea more than fifty armed vessels of various types. The navy’s squadrons and cruisers seized enemy supplies and carried correspondence and diplomats to Europe, returning with needed munitions. They took nearly 200 British vessels as prizes, some off the British Isles themselves, contributing to the demoralization of the enemy and forcing the British to divert warships to protect convoys and trade routes. In addition, the navy provoked diplomatic crises that helped bring France into the war against Great Britain. The Continental Navy began the proud tradition carried on today by our United States Navy, and whose birthday we celebrate each year in October.
1792 – The cornerstone of the executive mansion, later known as the White House, was laid during a ceremony in the District of Columbia.
1795 – William Prescott, American Revolutionary soldier, died. Prescott inherited a large estate and resided in Pepperell, Massachusetts. In 1755, he served as a lieutenant and captain in the provincial army under General John Winslow in an expedition against Nova Scotia. His success in that campaign attracted Winslow’s attention, and he offered Prescott a commission in the regular army. Prescott declined and retired to his estate after the war. In 1774, he was appointed to command a regiment of minutemen, with which he marched to Lexington to oppose British General Gage’s forces. Before Prescott arrived at Lexington, however, the British had retreated, so he joined the provincial army in Cambridge. In 1775, he was sent to Charlestown with 1,000 men, and procedeed to see action at the Battle of Bunker Hill, actually fought on Breed’s Hill. An advisor of General Gates said of him, “that is Col. Prescott – he is an old soldier, and will fight as long as a drop of blood remains in his veins.” During the course of the battle, Prescott reportedly shouted to the Continental troops, “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” After the battle, which ended with a British victory with heavy casualties, Prescott returned to his estate. He became a representative in the Massachusetts legislature and served for several years. A statue of Prescott was erected on Bunker Hill in 1881.
1812 – At the Battle of Queenston Heights, a Canadian and British army defeated the Americans who had tried to invade Canada. This was the 1st major land battle in the War of 1812. By the fall of 1812, the Americans are desperate for a major victory. Hull’s surrender at Detroit is proof that the invasion of Canada will not be a simple “matter of marching” as some American politicians have boasted. The United States has not followed its original plan of striking at Canada simultaneously on three fronts, and this will cost them control of the Western frontier. The short Dearborn-Prevost armistice give the U.S. some time to recover from the shock of its early losses. All eyes have now turned toward the Army of the Center gathering along the Niagara River. U.S. Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer has command of a sizable army near Lewiston, but is far from inspired by the quality of his troops. To make matters worse, Van Rensellaer is a major general of the militia and receives little respect from the officers of the regular army. But he is under pressure from the President and must act. Early in the morning of October 13, 1812, Van Rensselaer attacks across the Niagara River. Despite heavy British fire and the treacherous river currents, most of the first wave of the American force reach the Canadian shore. But their objective is Queenston Heights – 80 meters straight above them. They manage to find a fisherman’s path and half the force heads up the embankment. Meanwhile, the small British force at Queenston Heights is heartened by arrival of General Brock from Fort George and news that there are more reinforcements on the way. Part of the American force reaches the top of the promontory and circles behind the British artillery position. The redcoats are forced from the Heights with only enough time to spike their biggest cannon. The headstrong General Brock decides to counter-attack immediately. Charging ahead of his troops, Isaac Brock is shot and killed. The battle for control of the Heights continues for hours. The American troops waiting to cross the Niagara refuse to budge. The militiamen can hear the battle-cries of the Mohawks from across the river and suddenly remember their constitutional rights: they cannot be forced to fight on foreign soil. Without reinforcements, it is only a matter of time before the initial American attackers are outnumbered, and trapped, on the Canadian side of the river. As the British retake the town of Queenston, the US troops on the Heights cannot consolidate their position. Men scramble down the embankment and, crazed with fear, leap from the cliffs. Others hide in the forest or attempt to swim back to the American side. The remaining US troops quickly surrender. Although this is a decisive victory for the British, it has been won at great cost. Brock has been killed. He was an intelligent and well-liked commander and also a crucial link with Tecumseh’s confederacy. The battle at Queenston convinces many people that a defense of Canada is possible. Brock’s death becomes a unifying factor for many Upper Canadians; they now have a hero to mourn and a common debt to repay.
1845 – An overwhelming majority of voters, 94%, in the Republic of Texas approve a proposed constitution that, if accepted by the U.S. Congress, will make Texas a U.S. state. Geographically located in the south central part of the country, Texas shares an international border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the south and borders the U.S. states of New Mexico to the west, Oklahoma to the north, Arkansas to the northeast, and Louisiana to the east. Texas has an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2).
1860 – The 1st US aerial photo was taken from a balloon over Boston.
1864 – Battle at Darbytown Road Virginia resulted in 337 casualties. Union forces advanced to find and feel the new Confederate defensive line in front of Richmond. While mostly a battle of skirmishers, a Federal brigade assaulted fortifications north of Darbytown Road and was repulsed with heavy casualties. The Federals retired to their entrenched lines along New Market Road.
1864 – Battle of Harpers Ferry, WV (Mosby’s Raid). Learning that the garrison at Harpers Ferry had not retreated after his incursion into Maryland, Lee decided to surround the force and capture it. He divided his army into four columns, three of which converged upon and invested Harpers Ferry. On September 15, after Confederate artillery was placed on the heights overlooking the town, Union commander Col. Miles surrendered the garrison of more than 12,000. Miles was mortally wounded by a last salvo fired from a battery on Loudoun Heights. Jackson took possession of Harpers Ferry, then led most of his soldiers to join with Lee at Sharpsburg. After paroling the prisoners at Harpers Ferry, A.P. Hill’s division arrived in time to save Lee’s army from near-defeat at Sharpsburg.
1884 – Greenwich was established as universal time meridian of longitude.
1914 – Garrett Morgan invented and patented the gas mask.
1919 – There was a race riot at Elaine, Arkansas. Located in Phillips County, Arkansas, in 1919 Elaine was a small town mostly inhabited by black sharecroppers. Robert L. Hill, a 26 year-old black man from Winchester, Arkansas visited Elaine and realized that the sharecroppers were being consistently exploited and cheated by the landlords. He founded the Organization of the Progressive Farmers’ and Household Union of America as an alliance of black tenant farmers. With the support of the Union (which had several lodges around Elaine) blacks were able to organize acts of resistance among cotton workers. These included the refusal of Elaine sawmill workers to let the women of their families work for whites, and demands for higher wages for cotton pickers. Union members hired lawyers (from the firm of Bratton, Bratton and Casey, based in Little Rock) to sue for money that the landlords owed them for cotton. Robert Hill began to insist that Union meetings should be secure and guarded in order to keep out all whites. In a meeting on Wednesday, October 13, 1919, at a church in Hoop Spur, guards armed with rifles and shotguns circled the building in order to protect those meeting inside. A car stopped close to the building and a white man said to the guards “Going coon hunting, boys?” Although the guards did not reply, a shot was quickly fired. Each side blamed the other for firing the first shot, but shots began to fly everywhere and the meeting quickly dispersed. Special Agent W.A. Adkings of the Missouri Pacific Railroad was one of the men in the car, and was killed in this initial exchange of gunfire. By the morning of October 14, whites from Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee had flocked to the area and were confiscating and using the guns of any blacks they encountered. Fighting flared in the streets of Elaine, as blacks assembled and attacked whites, while whites ransacked the homes of black residents. Governor Brough sent troops to the scene on the request of Sheriff Kitchen. Elaine was placed under martial law. The troops arrested all the black people they could find, and blacks were not released (even if they could prove that they were innocent) unless a white person vouched for them. Many blacks were charged with being part of the “conspiracy” to commit murder. Twelve were executed for first degree murder. Fifty were found guilty of second degree murder, of whom ten received twenty-one year prison sentences. Robert Hill was eventually arrested in Kansas but was never extradited to Arkansas to stand trial.
1930 – New German Reichstag opened with 107 Nazi Party members in uniform.
1941 – Nazis killed 11,000 Jewish children and old people.
1942 – In the first of four attacks, two Japanese battleships sail down the slot and shelled Henderson field on Guadalcanal, in an unsuccessful effort to destroy the American Cactus Air Force. The bombers based there have become too effective and the Japanese dispatch the battleships Konga and Haruna to bombard the field. About 50 aircraft are destroyed in the attacks, more than half the field’s complement.
1943 – During World War II, Italy declared war on Germany, its one-time Axis partner.
1943 – Along Italy’s Volturno River, the US 3rd, 34th and 45th Infantry Divisions make good progress despite weather and German demolitions forcing advances only along major roadways.
1944 – The US 1st army entered Aachen, Germany.
1951 – Hill 851, the last peak comprising Heartbreak Ridge, was secured by the 23rd Regimental Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division after a fierce assault of bayonets, grenades and flame-throwers. Total allied casualties were over 3,700, more than 1,800 suffered by the 23rd Infantry RCT alone. Total enemy casualties were estimated 25,000. A total of 6,060 prisoners were taken.
1952 – In preparation for the Kojo amphibious demonstration, FEAF and USN aircraft hit enemy positions around Kojo, and USN surface craft shelled the beach area. After a respite of almost a year, the enemy, using small fabric-covered biplanes, hassled Cho-do and the Seoul area with “Bedcheck Charlie” raids.
1954 – USS Saipan begins relief and humanitarian aid to Haitians who were victims of Hurricane Hazel. The operation ended 19 October.
1960 – Opponents of Fidel Castro were executed in Cuba.
1965 – Marine Attack Squadron 211 was awarded the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Gallantry Cross for Vietnam service, 13 October 1965 – 13 July 1966.
1966 – 173 US airplanes bombed North-Vietnam.
1969 – Pres. Nixon ordered a worldwide “secret” nuclear alert to scare the Soviets into forcing concessions from North Vietnam. Nixon called that tactic a “madman strategy,” and it did not work.
1971 – Anchorage, AK & Camp Murray, Fort Lewis, Washington — Two states tie for claiming to have enlisted the first female soldier into their Army National Guard. In Camp Murray Specialist Five Nora Campbell is sworn on this date as a member of the Washington National Guard. At virtually the same time Specialist Five Mary L. Cunningham is sworn in as a member of the Alaska Army Guard in Anchorage. Both are members of their respective State Area Headquarters. (The Specialist Five rank is no longer in use, it was the equivalent to a Sergeant, E-5). In 1967 Congress authorized the enlistment of prior-service female personnel into the Guard under Public Law 90-130 effective 1 July 1968. Only prior service women were allowed to join at this point due to the war in Vietnam demanding so much money that none was available to train women for enlisted Guard service. The Air Guard immediately enlisted its first prior-service woman when Technical Sergeant Reannie Pocock joined the 146th Military Airlift Wing, CA ANG in 1968. However, the Army Guard waited three years before finally accepting its first enlisted women soldiers. As the war in Vietnam drew to a close in the early 1970s, and the all-volunteer and Total Force policies took effect, Congress amended the law, added more money for Guard training and allowed the direct enlistment of women with no prior-service experience.
1983 – The Space Shuttle Challenger, carrying seven, the largest crew to date, landed safely at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
1987 – The US Navy made the 1st military use of trained dolphins in the Persian Gulf.
1988 – The first U.S. merchant marine World War II veterans received their Coast Guard issued discharge certificates. Congress gave the merchant mariners veterans’ status and tasked the Coast Guard with administering the discharges.
1990 – At the start of a three-day conference in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, the crown prince of Kuwait promised greater democracy for the emirate if it were freed from Iraqi occupation. 1990 – Le Duc Tho, co-founder of the Vietnamese Communist Party, died in Hanoi at age 79. He was the 1975 North Vietnamese negotiator in Paris.
1993 – The U.N. Security Council voted to reimpose sanctions on Haiti unless military leaders there stopped violating a U.N.-brokered accord.
1994 – Pro-British Protestant paramilitaries in Northern Ireland announced a cease-fire matching the Irish Republican Army’s six-week-old truce.
1995 – The Coast Guard cutter Ida Lewis is launched, the first of the new 175-foot Keeper class buoy tenders.
1996 – In Iraq the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) regained Sulaymaniyah, its former headquarters.
1997 – The Cassini spacecraft was scheduled to be launched aboard a Titan rocket from Cape Canaveral for a trip to end in 2004 at Saturn. It will carry the Huygens probe to be deployed on the Saturn moon Titan. It was postponed.
1998 – Eric Robert Rudolph, a suspect in the bombing of a Birmingham, Ala. abortion clinic, was reported to be linked to the 1996 Olympics bombing and would be charged for that and 2 other bombings in Atlanta.
1998 – In the West Bank an Israeli man, Itamar Doron (24) was killed and another wounded by suspected terrorists. The slaying prompted Prime Minister Netanyahu to declare that there was no chance of signing a new peace deal with the Palestinians.
1998 – Serbian authorities announced that elections will be held in Kosovo under international supervision next year. NATO authorized air strikes if Milosevic does no comply with UN demands.
1999 – The US Senate rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty 51-48.
1999 – In Georgia gunmen seized 6 UN observers and a translator as they delivered aid to Abkhazia. 4 of the observers were released the next day and the ransom was raised to $350,000. The last of the hostages were released 2 days later.
2000 – Janko “Tuta” Janjic (43), a war crimes suspect, killed himself in Foca, a town in the Serb section of Bosnia, when NATO troops came to arrest him.
2001 – Anthrax was confirmed in 3 US states. In Florida 5 more employees tested positive; in Nevada a letter sent to a Microsoft office tested positive; and in NYC a letter sent to NBC News tested positive.
2001 – The US confirmed that an errant 2,000-pound bomb hit residential buildings in Kabul and that 4 people were killed.
2002 – Stephen Ambrose (b.Jan 10, 1936), historian, died in New Orleans. Stephen Ambrose was born in 1936 and grew up in Whitewater, Wisconsin. He became a history professor known for his liberal views (for example he left a teaching job at Kansas State University in order to protest over a visit from Richard Nixon during the bombings of Laos and Cambodia. He also spoke out against America’s involvement in the Vietnam war. However, he was largely unknown outside of academic circles until 1994 when he published ‘D-Day’ (published 50 years after D-Day itself). His focus in this and future books was on the ordinary soldier. In addition to his books about World War II, Ambrose wrote about many other aspects of American history. He was the author of numerous books of history, including the New York Times bestsellers Undaunted Courage and D-Day, as well as multi-volume biographies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. He also founded the Eisenhower Center and was President of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. He lived in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and Helena, Montana.Ambrose’s film work included consulting roles on two Spielberg projects, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and a documentary. He also consulted on a mini series made for cable TV based on his bestselling book ‘Band of Brothers.’ He died in October 2002 at the age of 66. His last book ‘To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian’ was published in November 2002. Ambrose describes this as his love song to his country. He started writing it after he was diagnosed with cancer – six months before his death. When asked, Hugh Ambrose – the author’s son, said that those who wanted to honor his father should ‘take a moment to thank one of America’s veterans.” Ambrose is survived by his son, Hugh, his wife, Moira, his brothers Harry and Bill, and his children, Andy, Barry, Grace and Stephanie.
2002 – Israeli troops backed by tanks and a helicopter entered the Rafah refugee camp hunting for tunnels used to smuggle weapons and drugs into the Gaza Strip. Two Palestinians were killed and 28 wounded.
2002 – Philippine troops pounded Muslim guerrilla positions with bombs and cannon fire, killing 20 rebels, as fighting raged for the second day in the country’s troubled south.
2003 – Hundreds of Afghan troops backed by U.S. soldiers and helicopters attacked a suspected Taliban hide-out, killing at least 4 rebels and capturing 8 others.
2003 – In western Nepal Communist rebels attacked a police training camp overnight, sparking a gunbattle that left at least 12 policemen and 15 guerrillas dead.
2003 – In Nepal soldiers stormed a high school that had been taken over by rebels in a mountain village, starting a gunbattle that left at least 11 insurgents and four students dead.
2003 – The Saudi Cabinet announced that first-ever elections would be held for local councils in 14 municipalities throughout the country.
2004 – In Pakistan talks aimed at freeing two Chinese engineers taken hostage by al-Qaida-linked militants in a lawless region near the Afghanistan border have broken down and tribal elders said they would support the military using force to free the pair.
2004 – A Russian rocket lifted off in Kazakhstan carrying 2 Russians and an American to replace the crew of the int’l. space station.
2006 – The establishment of the Dawlat al-ʻIraq al-Islāmīyah, “Islamic State of Iraq” (ISI) was announced. A cabinet was formed and Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi became ISI’s figurehead emir, with the real power residing with the Egyptian Abu Ayyub al-Masri. ISI will had been through many names since its inception in early 2004, including Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the Mujahideen Shura Council. ISI will later be known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and, simply, the Islamic State. The group’s original founder was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The group claimed authority over the Iraqi governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Nineveh, and parts of Babil.
2012 – Residents of Los Angeles watch in awe as U.S. Space Shuttle Endeavour inches through the city on a giant trolley, bound for a museum. Hundreds of trees in its path are chopped down
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