This Day In History


This Day 12-18-2

In proclaiming the first national day of thanksgiving, Congress wrote, “It is therefore recommended to the Legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for solemn THANKSGIVING and PRAISE; That at one Time and with one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor”

Neither when the Congress proclaimed the day of Thanksgiving on November 1, nor when the population celebrated in December, were they aware that on December 17, the French would finally formalize a military and trade alliance with the rebelling states. These were not disconnected events. The victory at Saratoga convinced the French king that the Americans might be worthy allies and the ensuing alliance made an American victory possible.

Merely having a national day of thanksgiving was a tremendous step forward in creating an American identity. Previously, the colonies had celebrated individually or as part of the British Empire. Now they had experienced an event that had affected them all and formalized a celebration that involved them all. With the French alliance, they had an ally who supported them all. Americans had just taken a major step on the tortured trail from colonies to states and from states to nation.


This Day 12-18-1

The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from some London merchants to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers–dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first governor of Plymouth Colony–crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World.

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower anchored at what is now Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod. Before going ashore, 41 male passengers–heads of families, single men and three male servants–signed the famous Mayflower Compact, agreeing to submit to a government chosen by common consent and to obey all laws made for the good of the colony. Over the next month, several small scouting groups were sent ashore to collect firewood and scout out a good place to build a settlement. Around December 10, one of these groups found a harbor they liked on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. They returned to the Mayflower to tell the other passengers, but bad weather prevented them from docking until December 18. After exploring the region, the settlers chose a cleared area previously occupied by members of a local Native American tribe, the Wampanoag. The tribe had abandoned the village several years earlier, after an outbreak of European disease. That winter of 1620-1621 was brutal, as the Pilgrims struggled to build their settlement, find food and ward off sickness. By spring, 50 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers were dead. The remaining settlers made contact with returning members of the Wampanoag tribe and in March they signed a peace treaty with a tribal chief, Massasoit. Aided by the Wampanoag, especially the English-speaking Squanto, the Pilgrims were able to plant crops–especially corn and beans–that were vital to their survival. The Mayflower and its crew left Plymouth to return to England on April 5, 1621.

Over the next several decades, more and more settlers made the trek across the Atlantic to Plymouth, which gradually grew into a prosperous shipbuilding and fishing center. In 1691, Plymouth was incorporated into the new Massachusetts Bay Association, ending its history as an independent colony.


This Day 12-17-2

News of the Continental Army’s overwhelming victory against the British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga gave Benjamin Franklin new leverage in his efforts to rally French support for the American rebels. Although the victory occurred in October, news did not reach France until December 4th.

Franklin had quickly mustered French support upon his arrival in December 1776. France’s humiliating loss of North America to the British in the Seven Years’ War made the French eager to see an American victory. However, the French king was reluctant to back the rebels openly. Instead, in May 1776, Louis XVI sent unofficial aid to the Continental forces and the playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais helped Franklin organize private assistance for the American cause.

Franklin, who often wore a fur cap, captured the imagination of Parisians as an American man of nature and his well-known social charms stirred French passions for all things American. He was the toast of Parisian society, enchanting salons with his wide-ranging knowledge, social graces and witty repartee. Nevertheless, he was not allowed to appear at court.

It took the impressive and long-awaited victory at Saratoga to convince Louis that the American rebels had some hope of defeating the British empire. His enthusiasm for the victory paired with the foreign minister’s concern that the loss of Philadelphia to the British would lead Congress to surrender, gave Franklin two influential allies with two powerful–if opposing–reasons for officially backing the American cause. A formal treaty of alliance followed on February 6, 1778.


This Day 17-17-1

Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of the glider flights of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Unlike their older brothers, Orville and Wilbur did not attend college, but they possessed extraordinary technical ability and a sophisticated approach to solving problems in mechanical design. They built printing presses and in 1892 opened a bicycle sales and repair shop. Soon, they were building their own bicycles, and this experience, combined with profits from their various businesses, allowed them to pursue actively their dream of building the world’s first airplane.

After exhaustively researching other engineers’ efforts to build a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft, the Wright brothers wrote the U.S. Weather Bureau inquiring about a suitable place to conduct glider tests. They settled on Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which offered steady winds and sand dunes from which to glide and land softly. Their first glider, tested in 1900, performed poorly, but a new design, tested in 1901, was more successful. Later that year, they built a wind tunnel where they tested nearly 200 wings and airframes of different shapes and designs. The brothers’ systematic experimentations paid off–they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider at Kill Devils Hills near Kitty Hawk. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. They were now ready for powered flight.

In Dayton, they designed a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine with the assistance of machinist Charles Taylor and built a new aircraft to house it. They transported their aircraft in pieces to Kitty Hawk in the autumn of 1903, assembled it, made a few further tests, and on December 14 Orville made the first attempt at powered flight. The engine stalled during take-off and the plane was damaged, and they spent three days repairing it. Then at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, in front of five witnesses, the aircraft ran down a monorail track and into the air, staying aloft for 12 seconds and flying 120 feet. The modern aviation age was born. Three more tests were made that day, with Wilbur and Orville alternately flying the airplane. Wilbur flew the last flight, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds.

During the next few years, the Wright brothers further developed their airplanes but kept a low profile about their successes in order to secure patents and contracts for their flying machines. By 1905, their aircraft could perform complex maneuvers and remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time. In 1908, they traveled to France and made their first public flights, arousing widespread public excitement. In 1909, the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps purchased a specially constructed plane, and the brothers founded the Wright Company to build and market their aircraft. Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912; Orville lived until 1948.


This Day 12-16-2

The midnight raid, popularly known as the “Boston Tea Party,” was in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny.

When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at some $18,000.

Parliament, outraged by the blatant destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. The colonists subsequently called the first Continental Congress to consider a united American resistance to the British.


This Day 12-16-1

In November, the stakes in the Korean War dramatically escalated with the intervention of hundreds of thousands of communist Chinese troops. Prior to their arrival on the battlefield, the U.S. forces seemed on the verge of victory in Korea. Just days after General Douglas MacArthur declared an “end the war offensive,” however, massive elements of the Chinese army smashed into the American lines and drove the U.S. forces back. The “limited war” in Korea threatened to turn into a widespread conflict. Against this backdrop, Truman issued his state of emergency and the U.S. military-industrial complex went into full preparations for a possible third world war. The president’s proclamation vastly expanded his executive powers and gave Mobilization Director Charles E. Wilson nearly unlimited authority to coordinate the country’s defense program. Such an increase in government power had not been seen since World War II.

The Soviet Union, which Truman blamed for most of the current world problems in the course of his speech, blasted the United States for “warmongering.” Congress, most of America’s allies, and the American people appeared to be strongly supportive of the President’s tough talk and actions. Truman’s speech, and the events preceding it, indicated that the Cold War-so long a battle of words and threats-had become an actual military reality. The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953.


This Day 12-15-2

When the new US Constitution was being debated, many people refused to ratify it because they thought it did not give enough protection to individual rights. Proponents of the Constitution agreed to add a bill of rights in the first Congress if the opponents would agree to support it. This argument persuaded enough opponents to see the new Constitution ratified.

In the first Congress, James Madison proposed twenty amendments to the Constitution, the most popular from a long list of amendments proposed by the states. According to the Constitution’s directions for the amendment process, Congress debated them and recommended twelve of them to the states. Each state then had its own internal debate and ten of them were eventually ratified, becoming the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights contains a list of restrictions on the federal government and guarantees various rights to the people and the states. The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to keep and bear arms and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures of private property.

The Bill of Rights also guarantees that the government cannot house soldiers on private property except in case of war, the right to have a grand jury review infamous criminal charges, the right to trial by jury, the right not to incriminate oneself in court and the right to be tried in the district where criminal charges are alleged.

The Bill of Rights also guarantees that a criminal defendant must be informed of the charges against him, be able to obtain witnesses in his favor and be able to confront the witnesses against him. It also guarantees the right to have an attorney represent you in court, bans excessive bail, fines and cruel and unusual punishments. Finally, the Bill of Rights states the federal government only has the powers specifically given to it in the Constitution and reserves every other power and right to the states and individuals in them.


This Day 12-15-1

Eichmann was born in Solingen, Germany, in 1906. In November 1932, he joined the Nazi’s elite SS (Schutzstaffel) organization, whose members came to have broad responsibilities in Nazi Germany, including policing, intelligence, and the enforcement of Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies. Eichmann steadily rose in the SS hierarchy, and with the German annexation of Austria in 1938 he was sent to Vienna with the mission of ridding the city of Jews. He set up an efficient Jewish deportment center and in 1939 was sent to Prague on a similar mission. That year, Eichmann was appointed to the Jewish section of the SS central security office in Berlin.

In January 1942, Eichmann met with top Nazi officials at the Wannsee Conference near Berlin for the purpose of planning a “final solution of the Jewish question,” as Nazi leader Hermann Goering put it. The Nazis decided to exterminate Europe’s Jewish population. Eichmann was appointed to coordinate the identification, assembly, and transportation of millions of Jews from occupied Europe to the Nazi death camps, where Jews were gassed or worked to death. He carried this duty out with horrifying efficiency, and between three to four million Jews perished in the extermination camps before the end of World War II. Close to two million were executed elsewhere.

Following the war, Eichmann was captured by U.S. troops, but he escaped a prison camp in 1946 before having to face the Nuremberg International War Crimes Tribunal. Eichmann traveled under an assumed identity between Europe and the Middle East, and in 1950 he arrived in Argentina, which maintained lax immigration policies and was a safe haven for many Nazi war criminals. In 1957, a German prosecutor secretly informed Israel that Eichmann was living in Argentina. Agents from Israel’s intelligence service, the Mossad, were deployed to Argentina, and in early 1960 they located Eichmann living in the San Fernando section of Buenos Aires under the name of Ricardo Klement.

In May 1960, Argentina was celebrating the 150th anniversary of its revolution against Spain, and many tourists were traveling to Argentina from abroad to attend the festivities. The Mossad used the opportunity to smuggle more agents into the country. Israel, knowing that Argentina might never extradite Eichmann for trial, had decided to abduct him and take him to Israel illegally. On May 11, Mossad operatives descended on Garibaldi Street in San Fernando and snatched Eichmann away as he was walking from the bus to his home. His family called local hospitals but not the police, and Argentina knew nothing of the operation. On May 20, a drugged Eichmann was flown out of Argentina disguised as an Israeli airline worker who had suffered head trauma in an accident. Three days later, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced that Eichmann was in Israeli custody.

Argentina demanded Eichmann’s return, but Israel argued that his status as an international war criminal gave them the right to proceed with a trial. On April 11, 1961, Eichmann’s trial began in Jerusalem. It was the first televised trial in history. Eichmann faced 15 charges, including crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and war crimes. He claimed he was just following orders, but the judges disagreed, finding him guilty on all counts on December 15 and sentencing him to die. On May 31, 1962, he was hanged near Tel Aviv. His body was cremated and his ashes thrown into the sea.



This Day 12-14-2

George Washington was born in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He first joined the military in 1753 when his older brother Lawrence, who led the colony’s militia, passed away. Royal Governor Robert Dinwiddie broke the position into four smaller districts and appointed George as one of the adjutants with the rank of major.

Washington first came to international attention when he was accused of assassinating a French officer. The event helped set off the French and Indian War. He was later chosen by the Continental Congress to lead the Continental Army during the American Revolution. His bravery, determination and ultimate victory in the face of impossible circumstances endeared him to the American people forever.

Washington desired to retire from public service at the end of the war, but the people needed a President for their newly formed nation and they wanted him. Out of a sense of duty and responsibility, Washington agreed and served two terms as President of the United States. When his term ended in 1797, he finally entered retirement on his plantation, Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, Virginia.

On December 12, 1799, Washington was out all day directing work on the house and inspecting parts of the property on horseback in the freezing rain. That evening, he failed to change his wet clothes during dinner with guests and developed an extremely sore throat. Historians believe he had acute laryngitis or acute epiglottitis, which causes the throat and epiglottis to swell, obstructing the airway. By early on the morning of the 13th, it was apparent that Washington was severely ill. Doctors were called, who drained blood from his arm. This was the practice of the day, as it was believed the sickness was in the blood.

When he knew the end was nearing, Washington told Dr. Craik, his oldest friend, “Doctor, I die hard; but I am not afraid to go; I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it; my breath cannot last long;” to Martha, he said, “Go to my desk, and in the private drawer you will find two papers. These are my Wills -preserve this one and burn the other;” shortly before 10pm, Washington asked the time and after being told, spoke no more. He was 67 years old.


This Day 12-14-1

Conway, who was born in Ireland but raised in France, entered the French army in 1749. He was recruited to the Patriot cause by Silas Deane, the American ambassador to France, and after meeting with General George Washington at Morristown in May 1777, he was appointed brigadier general and assigned to Major General John Sullivan’s division.

Conway served admirably under Sullivan at the battles of Brandywine in September 1777 and Germantown in October 1777 before becoming involved in an unconfirmed conspiracy to remove General Washington from command of the Continental Army. The rumored conspiracy would go down in history as the Conway Cabal.

Just a few months after receiving a glowing recommendation from General Washington, Conway rose in power and influence to major general and then inspector general. After several defeats in the fall of 1777, some members of Congress expressed displeasure with the leadership of General Washington and Conway began writing letters to prominent leaders, including General Horatio Gates, that were critical of Washington.

After Washington got word of Conway’s letter to General Gates, he responded with a letter to Congress in January 1778. Embarrassed, Conway offered his resignation in March 1778 by way of apology, and was surprised and humiliated when Congress accepted. After General John Cadwalader wounded him in a duel defending Washington’s honor, Conway returned to France, where he died in exile in 1800.


This Day 12-13-2

General George Washington had repeatedly urged General Lee to expedite his movements across New Jersey in order to reinforce Washington’s position on the Delaware River. Lee, who took a commission in the British army upon finishing military school at age 12 and served in North America during the Seven Years’ War, felt slighted that the less experienced Washington had been given command of the Continental Army and showed no inclination to rush.

Famed for his temper and intemperance, the Mohawk had dubbed Lee Boiling Water. Lee was an adopted tribesman through his marriage to a Mohawk woman, but his union apparently failed to quell his interest in prostitutes. Lee rode to Widow White’s tavern with a minimal guard and it was there that Banastre Tarleton and the 16th Queen’s Light Dragoons captured him on the morning of December 15.

The former comrades were now captor and captive. After being disappointed in his efforts to acquire a lucrative royal appointment, Lee had retired to the colonies in 1773 and quickly joined the Patriot cause. Tarleton had sworn in a London club that he would hunt down the traitor to the crown and relieve him of his head. Fortunately for Lee, Tarleton failed to keep his promise, although the vain general may well have preferred a quick end to the humiliation of being led from Widow White’s tavern to New York City in his nightdress.

The British rejoiced at the capture of the Patriots’ best-trained commander, while Washington fruitlessly negotiated for his release. Meanwhile, Lee enjoyed his captivity, even drafting a battle plan for his captors from plush accommodations in which his personal servant maintained his three rooms and no doubt served his food and wine in a most civilized fashion. The British did not act upon his plan, and Lee reported to Valley Forge upon his release in May 1778. After a series of arguments with Washington, Lee was suspended from the army in December 1778 and dismissed in 1780.


This Day 12-13-1

To break the spirit of Chinese resistance, Japanese General Matsui Iwane ordered that the city of Nanking be destroyed. Much of the city was burned, and Japanese troops launched a campaign of atrocities against civilians. In what became known as the “Rape of Nanking,” the Japanese butchered an estimated 150,000 male “war prisoners,” massacred an additional 50,000 male civilians, and raped at least 20,000 women and girls of all ages, many of whom were mutilated or killed in the process.

A “contest” between two Japanese officers, Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda of the Japanese 16th Division was held to see who could kill 100 with a sword, most were beheaded.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Matsui, Mukai and Noda were found guilty of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and executed.


This Day 12-12-2

Since the dead of winter was setting in, however, the Commander of the British forces, General William Howe, stopped pursuing the Americans. He posted several large contingents in various places in New Jersey, including Princeton, Trenton and Bordentown, but many of his troops went back to New York for the winter.

Congress convened again in Baltimore on December 20th at the Henry Fite House, which they rented for three months for £60. The building was built as a tavern by Henry Fite in 1770. With 3 stories and 14 rooms, it was the largest building in Baltimore at the time. It had large rooms with fireplaces that could accommodate Congress’ need for multiple committees to meet at the same time and still stay warm in the cold winter months. It was located downtown, so it was near places to lodge and eat, but was also on the western edge of town, protecting it from any British advance from the east. While Congress met there, the building took on the name Congress Hall and in later years, it was referred to as Old Congress Hall. Unfortunately the building was destroyed in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.


This Day 12-12-1


This Day 12-11-2

Early on December 11th, the army began its march and headed toward Matson’s Ford on the Schuylkill River, which it needed to cross to get to Valley Forge. The river is pronounced “SKOOL-kul,” with the emphasis on the first syllable, by the way.

Washington had sent out three scouting parties from the Pennsylvania militia to the western side of the river to watch for any British movements. General Charles Cornwallis was also on the move on the western side of the river, however, with several thousand men on a foraging mission for supplies and food for the army. Cornwallis’ men ran into Washington’s first advance troops at Middle Ferry where the British crossed the river. The Americans fired, but quickly withdrew because they were so small in numbers.

Soon after, a skirmish occurred at the Black Horse Inn with the second of Washington’s militia units. This group fled in confusion from the British, but got word back to General James Potter that the British were coming down the road toward the third detachment of militia at Harriton House, the home of Continental Congress Secretary, Charles Thomson, on Old Gulph Road. Potter then placed several regiments of militia between the advancing British and Harriton House. His line soon crumbled, however, due to the superior numbers of the British.

Potter’s men withdrew and crossed back to the eastern side of the river at Swede’s Ford, while Cornwallis called off the attack when the opposition dissolved. His men took up a position on the heights overlooking Matson’s Ford to watch for further movement. General Potter later guessed that 5 or 6 of his men were killed with 20 wounded and another 20 or so captured. The other side, however, estimated that 160 militia were captured. The collective engagements are called the Battle of Matson’s Ford.

In the morning, neither side knowing what the other was doing, General John Sullivan began the construction of a bridge across Matson’s Ford made from wagons that were tied together. After nearly getting two whole divisions across the river, the Americans spied the British army on the hills watching them openly. General Sullivan hastily ordered a retreat back across the river and destroyed the bridge behind them. The Continental Army spent the next day waiting while scouts went to determine the movements of Cornwallis. Cornwallis, however, had already departed for Philadelphia, taking the spoils from the farms in the countryside with him.

On the evening of December 12, George Washington and the army finally crossed the Schuykill at Swede’s Ford on another bridge made of wagons. The army camped out at Gulph Mills for another week before marching the rest of the way to Valley Forge on the 19th.


This Day 12-11-1

The commerce agreement secured America’s autonomy on the high seas, but more importantly, it signified Britain’s acceptance of America as a separate nation with the will and capacity to defend its interests.

Resentment left over from the American Revolution (1775-1783) between Britain and the United States erupted into a second full-scale war when Britain began harassing American shipping. Beginning during the administration of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), British warships occasionally fired on and boarded American navy or merchant ships while patrolling the seas for enemy French. To add insult to injury, the British “impressed” or involuntarily drafted American sailors to serve on British warships. This affront to America’s autonomy led Madison to ask Congress for a declaration of war against Britain in 1812. In 1814, the British captured the city of Washington and burned the White House, but not before Madison’s plucky wife, Dolley, saved a portrait of George Washington from looters. The U.S. emerged victorious in this “second war of independence” against Britain and as a result gained confidence in its military capabilities and a stronger sense of national identity.

During the ensuing peace negotiations, Madison’s administration extended an olive branch to the British, suggesting that the two countries shared mutual interests and ought to be collaborating in commerce rather than endangering “their future harmony.” Although Madison described the 1815 maritime trade agreement as “conciliatory,” he also emphasized America’s insistence that American navigation be “confined to American seamen,” free from international (i.e. British) interference. Madison thus signaled to the world that America would continue to vigorously defend her territory and economic interests.


This Day 12-10-1

Jay, who graduated from King’s College (now Columbia University) at the age of 19, was a prominent figure in New York state politics from an early age. While Jay opposed British interference in the colonies, he was against complete independence from Great Britain.

Jay was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774 as a representative from New York, where he published a paper entitled Address to the People of Great Britain, in which he promoted a peaceful resolution with Great Britain instead of independence. Jay was reelected to the Second Continental Congress in 1775 but, upholding his opposition to complete independence from Great Britain, he resigned in 1776 rather than sign the Declaration of Independence.

Upon his return to New York, Jay helped draft the state’s constitution before his election as the state’s first chief justice in 1777. Despite his early misgivings about independence, Jay served as president of the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1779 and in 1782 signed the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain. He contributed to the The Federalist Papers, part of the successful campaign waged by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to win ratification for the Constitution in 1788 and 1789. Soon after, President George Washington appointed Jay as the first chief justice of the United States. In 1794, Jay negotiated his eponymous treaty with Britain to settle ongoing military and commercial disputes between the two nations. Although extremely unpopular with Jefferson’s Republicans, the Jay Treaty was ratified: Jay, however, resigned from the Supreme Court during the uproar over its passing. Still drawn to public service, Jay served as governor of New York from 1797 to 1801, when he retired from public life.


This Day 12-10-2

At first, Henry Ford had built his cars like every other automaker did: one at a time. But his factories’ efficiency and output steadily increased, and after he introduced the moving assembly line in 1913 the company’s productivity soared. Ford was determined to build what he called “a motor car for the great multitude,” and that’s just what he did: By mass-producing just one kind of car–from 1908 on, that car was the Model T–Ford could take advantage of economies of scale that were unavailable to smaller carmakers and pass the savings on to his customers. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford sold more than 15 million Model Ts in all; they cost $850 at first (about $20,000 in today’s dollars) but by the end of their run, Ford had managed to reduce the price to just $300 (about $3700 today).

No one paid much attention to the 1 million milestone. (“With twenty-five assembly plants…and with a big factory in Detroit assembling so many Ford cars a day,” said The Ford Times, “we passed the million mark without knowing it.”) The 10 millionth Ford, on the other hand, traveled back and forth from New York to San Francisco and from Los Angeles to Chicago in the summer of 1924, inspiring raucous celebrations everywhere it went. The company even made a movie of this goodwill tour, called “Fording the Lincoln Highway.” Along with the 15 millionth Ford in 1927 came another milestone: the company’s announcement that it was discontinuing its classic but no-longer–beloved Model T. Compared to that news, the release of the 20 millionth Ford was fairly dull: emblazoned with the words “TWENTY MILLIONTH” and the Ford logo on both sides and the top, that car went on a national barnstorming tour in 1931, then directly to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Revolutionary as it was at the time, Ford’s early production rate was nothing compared to its modern-day output. In 2008, even in the midst of a global financial crisis, Ford produced nearly 6 million cars.


This Day 12-9-1

Governor Dunmore had removed to the Tory stronghold of Norfolk after Patriots drove him from the capitol, Williamsburg, in June 1775. On November 7, 1775, he offered emancipation to any slave of a Patriot master willing to join his forces. By November 30, Dunmore’s ranks had swelled and he was convinced of his ability to regain control of the colony. George Washington feared Dunmore was correct and wrote to the Continental Congress from New England, warning them that they needed to see to it that Dunmore was instantly crushed. When Dunmore’s forces won a resounding victory at Kemp’s Landing, it looked like Dunmore’s troops, dubbed the Ethiopian Regiment, would ensure continued British rule in Virginia, despite a backlash against him among slaveholders on both sides of the conflict who were angry over the precedent Dunmore’s move might be setting.

Dunmore was determined to defend Great Bridge, building a stockade, dismantling the main bridge and defending the smaller bridges with cannon. Having taken these precautions, Dunmore then squandered his efforts by underestimating the strength of the Patriot militias. His decision to offer emancipation had incited at least 150 men from across the Carolinas to march north to help drive Dunmore from the state. By contrast, the overconfident Dunmore sent only a few sailors and sixty townsmen from Norfolk to meet them. They got within 15 feet of the Patriots before being shot dead. Within thirty minutes, 150 Loyalists fell. There was only one Patriot fatality. Three hundred of the 800 Black Loyalists survived their enlistment in the Ethiopian Regiment only to confront smallpox on the Otter.


This Day 12-9-2

Tennyson was born into a chaotic and disrupted home. His father, the eldest son of a wealthy landowner, was disinherited in favor of his younger brother. Forced to enter the church to support himself, the Reverend Dr. George Tennyson became a bitter alcoholic. However, he educated his sons in the classics, and Alfred Tennyson, the fourth of 12 children, went to Trinity College at Cambridge in 1827. The same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers. At Cambridge, Tennyson befriended a circle of intellectual undergraduates who strongly encouraged his poetry. Chief among them was Arthur Hallam, who became Tennyson’s closest friend and who later proposed to Tennyson’s sister.

In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical. The following year, his father died, and he was forced to leave Cambridge for financial reasons. Besieged by critical attacks and struggling with poverty, Tennyson nevertheless remained dedicated to his work and published several more volumes.

The sudden death of Tennyson’s dear friend Arthur Hallam in 1833 inspired several important works throughout Tennyson’s later life, including the masterful In Memoriam of 1842. Later that year, he published a volume called Poems, containing some of his best works. The book boosted Tennyson’s reputation, and in 1850 Queen Victoria named him poet laureate. At long last, Tennyson achieved financial stability and finally married his fiancée, Emily Sellwood, whom he had loved since 1836.

Tennyson’s massive frame and booming voice, together with his taste for solitude, made him an imposing character. He craved solitude and bought an isolated home where he could write in peace. In 1859, he published the first four books of his epic Idylls of the King. Eight more volumes would follow. He continued writing and publishing poems until his death in 1892.


This Day 12-8-2

In June, Congress decided to send two columns of 1,000 men each towards Canada. General Richard Montgomery proceeded up Lake Champlain and successfully captured Montreal in November before reaching Quebec City. Colonel Benedict Arnold led his men through the woods of Maine, approaching the city directly. On November 14, Arnold arrived on the Plains of Abraham outside the city of Quebec; his men sustained themselves upon dog meat and leather in the cold winter. The 100 men defending the city refused to either surrender to Arnold or leave their defenses to fight them on open plains, so Arnold waited for Montgomery to join him with his troops and supplies at the beginning of December.

The royal governor general of Canada, Sir Guy Carleton, had managed to escape Montgomery’s early successful attacks. He snuck into Quebec, organized 1,800 men for the city’s defense, and prepared to wait out the Patriots’ siege. But Arnold and Montgomery faced a deadline as their troops’ enlistments expired at the end of the year. On December 7, Montgomery fired arrows over the city walls bearing letters demanding Carleton’s surrender. When Carleton did not acquiesce, the Americans began a bombardment of the city with Montgomery’s cannon on December 8. They then attempted a disastrous failed assault on December 31, in which Montgomery was killed and Arnold seriously wounded.


This Day 12-8-1

Margaret Kemble Gage has long been suspected of being the spy in her husband’s inner circle who warned the Boston Sons of Liberty of the impending attack on Concord.

Thomas Gage was born in England and first came to America during the French and Indian War. During the Battle of the Monongahela, he fought alongside future General and President George Washington and remained friendly with him for several years afterwards.

Gage spent the winter of 1757 in New Jersey and this may have been when he first met Margaret Kemble, daughter of a wealthy businessman and grand-daughter of a former mayor of New York City. They were married on December 8, 1758.

Gage went on to serve in the campaign to drive France out of New York and Canada and, in 1763, was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in North America, making him the most powerful person on the continent. The office was based in New York City and the family lived there for the next decade. Margaret became a well-known socialite of the city.

In 1774, Thomas Gage was sent to Boston to deal with the growing uprising. In 1775, he received instructions to capture rebel arms and ringleaders. He began planning a mission to Concord, where a large supply of weapons was hidden, a fact he learned through his intelligence network of Loyalist spies.

Unknown to Gage was that there was a spy within his own inner circle. During the week before April 18, signs began to emerge that a large scale British mission was in the works. Dr. Joseph Warren learned of the mission, but needed to confirm the specifics before alarming local patriot leaders. Warren had a spy in General Gage’s closest circle, a spy whose identity has never been determined. Dr. Warren died at the Battle of Bunker Hill only a few months later and took the secret with him to the grave. Dr. Warren sent word to his spy and received back confirmation that the mission was to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams in Lexington and then to destroy the ammunition store in Concord.

Margaret Kemble Gage has long been suspected of being Dr. Warren’s informant, though there is no definitive evidence. The circumstantial evidence is comments she made or wrote to friends indicating that she was torn in her loyalties. She didn’t approve of British policies toward her countrymen, but she also loved her husband and Mother Country.

When General Gage learned that his “secret” mission was known all over the countryside, even before his own officers knew, he immediately began to suspect his wife, having told her of the mission before he told anyone else. Shortly after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Gage put Margaret on a ship and sent her back to England, allegedly to take care of the family estate, where she lived the rest of her life. After the Battle of Bunker Hill, Gage was recalled to England. He and Margaret remained married, but there are indications the marriage was strained until his death in 1787, possibly because of the breach of trust that resulted from her spying.



This Day 12-7-2

Forbidden to go by King Louis XVI, Lafayette obtained a ship and, escaping the efforts of the King to detain him, set sail in April of 1777. He was only 19 years old.

Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was an aristocrat born in the south of France from a distinguished line, including a marshal who served in Joan of Arc’s army, a legendary ancestor who fought in the Crusades and his grandfather, the ultra-wealthy Comte de La Rivière. Lafayette was trained for the military from a young age. Due to his military and society connections, he became a member of the Freemasons where he was exposed to the ideas of the Enlightenment and political liberty. Many of these connections supported French involvement in the American Revolution against Britain and Lafayette determined to join the Americans in their fight for freedom.

Fearful of being arrested, Lafayette left Europe dressed as a woman to avoid detection. He arrived in South Carolina on June 13, 1777 and made his way to Philadelphia. Congress did not want to receive him at first, believing he was just another Frenchman looking to make a name for himself. Eventually, Ben Franklin persuaded George Washington to accept him as a personal aide. Washington and Lafayette grew very close, even to the point that Lafayette was almost treated as a son. He became one of Washington’s inner circle and one of his most trusted advisers during the war.

Lafayette went on to serve in the Battle of Brandywine, where he was injured. He served in New Jersey with General Nathanael Greene; helped expose the cabal of General Thomas Conway to replace George Washington; fought in the Battles of Barren Hill, Rhode Island and Monmouth; and was eventually sent back to France to help negotiate more substantial support for the Americans. After returning to the US, Lafayette was put in command of three regiments in Virginia where he fought against the traitor, Benedict Arnold and General Charles Cornwallis. Lafayette’s actions trapped the General at Yorktown, contributing to his surrender on October 19, 1781, where Lafayette was present at the surrender ceremony.

When Lafayette returned to France, he joined the French government, where he served for many years as a politician and military officer. During the French Revolution, Lafayette was branded as a traitor for helping the King and was captured while trying to escape the country. He spent the next five years in an Austrian prison. His wife narrowly escaped the country through the intervention of the American ambassador,Gouverneur Morris, but several of her family members went to the guillotine. After the Revolution, Napoleon Bonapartenegotiated Lafayette’s release and he returned to France, continuing to serve in the Chamber of Deputies.

In 1824-25, the Marquis de Lafayette made a grand tour of the United States at the invitation of President James Monroe. Lafayette toured all 24 states at the time and was received as a hero of the American Revolution. Lafayette visited such places as Mount Vernon, the Brandywine Battlefield, Williamsburg and the University of Virginia, meeting with such notables as President Monroe, Thomas Jefferson and the aging Dorothy Hancock, widow of John Hancock.

Although Washington had died more than 30 years earlier, he and Lafayette had frequent correspondence while he was still alive. When Lafayette finally died on May 20, 1834, he was buried in Paris under soil from George Washington’s grave.


This Day 12-7-1

The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.

With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. At 7:02 a.m., two radar operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base.

Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.

The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan.  Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind.

The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.


This Day 12-6-2

According to legend, a Quaker housewife named Lydia Darragh gave Washington’s men warning that the British planned to attack. Although the Pennsylvania militiamen sent to meet Howe’s troops on December 5 quickly fled, their retreat back to the hills proved a strategic boon. From the hills they could see Howe’s every move, and Howe overestimated the Patriots’ strength. Washington successfully deceived his opponent by having his men set extra campfires.

By December 6, Howe realized that he would be unable to use his preferred flanking strategy against the Americans, as they could see his every move from their lofty vantage point. On December 7, Howe chose to engage on Edge Hill on the left side of the American position. American General Daniel Morgan led his riflemen against the British in the style of guerilla warfare for which they would later become famous in the Carolinas, though he was eventually forced to retreat in the face of an attack by General Charles Cornwallis’ regiment.

Although Howe decided against attacking the main American line, General Charles “No Flint” Grey grew tired of waiting for Howe’s go-ahead and launched a separate attack on Edge Hill. The Patriots narrowly avoided disaster at Grey’s hands. A cavalry squad arrived just in time to save Continental officers Colonel Joseph Reed and General John Cadwalader from death at the ends of Hessian bayonets. Having successfully softened Washington’s position, Grey decided against further combat.

After two days of inconclusive skirmishes, Howe decided to return to the city on December 8th. He made no further attempts to attack Washington’s troops that winter, a decision for which he was eventually relieved of his duties.


This Day 12-6-1

After then-President Washington asked him to lay out a new federal capital on the Potomac River in 1791, architect Pierre L’Enfant left a place for the statue at the western end of the sweeping National Mall (near the monument’s present location).

It wasn’t until 1832, however–33 years after Washington’s death–that anyone really did anything about the monument. That year, a private Washington National Monument Society was formed. After holding a design competition and choosing an elaborate Greek temple-like design by architect Robert Mills, the society began a fundraising drive to raise money for the statue’s construction. These efforts–including appeals to the nation’s schoolchildren–raised some $230,000, far short of the $1 million needed. Construction began anyway, on July 4, 1848, as representatives of the society laid the cornerstone of the monument: a 24,500-pound block of pure white marble.

Six years later, with funds running low, construction was halted. Around the time the Civil War began in 1861, author Mark Twain described the unfinished monument as looking like a “hollow, oversized chimney.” No further progress was made until 1876–the centennial of American independence–when President Ulysses S. Grant authorized construction to be completed.

Made of some 36,000 blocks of marble and granite stacked 555 feet in the air, the monument was the tallest structure in the world at the time of its completion in December 1884. In the six months following the dedication ceremony, over 10,000 people climbed the nearly 900 steps to the top of the Washington Monument. Today, an elevator makes the trip far easier, and more than 800,000 people visit the monument each year. A city law passed in 1910 restricted the height of new buildings to ensure that the monument will remain the tallest structure in Washington, D.C.–a fitting tribute to the man known as the “Father of His Country.”


This Day 12-05-2

The British began what is known as the Philadelphia Campaign by landing 15,000 troops at the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay near Elkton, Maryland, about 55 miles from Philadelphia. British General Sir William Howechose this location because the approach to Philadelphia from the Delaware River, which went straight into the town, was nearly impregnable, being guarded by Forts Mifflin and Mercer and a series of spikes in the river that could impale ships just south of the city.

Washington’s forces were badly defeated at the Battle of Brandywine, the first major engagement of the campaign. After this, Howe was able to march straight into Philadelphia, causing Congress to flee inland to York. Part of Howe’s forces occupied Philadelphia, while the main body camped at Germantown, 5 miles north of the city. Washington attacked the British at Germantown in a battle that highly impressed the courts of Europe, even though he lost this engagement as well. General Howe then moved all his forces to Philadelphia to concentrate on the city’s defense in October, while Washington set up a formidable system of defensive works just south of the town of White Marsh, 13 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

The deep of winter was fast approaching and both sides wanted to make a last effort to attack the other side decisively before they had to take up winter quarters. Very late on December 4, Howe marched 10,000 men north out of Philadelphia. A series of skirmishes took place beginning on December 5 that lasted for the next four days. Howe’s different battalions tried to find a way to flank or penetrate Washington’s defenses, but were unable. Skirmishes took place around the southern edge of White Marsh on Edge Hill, Chestnut Hill, around Wissahickon Creek and near places with names such as Tyson’s Tavern, Sandy Run and Three Mile Run.

After 4 days of unsuccessfully trying to find a way to penetrate Washington’s line, Howe decided to turn back. His troops were running low on supplies and it was extremely cold at night. His men had not brought overnight gear such as tents, so they were sleeping in the open air. With that, Howe withdrew to Philadelphia where his men made winter quarters.

The British had lost 120 men killed, wounded or missing and suffered over 200 deserters at the Battle of White Marsh. The Americans lost 200 men. George Washington was disappointed that he had not been able to draw Howe into a larger battle at White Marsh, but he also conceded that it was time to winter. On December 11, 10,000 troops began to march to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where they would spend the brutal winter of 1777-1778.


This Day 12-5-1

The fluent scholars of Greek and Latin who gathered to found the society, which was destined to count presidents and poets of the newly declared republic among its ranks, could not have differed more greatly from their Patriot fellows suffering as prisoners of the crown in British-occupied New York.

From the British stronghold, an officer writing on this day described his 5,000 American captives in Shakespearian terms: “…many of them are such ragamuffins, as you never saw in your life; I cannot give you a better idea of them than by putting you in mind of Falstaff’s recruits, or poor Tom in King Lear; and yet they had strained every nerve to cover their nakedness, by dismantling all the beds.”

While students toasted and the captured shivered, General George Washington pled the virtues of a standing army above those of an ad hoc militia. His missive to Congress came at the end of his notice that his batch of ragamuffins and their supplies were still in transit across the Delaware to Pennsylvania, protected from the rampaging redcoats by a rear guard at Princeton commanded by Lord William Stirling and General Adam Stephens.


This Day 12-4-2

After nearly a year of brutal backcountry conflict between Washington and the fierce British commander Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton (who was infamous for Tarleton’s Quarter, the murder of colonial POWs on May 29, 1780 at Waxhaws), Washington had retreated to North Carolina the previous October. Commanded to return to the South Carolina theater by Brigadier General Daniel The Old Wagoner Morgan, Colonel Washington still lacked the proper artillery to dislodge the Loyalists. He told his cavalrymen to dismount and surround the barn. While out of Rugeley’s sight, Washington’s men fabricated a pine log to resemble a cannon.

This Quaker gun trick, named so because Quakers used it to be intimidating without breaching their pacifist vow of non-violence, worked beautifully. Washington faced the cannon toward the buildings in which the Loyalists had barricaded themselves and threatened bombardment if they did not surrender. Shortly after, Rugeley surrendered his entire force without a single shot being fired.

When informed of the pacifist victory, General Charles Cornwallis, commander of the British armies in America, informed Tarleton that Rugeley’s performance ensured he would never rise to the rank of brigadier. A few weeks later, Tarleton would himself face an even worse humiliation at the hands of General Morgan during the devastating Battle of Cowpens. The harrowing civil war for the hearts and minds of the Carolina backcountry had finally begun to favor the Patriots.



This Day 12-4-1

The plan worked fine at first, the British forces and their Indian allies easily took Lake Champlain, Fort Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga, but then, the American resistance began to mount effective resistance in various skirmishes at places such as Hubbardton, Bennington and Fort Stanwix. The American forces began to swell as Indians allied with the British began to attack civilian settlers and the fall of Ticonderoga stirred up American resolve.

General Burgoyne’s strategy began to be plagued by desertion from his Indian allies, news that General Howe would take his main force to Philadelphia instead of sending them to Albany; and the loss of 1,000 men at the Battle of Bennington. Meanwhile, the American troops swelled to nearly 15,000 men as militia and Continental troops arrived from all over New England. Burgoyne had only half this number.

Surrender of General Burgoyne by Jonathan Trumbull US Capitol Rotunda

Two main battles, which together are generally called the Battles of Saratoga, took place. One at Freeman’s Farm on September 19 and the second at Bemis Heights on October 7. Over 1,000 British soldiers were killed or captured in the battles, while the Americans lost only a third of this number. General Burgoyne was forced to draw back to Saratoga where his troops were quickly surrounded. On October 17, he surrendered his army of over 6,000 men.

While Americans celebrated and London scrambled to reassess its strategy, word of the victory arrived in Paris on December 4, 1777. Benjamin Franklin received the news from the Continental Congress and went immediately to the French government. France desperately wanted to enter the war against its archrival, Britain, but believed it should wait until the American colonists first proved they could resist or even defeat the British without outside assistance. The victory at Saratoga gave the world proof that the Americans had the tenacity and resolve to stand up to Great Britain and two days after the word arrived in Paris, King Louis XVI announced his intention to join the war on the side of the Americans. Over the next several years, France contributed large sums of money, troops, ships and supplies without which the Americans may never have won the war.

This Day 12-3-2

These losses left South Carolina and Georgia completely in British hands. British General Charles Cornwallis then turned his sights on North Carolina and his ultimate goal, Virginia. After these defeats, morale was at an all-time low in the southern colonies. There was virtually no army remaining. Congress needed to turn something around before the South was completely lost.

Congress had bypassed George Washington’s authority by appointing all three failed generals in the South. This time, they deferred to Washington’s judgment as Commander-in-Chief, who immediately selected General Nathanael Greene to take over. Greene had already proved himself in battles at Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth and Newport and had shown an enormous talent for organizing and logistics as Quartermaster General at Valley ForgeNathanael Greene was the owner of a foundry in Coventry, Rhode Island and had trained himself in the art of war through books. He was appointed a Major General in Rhode Island at the outbreak of the war and soon became a Brigadier General in the Continental Army, becoming one of Washington’s most trusted advisers.

General Nathanael Green Statue Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Greene took charge of the Southern Department at Charlotte, North Carolina on December 3, 1780 and things immediately began to turn around. Greene first concentrated on rebuilding the forces with the help of his legendary organizational skills and ability to procure supplies and garner local support. He began making strikes against Cornwallis, but would pull back and outrun the British pursuers, often using swollen rivers to keep distance between them. Cornwallis’ army began to wear out as Greene drew them further inland, away from their supply depots on the coast. Greene gathered all the forces he could to Guilford Courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina and fought a battle there that was extremely costly to the British, who were forced to return to their base at Wilmington on the sea. Cornwallis decided to abandon his attempt to conquer North Carolina and he turned north to Virginia instead, setting up the surrender at Yorktown less than one year later.

Rather than follow Cornwallis into Virginia, General Greene turned south and aided the local militias in driving the British back from the interior toward the sea. By the time the Treaty of Paris was signed to end the war, only a few southern coastal cities remained in British hands. The remainder of their territory was securely in American hands.

General Nathanael Greene is usually regarded as the most talented military mind of the American Revolution after George Washington, even though he never won a single decisive victory. All the major battles he fought in the South were draws. However, his strategy of dividing and weakening the British lines, separating them from their supply lines and forcing them to a chase on long marches eventually wore them out and returned the South safely into American hands. Nathanael Greene is truly one of the great geniuses and heroes of the American Revolution and deserves all the praise he usually receives.


This Day 12-3-1

Many do not understand the dark days of the Revolution…

In his letter Washington wrote, Immediately on my arrival here, I ordered the removal of all the military and other stores and baggage over the Delaware, a great quantity are already got over, and as soon as the boats come up from Philadelphia, we shall load them, by which means I hope to have every thing secured this night and tomorrow if we are not disturbed.

Washington then made the critical strategic move of confiscating and burning all the boats along the Delaware to prevent British troops from pursuing his beleaguered forces across the river. The British strategy of chasing Washington across New Jersey, rather than capturing his entire army in Manhattan, seemed to be a stroke of genius. As New Jersey was devastated at the hands of British forces and Washington’s men cowered in Pennsylvania, even staunch Patriots, including Thomas Jefferson, considered surrender to the crown.

Also on this day, General Washington received a letter dated November 30 from his second-in-command, General Charles Lee, reporting that he was about to cross into New York near Peekskill on this day in 1776. In an apt reflection of the state of the American fortunes, the British captured General Lee nine days later in New Jersey. Richard Stockton, a leading New Jersey patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was also in British custody and was forced to swear an oath of allegiance to the British king along with thousands of his New Jersey neighbors.


This Day 12-2-2

During the occupation of Philadelphia, British General William Howe stationed his headquarters across the street from the Darragh home, and when Howe’s headquarters proved too small to hold meetings, he commandeered a large upstairs room in the Darraghs’ house. Although uncorroborated, family legend holds that Mrs. Darragh would eavesdrop and take notes on the British meetings from an adjoining room and would conceal the notes by sewing them into her coat before passing them onto American troops stationed outside the city.

On the evening of December 2, 1777, Darragh overheard the British commanders planning a surprise attack on Washington’s army at Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, for December 4 and 5. Using a cover story that she needed to buy flour from a nearby mill just outside the British line, Darragh passed the information to American Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Craig the following day.

The British marched towards Whitemarsh on the evening of December 4, 1777, and were surprised to find General Washington and the Continental Army waiting for them. After three inconclusive days of skirmishing, General Howe chose to return his troops to Philadelphia.

It is said that members of the Central Intelligence Agency still tell the story of Lydia Darragh, one of the first spies in American history.


This Day 12-2-1

The origins of the Monroe Doctrine stem from attempts by several European powers to reassert their influence in the Americas in the early 1820s. In North America, Russia had attempted to expand its influence in the Alaska territory, and in Central and South America the U.S. government feared a Spanish colonial resurgence. Britain too was actively seeking a major role in the political and economic future of the Americas, and Adams feared a subservient role for the United States in an Anglo-American alliance.

The United States invoked the Monroe Doctrine to defend its increasingly imperialistic role in the Americas in the mid-19th century, but it was not until the Spanish-American War in 1898 that the United States declared war against a European power over its interference in the American hemisphere. The isolationist position of the Monroe Doctrine was also a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy in the 19th century, and it took the two world wars of the 20th century to draw a hesitant America into its new role as a major global power.


This Day 12-1 2

George Washington’s army had suffered some serious defeats in the month’s leading up to what would turn out to be the harshest winter of the 18th century, even worse than the winter at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. In June, the disastrous Penobscot Expedition in Maine had resulted in the loss of 43 American ships and nearly 500 men killed, wounded or captured. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere, who was an officer in the Massachusetts militia, lost his appointment over his role in the failed mission. In October, the Americans had failed to retake the city of Savannah. Washington’s army had failed to make any serious headway against the British since the victory at Saratoga in 1777.

George Washington made his headquarters at the home of Theodosia Ford, a wealthy widow with four children. Theodosia’s husband, Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr. had died shortly after contracting pneumonia at the Battle of Princeton. Jacob and his father owned extensive iron mines and foundries and other businesses. George Washington, with his wife Martha, and several aides and servants stayed at the home. Visitors to the house included the Marquis de Lafayette, Benedict Arnold, French Ambassador the Chevalier de la Lucerne and Generals John Stark, Henry Knox, Israel Putnam and Anthony Wayne. The Ford home is still standing today and is part of the National Park Service’s Morristown National Historical Park.

The Continental Army troops stayed in Jockey Hollow nearby the Ford mansion. The encampment sat on a high point, 31 miles west of New York City, where the British army was located. The elevation made it easy to detect any movements of the redcoats. Abundant forests provided logs with which 1,000 log cabins were built for 10,000-13,000 soldiers. As many as twelve soldiers were crowded in each cabin, which had dirt floors. Soldiers made their own beds, chairs and tables. Nearly 600 acres of timber were cut down to make the cabins and provide wood for furniture.

The winter turned out to be the worst of the century. George Washington wrote that, “The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a Winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word, the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before.” Snow began falling in October, but the bitter cold was the worst part. It was so cold that countless animals froze to death. Indians and soldiers alike avoided the area in the spring because of the smell of rotting flesh everywhere. Disease and food shortages were rampant. Many soldiers deserted.

George Washington’s true genius is shown in circumstances like these. Many leaders would not have been able to hold the army together, but Washington encouraged the troops to stay on and fight for freedom. The revealing part… is that they followed him. The war would rage on for another two years.


This Day 12-1

In the November 1824 election, 131 electoral votes, just over half of the 261 total, were necessary to elect a candidate president. Although it had no bearing on the outcome of the election, popular votes were counted for the first time in this election. On December 1, 1824, the results were announced. Andrew Jackson of Tennessee won 99 electoral and 153,544 popular votes; John Quincy Adams–the son of John Adams, the second president of the United States–received 84 electoral and 108,740 popular votes; Secretary of State William H. Crawford, who had suffered a stroke before the election, received 41 electoral votes; and Representative Henry Clay of Virginia won 37 electoral votes.

As dictated by the Constitution, the election was then turned over to the House of Representatives. The 12th Amendment states that if no electoral majority is won, only the three candidates who receive the most popular votes will be considered in the House. Representative Henry Clay, who was disqualified from the House vote as a fourth-place candidate, agreed to use his influence to have John Quincy Adams elected. Clay and Adams were both members of a loose coalition in Congress that by 1828 became known as the National Republicans, while Jackson’s supporters were later organized into the Democratic Party.

Thanks to Clay’s backing, on February 9, 1825, the House elected Adams as president of the United States. When Adams then appointed Clay to the top cabinet post of secretary of state, Jackson and his supporters derided the appointment as the fulfillment of a corrupt agreement.

With little popular support, Adams’ time in the White House was largely ineffectual, and the so-called Corrupt Bargain haunted his administration. In 1828, he was defeated in his reelection bid by Andrew Jackson, who received more than twice as many electoral votes than Adams.


This Day in History 11-30-2

The United States demanded full recognition by Britain as a sovereign nation, removal of British troops from its territory and fishing rights off Newfoundland. At first, Britain wanted the United States to remain as British possessions, but with greater autonomy. This was rejected by Ben Franklin, who wanted all of Canada for the United States as part of the deal. Britain rejected this proposal.

Two days after America’s 4th peace commissioner, Henry Laurens, arrived, a preliminary agreement was signed on November 30, 1782, which recognized the United States and established its boundaries, roughly being from the Mississippi to the Atlantic and from the Great Lakes to Florida. The preliminary Treaty of Paris also granted the US the right to fish off Newfoundland and granted both Britain and the US the right to use the Mississippi River.

Congress was to “earnestly recommend” to the states that they refund any property taken from Loyalists during the war and creditors on both sides were given full rights to recover all debts. Prisoners were to be released on both sides and all American property was to be left undamaged by British troops when they left.

The preliminary Treaty of Paris was ratified by Parliament on January 20, 1783 and by Congress on April 15. A ceasefire was declared by Britain on February 4 and by America on April 11th. The final official Treaty of Paris was signed by the commissioners on September 3, 1783, ratified by Congress on January 14, 1784 and by Great Britain on April 9, 1784. The ratified documents were exchanged once and for all in Paris on May 12, 1784, bringing the American Revolution to an end.


This Day in History 11-30

The Howes’ offer appealed to thousands of residents from downstate New York, who were willing to trade in their weapons for pardons. At the time, Westchester, Manhattan and Long Island were securely in British hands and would remain so until after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.

General William Howe’s large army had arrived on Long Island on August 22, hoping to capture New York City and gain control of the Hudson River, a victory that would divide the rebellious colonies in half. Five days later, on August 27, the Redcoats marched against the Patriot position at Brooklyn Heights, overcoming the Americans at Gowanus Pass and then outflanking the entire Continental Army. The Americans suffered 1,000 casualties to the British loss of only 400 men during the fighting. Howe chose not to follow the advice of his subordinates, however, and did not storm the Patriot redoubts at Brooklyn Heights, where he could have taken the Patriots’ military leadership prisoner and ended the rebellion.

General Washington ordered a retreat to Manhattan by boat. The British could easily have prevented this withdrawal and captured most of the Patriot officer corps, including Washington. However, General William and Admiral Richard Howe still hoped to convince the Americans to rejoin the British empire in the wake of the humiliating defeat, instead of forcing the former colonies into submission after executing Washington and his officers as traitors. On September 11, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and other congressional representatives reopened negotiations with the Howe brothers on Staten Island. The negotiations fell through when the British refused to accept American independence.

The British captured New York City on September 15; it would remain in British hands until the end of the war. By contrast, upstate New York suffered through a civil war between Patriot and Loyalist fighters, most of whom were New York born and bred. After the Treaty of Paris, the British evacuated their New York Loyalists to remaining British territories, mainly in Canada, where they ultimately created the present-day province of Ontario.



November 29, 1775, the USS Lee captures the British brigantine NancyGeorge Washington and the Continental Army were besieging British held Boston at the time. The British troops were trapped in the city and the only way to receive food and supplies was by sea. Washington wanted to harass and capture as many ships bringing supplies to the troops in Boston as possible, so he formed a small squadron of ships, outfitted at his own expense, for the task.

Captain John Manley was given command of a schooner named the USS Lee, after General Charles Lee. The schooner was chartered from Thomas Stevens of Marblehead, Massachusetts and was previously called the Two Brothers. Captain Manley set out from Marblehead on October 28. He captured a small British sloop called the Polly, carrying turnips to the soldiers in Boston on November 27th, but on the 29th, he ran into the brigantine Nancy, a massive 250 ton British ship bringing supplies to Boston. Unknown to Captain Manley and the crew of the USS Lee, the ship was carrying tons of ammunition and weapons.

The Nancy turned out to be one of the most valuable captures of the American Revolution. It contained 2,000 muskets, 8,000 fuses, 31 tons of musket balls, 3,000 solid shot for 12-pounders (cannon balls), one 13 inch cannon, 100,000 flints and other types of ammunition and supplies.

The USS Lee was captained by John Manley for one more mission, on which the British ship Concord was captured, carrying food and coal to Boston. Manley was then promoted to captaining the faster ship USS Hancock. The USS Lee went on in the service of the Navy for two more years, captained by various men and capturing another 15 ships before it was returned to its owner.

Captain John Manley went on to command Washington’s schooner fleet in the northeast, sailing under the Washington’s Cruisers flag, a flag with a pine tree on it, created just for the fleet. He received the third naval commission from Congress as a captain when Congress took on the duties of creating a navy. Manley captured ten British ships during the war and helped in the capture of five others. He was also captured three times and spent more than two years in British prisons during the war. Though little known today, John Manley is regarded as one of the first naval heroes of American history for his many spectacular and heroic deeds.



November 29, 1775 – The Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, establishes a Committee of Secret Correspondence. The committee’s goal was to provide European nations with a Patriot interpretation of events in Britain’s North American colonies, in the hope of soliciting aid for the American war effort.

The committee, consisting of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, John Dickinson, John Hay and Robert Morris, instructed Silas Deane to meet with French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Count de Vergennes, to seek military stores and guarantee the French that the colonies were moving toward “total separation” from Great Britain. France began to covertly convey aid into the colonies soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1775. Deane, a Connecticut delegate to the Continental Congress, left for France on the secret mission on March 3, 1776.

Deane obtained assistance from France, in the form of ships containing military supplies, and recruited the Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette to share his military expertise with the Continental Army’s officer corps. However, it was not until after the arrival of the charming Benjamin Franklin in France in December 1776 and the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that the French became convinced that it was worth backing the Americans in a formal treaty.

On February 6, 1778, the Treaties of Amity and Commerce and Alliance were signed, and in May 1778 the Continental Congress ratified them. One month later, war between Britain and France formally began when a British squadron fired on two French ships. During the American Revolution, French naval fleets proved critical in the defeat of the British, which was assured after the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.


Continental Fleet At Sea

November 28, 1775, Congress adopts “Rules for the Regulation of the Navy,” the first set of guidelines governing the American navy. Congress had first established the Navy on October 13th, when it called for the purchase and arming of two vessels to be used for intercepting British ships. On the same day, a committee of seven people was formed to oversee naval affairs. The committee consisted of John Adams of Massachusetts, John Langdon of New Hampshire, Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, Silas Deane of Connecticut, Joseph Hewes of South Carolina and Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island. The committee was called the Naval Committee and it set the course for the US Navy’s development.

On November 28th, Congress adopted “Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies of North-America,” on the recommendation of the Naval Committee. The Rules were largely created by John Adams. Adams had no naval or military experience himself, but he was an eminent lawyer and may have had some experience with maritime law since he practiced in the prominent port city of Boston.

Adams’ Rules contain 41 articles altogether. They deal with such things as food rations, how to deal with crimes and dereliction of duty on board ship, the proper conduct of officers, the proper care of injured seamen, how to deal with captured ships and how to deal with mutiny and sedition. The Rules also contained strict guidelines about personal behavior, forbidding “dissolute, immoral and disorderly practices,” requiring regular church services on board ship and punishment for swearing, cursing, blaspheming God and drunkenness.

“Rules for the Regulation of the Navy” formed the basis of all naval regulations in the United States for decades to come, many of the articles being passed nearly word for word into future naval regulations.



November 28, 1520 – After sailing through the dangerous straits below South America that now bear his name, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan enters the Pacific Ocean with three ships, becoming the first European explorer to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic.

On September 20, 1519, Magellan set sail from Spain in an effort to find a western sea route to the rich Spice Islands of Indonesia. In command of five ships and 270 men, Magellan sailed to West Africa and then to Brazil, where he searched the South American coast for a strait that would take him to the Pacific.  On Easter day at midnight, the Spanish captains mutinied against their Portuguese captain, but Magellan crushed the revolt, executing one of the captains and leaving another ashore when his ship left St. Julian in August.

On October 21, he finally discovered the strait he had been seeking. The Strait of Magellan, as it became known, is located near the tip of South America, separating Tierra del Fuego and the continental mainland. Only three ships entered the passage; one had been wrecked and another deserted. It took 38 days to navigate the treacherous strait, and when ocean was sighted at the other end Magellan wept with joy.

His fleet accomplished the westward crossing of the ocean in 99 days, crossing waters so strangely calm that the ocean was named “Pacific,” from the Latin word pacificus, meaning “tranquil.” By the end, the men were out of food and chewed the leather parts of their gear to keep themselves alive. On March 6, 1521, the expedition landed at the island of Guam.

Ten days later, they dropped anchor at the Philippine island of Cebu—they were only about 400 miles from the Spice Islands. Magellan met with the chief of Cebu, who after converting to Christianity persuaded the Europeans to assist him in conquering a rival tribe on the neighboring island of Mactan. In fighting on April 27, Magellan was hit by a poisoned arrow and left to die by his retreating comrades.

After Magellan’s death, the survivors, in two ships, sailed on to the Moluccas and loaded the hulls with spice. One ship attempted, unsuccessfully, to return across the Pacific. The other ship, the Vittoria, continued west under the command of Basque navigator Juan Sebastian de Elcano. The vessel sailed across the Indian Ocean, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived at the Spanish port of Sanlucar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522, becoming the first ship to circumnavigate the globe.



November 17, 1746, Robert R. (or R.R.) Livingston—later known as “the Chancellor”—becomes the first of nine children eventually born to Judge Robert Livingston and Margaret Beekman Livingston in their family seat, Clermont, on the Hudson River in upstate New York.

The Livingston family were proprietors of large land claims in the Hudson Valley and their attempt to enforce restrictive leases led to tenant uprisings in 1766, during which tenant farmers threatened to kill the lord of Livingston Manor, Robert Livingston (R.R.’s relative), and destroy his opulent homes. The British army suppressed the revolt, saving the Livingstons.

In 1777, the British army burned down Clermont and another of R.R.’s estates, Belvedere, in retribution for Livingston’s decision to side with the Patriots. During the 11 years between the tenant uprising and the burning of Clermont, Robert R. Livingston, who had graduated from King’s College (now Columbia University) in 1764, had established himself as a lawyer and political leader. He represented the Provincial Congress of New York at the Continental Congress in 1776 and helped to draft the Declaration of Independence, although he returned to New York before he was able to sign the document.

During the War of Independence, Livingston served as secretary of foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation. In 1783, he accepted the post of chancellor of the state of New York; he bore the title as a moniker for the rest of his life. “The Chancellor” was a Federalist delegate to the ratification convention in New York, and as New York’s senior judge administered President George Washington’s first oath of office. Under President Thomas Jefferson, Livingston negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and, while minister to France, sponsored Robert Fulton’s development of the steamboat.



November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II makes perhaps the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land, with a cry of “Deus vult!” or “God wills it!”

Born Odo of Lagery in 1042, Urban was a protege of the great reformer Pope Gregory VII. Like Gregory, he made internal reform his main focus, railing against simony (the selling of church offices) and other clerical abuses prevalent during the Middle Ages. Urban showed himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft to weakening support for his rivals, notably Clement III.



peyton randolph

November 26, 1776 – 1776, the body of Peyton Randolph is returned to Williamsburg, Virginia, for re-interment at his alma mater, the College of William and Mary. On September 5, 1774, Randolph was elected by unanimous vote as the first president of the Continental Congress.  Randolph had died on October 22, 1775, at the age of 54, while in Philadelphia representing Virginia in the second Continental Congress.

Randolph did not live to see America achieve independence, a goal toward which he had worked for most of his adult life. He was initially buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia, but was moved to the cemetery at the chapel of the College of William and Mary one year later.



November 26, 1941 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a bill officially establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

The tradition of celebrating the holiday on Thursday dates back to the early history of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, when post-harvest holidays were celebrated on the weekday regularly set aside as “Lecture Day,” a midweek church meeting where topical sermons were presented. A famous Thanksgiving observance occurred in the autumn of 1621, when Plymouth governor William Bradford invited local Indians to join the Pilgrims in a three-day festival held in gratitude for the bounty of the season.

Thanksgiving became an annual custom throughout New England in the 17th century, and in 1777 the Continental Congress declared the first national American Thanksgiving following the Patriot victory at Saratoga. In 1789, President George Washington became the first president to proclaim a Thanksgiving holiday, when, at the request of Congress, he proclaimed November 26, a Tuesday, as a day of national thanksgiving for the U.S. Constitution. However, it was not until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to fall on the last Thursday of November, that the modern holiday was celebrated nationally.



November 25, 1783, the last British soldiers evacuate the United States. The signing of the Treaty of Paris ended hostilities between the United States and Great Britain on September 3, 1783. Sir Guy Carleton, commander of British forces in North America at the time, received orders in August to begin planning the evacuation of all remaining British troops from the United States.

The evacuation plans dragged on because of large large numbers of Loyalists descending on New York in a panic to flee the country. Nearly 30,000 Loyalists and escaped slaves left with the British, most ending up in Quebec or Nova Scotia.


pearl parbor

November 25, 1941, Adm. Harold R. Stark, U.S. chief of naval operations, tells Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, that both President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull think a Japanese surprise attack is a distinct possibility.

“We are likely to be attacked next Monday, for the Japs are notorious for attacking without warning,” Roosevelt had informed his Cabinet. “We must all prepare for trouble, possibly soon,” he telegraphed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.



November 24, 1778, North Carolina wins the Battle of Midway ChurchGeneral Augustine Prevost, commander of British forces in British East Florida organized the first British invasion of Georgia in November of 1778, after Sir Henry Clinton determined the British would begin its “Southern Strategy.”

The plan was to meet at Sunbury and attack the Americans at Fort Morris, where they also expected to meet another group of British soldiers who were expected to arrive from New York. On November 22, 1778, 100 soldiers under the command of Continental Army Colonel John White and Major James Jacksonconfronted Prevost’s 700 professional soldiers a mile and a half south of Midway in Liberty County, which was called St. John’s Parish at the time.

While the patriots were outnumbered, the area was deep inside patriot territory and the British were concerned that even if they won the battle, they might be isolated so elected to pull back.



November 24, 1963, in the basement of the Dallas police station, Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, is shot to death by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner.  Oswald was formally arraigned on November 23 for the murders of President Kennedy and Officer J.D. Tippit.

The next day, Oswald was brought to the basement of the Dallas police headquarters to be relocated to a more secure county jail.  The area was crowded with reporters and police officers, live television cameras were rolling when Ruby emerged from the crowd and fired one shot from a .38 revolver.  In spite of the fact some considered him a hero, he was charged with first degree murder.  Ruby was found guilty and sentenced to death, but his conviction was overturned.  He died in jail of lung cancer while awaiting a new trial.



November 23, 1730, Governor and General William Moultrie is born. Moultrie was a celebrated general of the American Revolution, primarily for his role in keeping the British out of the South during the early years of the war at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.

Charleston Harbor was guarded by Sullivan’s Island on the north and James Island on the south. On September 15th, Col. Moultrie’s men attacked the British Fort Johnson on the edge of James Island, but the soldiers had been warned and had abandoned the fort. Moultrie erected his own cannon to guard the harbor and flew a new flag, which he created himself, over the fort, at the direction of the Council of Safety. The flag featured a blue field with a crescent in the corner with the word liberty on it. The flag later became known as the Fort Moultrie Flag. The current flag of South Carolina is a very similar version of the Fort Moultrie Flag.


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November 23, 1859 – The infamous Western outlaw known as “Billy the Kid” is born in a poor Irish neighborhood on New York City’s East Side. Before he was shot dead at age 21, Billy reputedly killed 27 people in the American West.

Billy the Kid called himself William H. Bonney, but his original name was probably Henry McCarty. Bonney was his mother Catherine’s maiden name, and William was the first name of his mother’s longtime companion–William Antrin–who acted as Billy’s father after his biological father disappeared. Around 1865, Billy and his brother traveled west to Indiana with their mother and Antrin, and by 1870 the group was in Wichita, Kansas. They soon moved farther west, down the cattle trails, and in 1873 a legally married Catherine and William Antrin appeared on record in New Mexico territory. In 1874, Billy’s mother died of lung cancer in Silver City.

Billy was a central figure in the Lincoln County Wars of New Mexico.  On the night of July 14, 1881, Sheriff Pat Garrett finally tracked Billy down at a ranch near Fort Sumner, New Mexico. He gained access to the house where Billy was visiting a girlfriend and then surprised him in the dark. Before the outlaw could offer resistance, Garret fired a bullet into his chest.




November 22, 1783, Maryland patriot leader John Hanson dies. Hanson was the descendant of an indentured servant from England who came to Maryland in 1661. He increased the family’s agricultural lands to around 1,000 acres and served for many years in political office in Maryland. Hanson is a little known figure from the American Revolution today, but he played a prominent role during those formative years.

John Hanson began his political career as sheriff of Charles County in 1750, but was soon elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 1757, a position he held for the next 12 years. Hanson became associated with American patriots opposing British policy during the Stamp Act crisis, chairing the committee that wrote Maryland’s instructions to the Stamp Act Congress. Hanson also opposed the Townshend Acts, signing a non-importation agreement in 1769 until the Acts were repealed in 1770.




November 22, 1963 – John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, is assassinated while traveling through Dallas, Texas, in an open-top convertible.

First lady Jacqueline Kennedy rarely accompanied her husband on political outings, but she was beside him, along with Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, for a 10-mile motorcade through the streets of downtown Dallas on November 22. Sitting in a Lincoln convertible, the Kennedys and Connallys waved at the large and enthusiastic crowds gathered along the parade route. As their vehicle passed the Texas School Book Depository Building at 12:30 p.m., Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired three shots from the sixth floor, fatally wounding President Kennedy and seriously injuring Governor Connally. Kennedy was pronounced dead 30 minutes later at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital. He was 46.




November 21, 1775, the Continental Congress writes to Oswald Eve, asking him to help with the building of a new gunpowder mill in Massachusetts. Oswald Eve was the owner of the only gunpowder mill in the colonies at the time.

The letter was delivered by Paul Revere who had to try and convince Eve to share the process for manufacturing powder, but Eve was worried about competition from another mill and refused to help.  However, after taking a tour of the mill, Revere was able to learn enough through observation to set up a mill without help from Eve.  Back at home in Canton, MA Revere ‘s mill produced tons of powder for the Continental Army during the Revolution.





November 21, 1877- Thomas Edison announces his invention of the phonograph, a way to record and play back sound.

Edison stumbled on one of his great inventions–the phonograph–while working on a way to record telephone communication at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His work led him to experiment with a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder, which, to his surprise, played back the short song he had recorded, “MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB”. Public demonstrations of the phonograph made the Yankee inventor world famous, and he was dubbed the “Wizard of Menlo Park.”


bill of rights-1

November 20, 1789, New Jersey becomes the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.  Anti-Federalists feared the new Constitution gave too much power to the federal government which would then take the place of the Monarchy they had just thrown off.  To gain acceptance, the Federalists promised to add amendments to the Constitution outlining the guaranteed rights of the individuals and the states.  James Madison used Virginia’s Declaration of Rights as a basis for the Amendments.




November 20, 1945 – Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.  The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace, to crimes of war, to crimes against humanity. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence, the British member, presided over the proceedings, which lasted 10 months and consisted of 216 court sessions.

On October 1, 1946, 12 architects of Nazi policy were sentenced to death. Seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life, and three were acquitted.  On October 16, 10 of the architects of Nazi policy were hanged. Goering, who at sentencing was called the “leading war aggressor and creator of the oppressive program against the Jews,” committed suicide by poison on the eve of his scheduled execution. Nazi Party leader Martin Bormann was condemned to death in absentia (but is now believed to have died in May 1945). Trials of lesser German and Axis war criminals continued in Germany into the 1950s and resulted in the conviction of 5,025 other defendants and the execution of 806.




November 19, 1794, Jay’s Treaty is signed to bring to an end several years of conflict between Great Britain and the United States after the end of the American Revolution. Once America’s independence had been achieved with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, several areas of contention with Britain began to arise. Things got worse and worse, until it looked like war might break out again.

In Jay’s Treaty, the British agreed to abandon the forts in the Ohio River Valley by June 1796. They opened up limited trade to the Americans in the West Indies and in India. They agreed to establishing commissions to deal with boundary issues with Canada, reparations for captured merchant vessels and remuneration for Loyalist losses. Jay’s Treaty failed to deal with remunerations for slave losses and with British impressment of American sailors.




November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history.  The Battle of Gettysburg, fought some four months earlier, was the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Over the course of three days, more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”




November 18, 1804, General Philip Schuyler dies. Philip Schuyler was a wealthy planter from Albany, New York who owned tens of thousands of acres of land and his own lumber, flour and flax mills, including the first flax mill in America for making linen.

Schuyler served in the French and Indian War as a young man after raising his own militia company and was given the commission of Captain. He became a quartermaster during the war, meaning he was in charge of procuring and managing equipment and supplies.



November 18, 1978, Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones leads hundreds of his followers in a mass murder-suicide at their agricultural commune in a remote part of the South American nation of Guyana. Many of Jones’ followers willingly ingested a poison-laced punch while others were forced to do so at gunpoint. The final death toll at Jonestown that day was 909; a third of those who perished were children.

Temple members and concerned relatives of current members convinced U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, a Democrat of California, to travel to Jonestown and investigate the settlement.  When several members asked for help in leaving, Jones became outraged and ordered the congressman and his team killed.  Jones ordered Ryan and his companions ambushed and killed at the airstrip as they attempted to leave. The congressman and four others were murdered as they boarded their charter planes.  Jones then commanded everyone to gather in the main pavilion and commit what he termed a “revolutionary act.”



November 17, 1775, Henry Knox begins the “Knox Expedition,” leaving Boston for Fort Ticonderoga at the direction of George Washington to bring 60 tons of captured British artillery across the frozen mountains of New England and back to Boston to help drive the British out of the city. The trip became known as the Knox Expedition and makes the history books because of Knox’s daring feat, bringing the cannons across a large lake, on snow sleds and across frozen rivers.




November 17, 1869 – The Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean and the Red seas, is inaugurated in an elaborate ceremony attended by French Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III.

In 1854, Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo, secured an agreement with the Ottoman governor of Egypt to build a canal 100 miles across the Isthmus of Suez. An international team of engineers drew up a construction plan, and in 1856 the Suez Canal Company was formed and granted the right to operate the canal for 99 years after completion of the work.



November 16, 1776, the Americans lose the Battle of Fort Washington. Fort Washington sat on the highest point of Manhattan Island, then called York Island. It was built in the summer of that year to prevent British ships from sailing up the Hudson River after George Washington and his officers had decided the area would be impenetrable by the British. Fort Washington sat on one side of the Hudson, while Fort Lee sat on the other side. Fire from the two forts, along with a series of impediments constructed in the river would prevent the British from advancing deeper into New York.




November 16, 1945 – The United States ships 88 German scientists to America to assist the nation in its production of rocket technology. Most of these men had served under the Nazi regime and critics in the United States questioned the morality of placing them in the service of America. Nevertheless, the U.S. government, desperate to acquire the scientific know-how that had produced the terrifying and destructive V-1 and V-2 rockets for Germany during WWII, and fearful that the Russians were also utilizing captured German scientists for the same end, welcomed the men with open arms



November 15, 1777, the Articles of Confederation are approved by the Continental Congress for distribution to the states. All 13 states would have to ratify the Articles in order for them to become the first governing document of the new United States of America.

A Confederation of states was first called for in Congress on June 7, 1776 by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia when he submitted what became known as the “Lee Resolution.” The Resolution called for three things, 1) a declaration of independence from Great Britain, 2) that foreign alliances should be sought and 3) that a plan of confederation between the colonies should be prepared.




November 15, 1957 – In an interview with an American reporter, Nikita Khrushchev claims the Soviet Union has a superior missile program and greater capability.  Saying the US did not have intercontinental missiles, “If she had, she would have launched her own sputnik.” He then issued a challenge: “Let’s have a peaceful rocket contest just like a rifle-shooting match, and they’ll see for themselves.”  In the case of war, it “would be fought on the American continent, which can be reached by our rockets.” NATO forces in Europe would also be devastated, and Europe “might become a veritable cemetery.” While the Soviet Union would “suffer immensely,” the forces of communism would ultimately destroy capitalism.


ben franklin

November 14, 1776, the St. James Chronicle of London carries an item announcing “The very identical Dr. Franklyn [Benjamin Franklin], whom Lord Chatham [former leading parliamentarian and colonial supporter William Pitt] so much caressed, and used to say he was proud in calling his friend, is now at the head of the rebellion in North America.”






November 14, 1754, Mercy Otis and James Warren are married. Both of them were direct descendants of pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower. Mercy Otis Warren became one of the first female authors in the United States. She was an advisor on politics and a correspondent with such people as John Hancock, Patrick Henry, George Washington and John Adams. Mercy’s 3 volume “History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution” became one of the first published works about the American Revolution and also one of the first works published by a woman in America.  James Warren a member of the Sons of Liberty and was one of the first Presidents of the Massachusetts Provincial Assembly, fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was a Paymaster General of the Continental Army for a time.




November 13, 1982 – Near the end of a week long national salute to Americans who served in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington after a march to its site by thousands of veterans of the conflict. The long-awaited memorial was a simple V-shaped black-granite wall inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who died in the conflict, arranged in order of death, not rank, as was common in other memorials.





November 13, 1775, American General Richard Montgomery takes Montreal without a fight. The Americans had decided to try to take British Quebec in the fall of 1775. This was the first military offensive of the new Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Their goal was to take Quebec and convince the French speaking citizens to join them in their rebellion against England.










November 12, 1775 – Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, “Let us separate, they are unworthy to be our Brethren. Let us renounce them and instead of supplications as formerly for their prosperity and happiness, Let us beseech the almighty to blast their councils and bring to Nought all their devices.” The letter was written upon hearing of England’s rejection of the Olive Branch Petition.




November 12, 1954, Ellis Island, the gateway to America, shuts it doors after processing more than 12 million immigrants since opening in 1892. Today, an estimated 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor off the New Jersey coast and named for merchant Samuel Ellis, who owned the land in the 1770s.





November 11, 1778, Patriot Colonel Ichabod Alden refuses to believe intelligence about an approaching hostile force. As a result, a combined force of Loyalists and Native Americans, attacking in the snow, killed more than 40 Patriots, including Alden, and took at least an additional 70 prisoners, in what is known today as the Cherry Valley Massacre. The attack took place east of Cooperstown, New York, in what is now Otsego County.








November 11, 1918 – On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the armistice with Germany went in to effect ending WWI.  The United States previously observed Armistice Day. The U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.





November 10, 1782, the last battle of the American Revolution is fought as American militiamen attacked Shawnee villages near Chillicothe, Ohio in retaliation for attacks by Loyalists and Indians against Sandusky, Ohio, Lexington, Kentucky and other places. General George Rogers Clark and over a thousand militiamen on horseback attacked and burned several Shawnee villages and defeated them decisively.

Contrary to the understanding of many Americans, the surrender of British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in October, 1781 did not end the Revolutionary War. It was a pivotal point, but hostilities continued for two more years and a preliminary peace treaty was not signed until November 20, 1782, more than a year after Cornwallis’ surrender.




November 10, 1775

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress passes a resolution stating that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces for the recently formed Continental Navy. The resolution, drafted by future U.S. president John Adams and adopted in Philadelphia, created the Continental Marines and is now observed as the birth date of the United States Marine Corps.





November 9, 1780, General Thomas Sumter escaped capture in South Carolina by the British Major James Wemyss at the Battle of Fishdam Ford. Instead, Wemyss was wounded in the arm and the knee and was captured by Sumter.







Damaged Jewish Owned Storefront after Kristallnacht Riot

November 9, 1938, in an event that would foreshadow the Holocaust, German Nazis launch a campaign of terror against Jewish people and their homes and businesses in Germany and Austria. The violence, which continued through November 10 and was later dubbed “Kristallnacht,” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after the countless smashed windows of Jewish-owned establishments, left approximately 100 Jews dead, 7,500 Jewish businesses damaged and hundreds of synagogues, homes, schools and graveyards vandalized. An estimated 30,000 Jewish men were arrested, many of whom were then sent to concentration camps for several months; they were released when they promised to leave Germany.



November 8, 1775, General George Washington seeks to resolve several problems facing the army: how to encourage experienced troops to enlist, how to assemble a capable officer corps and how to overcome provincial differences and rivalries. Describing the problems, he wrote, “Connecticut wants no Massachusetts man in her corps. Massachusetts thinks there is no necessity for a Rhode Islander…”  Washington fought an uphill battle for military order until Friedrich von Steuben arrived at the Continental Army encampment at Valley Forge on February 23, 1778.



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November 8, 1800, a fire destroys the Revolutionary War records in the War Department building in Washington DC. Most other records of the war were lost during the British invasion of Washington DC during the War of 1812.  Records were purchased from private collections over the next several decades, in addition to copies made from various state records.  The whole collection was transferred to the National Archives in 1938.






November 7, 1775, what became known as Dunmore’s Proclamation was signed by John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore and Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia. This proclamation declared martial law in the colony and promised freedom to all slaves who would leave their Virginia masters and join the Royal army.






November 7, 1940 – The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses due to high winds. Fortunately, only a dog was killed.  The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built in Washington during the 1930s and opened to traffic on July 1, 1940. It spanned the Puget Sound from Gig Harbor to Tacoma, which is 40 miles south of Seattle. The channel is about a mile wide where the bridge crossed the sound. Sleek and slender, it was the third longest suspension bridge in the world at the time, covering 5,959 feet.





November 6, 1789, John Carroll was appointed the first Catholic bishop in the United States. Carroll was born in Upper Marlboro, Maryland and was trained in the ministry in France, becoming a member of the Society of Jesus. He returned to the US as a Catholic missionary in 1773.







vladimir-lenin-51November 6, 1917 – Led by Bolshevik Party leader Vladimir Lenin, leftist revolutionaries launch a nearly bloodless coup d’État against Russia’s ineffectual Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks and their allies occupied government buildings and other strategic locations in the Russian capital of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) and within two days had formed a new government with Lenin as its head.  Bolshevik Russia, later renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was the world’s first Marxist state.




November 5, 1775, Continental Army commander in chief General George Washington condemns his troops’ planned celebration of the British anti-Catholic holiday, Guy Fawkes Night, as he was simultaneously struggling to win French-Canadian Catholics to the Patriot cause.




french general

November 5, 1780, a Revolutionary War battle known as De la Balme’s Defeat or De la Balme’s Massacre takes place when retired November 5, 1780, a Revolutionary War battle known as De la Balme’s Defeat or De la Balme’s Massacre takes place when retired French cavalry officer Augustin de la Balme is killed near present day Fort Wayne, Indiana in a battle with Miami Indians. is killed near present day Fort Wayne, Indiana in a battle with Miami Indians.



william Shippen


November 4, 1801 – William Shippen died. He was a patriot, politician and physician. He served as a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress from 1779 to 1780.








November 4, 1979 – Student followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini send shock waves across America when they storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The radical Islamic fundamentalists took 90 hostages. The students were enraged that the deposed Shah had been allowed to enter the United States for medical treatment and they threatened to murder hostages if any rescue was attempted. Days later, Iran’s provincial leader resigned, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s fundamentalist revolutionaries, took full control of the country—and the fate of the hostages.






November 3, 1777, General George Washington is informed that a conspiracy is afoot to discredit him with Congress and have him replaced by General Horatio Gates. Thomas Conway, who would be made inspector general of the United States less than two months later on December 14, led the effort.





bill of rights


November 3, 1791, the state of Vermont ratified all twelve amendments to the Bill of Rights that were suggested by Congress. Ten of them would be agreed upon by 2/3rds of the states and would become the Bill of Rights.








November 2, 1947 – The Spruce Goose flies.  The Hughes Flying Boat—the largest aircraft ever built—is piloted by designer Howard Hughes on its first and only flight. Built with laminated birch and spruce, the massive wooden aircraft had a wingspan longer than a football field and was designed to carry more than 700 men to battle.




November 2, 1777, the USS Ranger, with a crew of 140 men under the command of John Paul Jones, leaves Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for the naval port at Brest, France, where it will stop before heading toward the Irish Sea to begin raids on British warships. This was the first mission of its kind during the Revolutionary War.





November 1, 1777 – The Congress proclaimed a day of thanksgiving on December 18 to commemorate the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga.








November 1, 1765, the Stamp Act of 1765 was to take effect. The protests, rioting, boycotts and threats of the colonists against stamp distributors and customs officials had already taken their toll though. When November 1st arrived, there was not a single stamp distributor left in the colonies who had not resigned his position, with the exception of Georgia’s because he did not arrive until January, and he resigned… after one day on the job!







October 31, 1765, New York merchants sign a non-importation agreement, agreeing not to import goods from Great Britain in protest of the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act placed a small tax on all paper goods, such as contracts, licenses, newspapers, almanacs, etc. The tax affected nearly everyone since it was placed on such common goods.








king george and parliment

October 31, 1776, in his first speech before British Parliament since the leaders of the American Revolution came together to sign of the Declaration of Independence that summer, King George III acknowledges that all was not going well for Britain in the war with the United States.






October 30, 1938 – Orson Welles causes a nationwide panic with his broadcast of “War of the Worlds”—a realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth.





October 30, 1775 – The Continental Congress appointed seven members to an administrative naval committee tasked with the acquisition, outfitting and manning of a naval fleet to be used in defense against the British.








October 29, 1781, the Continental Congress authorizes the Yorktown Victory Monument at York, Virginia, to remember the surrender of Lord Cornwallis and the British army, news of which had just reached the Congress in Philadelphia. The monument was not even begun for 100 years and was started during the centennial celebration of the victory in 1881.







sir walter raleigh


October 29, 1618 – Sir Walter Raleigh, English adventurer, writer, and favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth I, is beheaded in London, under a sentence brought against him 15 years earlier for conspiracy against King James I.





invasion of quebec


August 28, 1775, the American invasion of Quebec begins, part of the American attempt to secure the French-speaking Quebec in an alliance with the lower 13 colonies during the American Revolution. Quebec had been founded as a French colony, but was given over to the British after the French and Indian War.




October 28, 1775 – The new commander in chief of the British army, Major General Sir William Howe, issues a proclamation to the residents of Boston on this day in 1775. Speaking from British headquarters in Boston, Howe forbade any person from leaving the city and ordered citizens to organize into military companies in order to “contribute all in his power for the preservation of order and good government within the town of Boston.”



king george and parliment

October 27, 1775, King George III speaks before both houses of the British Parliament to discuss growing concern about the rebellion in America, which he viewed as a traitorous action against himself and Great Britain. He began his speech by reading a “Proclamation of Rebellion” and urged Parliament to move quickly to end the revolt and bring order to the colonies.




October 27, 1659 – William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson, two Quakers who came from England in 1656 to escape religious persecution, are executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their religious beliefs. The two had violated a law passed by the Massachusetts General Court the year before, banning Quakers from the colony under penalty of death.  Picture is of a Quaker meeting place in Boston.



ben franklinOctober 26, 1776, exactly one month to the day after being named an agent of a diplomatic commission by the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin sets sail from Philadelphia for France, with which he was to negotiate and secure a formal alliance and treaty.  A few short months after the Battle of Saratoga, representatives of the United States and France, including Benjamin Franklin, officially declared an alliance by signing the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance on February 6, 1778.





Erie Canal Buffalo-1908

October 26, 1825 – The Erie Canal opens, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River. Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York, the driving force behind the project, led the opening ceremonies and rode the canal boat Seneca Chief from Buffalo to New York City.  The 425 mile canal was dug largely by hand in two years.




October 25, 1774, the First Continental Congress sends a respectful petition to King George III to inform his majesty that if it had not been for the acts of oppression forced upon the colonies by the British Parliament, the American people would be standing behind British rule.  The king did not respond to the satisfaction of Congress and on July 6, 1775, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution entitled “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms.”






October 25, 1415 – During the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, Henry V, the young king of England, leads his forces to victory at the Battle of Agincourt in northern France.












brit nav

October 24, 1775 –  Virginia’s last royal governor, Lord John Murray Dunmore, orders a British naval fleet of six ships to sail up the James River and into Hampton Creek to attack Patriot troops and destroy the town of Norfolk, Va. British Captain Matthew Squire led the six ships into Hampton Creek and began bombarding the town with artillery and cannon fire, while a second contingent of British troops sailed ashore to begin engaging the Patriots. The British were surprised to come under fire from expert riflemen, who began striking down British troops at a distance. After the attack began, 100 additional members of the militia marched in to assist. The Patriots pushed the British back to their ships, where the riflemen again began picking off British troops from the decks of their vessels.  In the unorganized and hurried withdrawal that followed, two British ships ran aground and were captured. The Patriots, meanwhile, did not suffer a single fatality.



30 years war

October 24, 1648 – The Treaty of Westphalia is signed, ending the Thirty Years War and radically shifting the balance of power in Europe.  The Thirty Years War, a series of wars fought by European nations for various reasons, ignited in 1618 over an attempt by the king of Bohemia (the future Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand II) to impose Catholicism throughout his domains. Protestant nobles rebelled, and by the 1630s most of continental Europe was at war.



ft miffin

October 23, 1777, a British Royal Navy fleet of ships, trying to open up supply lines along the Delaware River and the occupying British army in Philadelphia, is bombarded by American cannon fire and artillery from Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania.  Six British ships were severely damaged, including the 64-gun battleship HMS Augusta and the 20-gun sloop Merlin.



beirut barracks

October 23, 1983 – A suicide bomber drives a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. That same morning, 58 French soldiers were killed in their barracks two miles away in a separate suicide terrorist attack.




October 22, 1962 – In a televised speech of extraordinary gravity, President John F. Kennedy announces that U.S. spy planes have discovered Soviet missile bases in Cuba. These missile sites—under construction but nearing completion—housed medium-range missiles capable of striking a number of major cities in the United States, including Washington, D.C.


peyton randolph


After years of poor health, Peyton Randolph, former president of the Continental Congress, dies on October 22, 1775 at the age of 54.  Randolph had served on the Virginia House of Burgesses and presiding over Virginia’s Committee of Correspondence, which worked to communicate with other colonies to form a united resistance.  He was elected unanimously as president of the First Continental Congress in September 1774.





October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution is launched in Boston Harbor. The Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned naval ship still sailing. It was one of six ships built by the US Congress in 1797 to deal with the Barbary pirates of North Africa.






October 21, 1779 – The Continental Congress elects former congressman Henry Laurens minister to Holland. Laurens’ duty as the new minister was to negotiate an alliance with Holland, which he did in 1780.  On the return voyage from Holland in the fall of 1780, his ship was intercepted and captured by the British Navy off the coast of Newfoundland, and he was taken prisoner. During their search of the vessel, British sailors discovered Laurens’ copy of the unofficial Patriot treaty with the Dutch, drafted by Congressional agent William Lee. The British used the document as grounds for war against the Dutch and sent Laurens to London to stand trial on suspicion of high treason. He was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London for 15 months.  On December 31, 1781, the British finally released Laurens from prison in exchange for American-held prisoner General Charles Lord Cornwallis





October 20, 1777, Robert Howe is promoted to major general of the Continental Army. Howe was one of only five North Carolinians to serve as generals in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and the only one to attain this high rank.









October 20, 1774 – The First Continental Congress created the Continental Association in response to the Coercive Acts by the British. It called for a complete ban on all trade between America and Great Britain of all goods, wares or merchandise.





October 19, 1812 – One month after Napoleon Bonaparte’s massive invading force entered a burning and deserted Moscow, the starving French army is forced to begin a hasty retreat out of Russia.  The enormous army, featuring more than 500,000 soldiers and staff was decimated in retreat, having suffered a loss of more than 400,000 men during the disastrous invasion.





August 19, 1779, Major Henry Lee wins the Battle of Paulus Hook, New Jersey, during the American Revolution. Paulus Hook was a strategically located piece of land across the Hudson River from the tip of Manhattan Island. George Washington had realized the strategic importance of the ground and ordered a fort built there before the arrival of the British, but it was abandoned when the massive British force of over 40,000 soldiers took over the area in September of 1776.




October 18, 1775, the Burning of Falmouth, Massachusetts, takes place as part of a British campaign of retribution against coastal colonial towns for their support of the rebellion against Britain and their refusal to do business with the British. Falmouth, Massachusetts, is now the city of Portland, Maine. (What is today Maine was then part of Massachusetts.)



October 18, 1767 – Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon completed their survey of the boundary between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The survey included other areas that would eventually become the states of Delaware and West Virginia. The boundary is known as the Mason-Dixon Line.


Horatio Gates
General Horatio Gates



British general and playwright John Burgoyne surrenders 5,000 British and Hessian troops to American General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, New York, on October 17, 1777.







October 17, 1781 – George Washington accepted British General Charles Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown, VA. This event effectively ended America’s War for Independence.