Today in History, November 19: 1863 – “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” -Edward Everett, popular orator that spoke with President Lincoln at Gettysburg to commemorate those that died there during the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg earlier in the year. President Lincoln spoke briefly, and his speech was criticized at the time by some media, but has become legendary for it’s prescience. See below for the full text….
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. 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.
Today in History, November 18: 1883 –
The origin of time zones. American railroads were hardly ever on time. Each depot was on a different time, since they used the path of the sun to determine what time it was. American railroads established a system of “time zones”, so that more of the country would be on the same time. East, Central, Mountain and Pacific. Eventually cities and then the entire country would adopt the system.
Today in History, November 16: 1822 – William Becknell arrives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with a train of mules loaded down with supplies. Recently, he had been jailed for the more than $20,000 in debts (today’s dollars) that he owed. In desperation he put together a trip with supplies across the dangerous midwest to Santa Fe, Mexico, in an attempt to make the money to pay his creditors. On his first trip he made an incredible profit from the Mexicans living in Santa Fe, since Mexico had recently won it’s Independence from Spain and could trade with Americans again. On his second trip, he turned a $3,000 investment into a $91,000 return for the people of Franklin, Missouri. Before his death in 1865, he would run for the state legislature, own land once owned by the survivors of Daniel Boone, be a Captain in the Texas War for Independence, and be a Texas Ranger. Oh…and before all this happened, he served under Daniel Boone’s son in the War of 1812. He would be honored for blazing the trail to Santa Fe. His father and two of his uncles served in the Revolutionary War…the uncles were killed in battle. What a life!
Today in History, November 15: 1806 –
US Army Lt. Zebulon Pike was a brilliant, self-taught explorer. On this date he was on his second expedition to the West, searching for the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red Rivers.
When he observed a mountain in the distance which he described as looking like a “small blue cloud”, he told the Expedition they could reach the mountain, scale it, and return to camp by dinner time.
Never having seen a “14er” before, he had grossly misjudged the distance. He and his team had to shelter from the cold in a cave for the night. When they did reach the base of the mountain which would one day hold Pike’s name, he declared it could not be climbed.
After the discovery Pike and his expedition became lost, wandering until captured by a troop of Spanish soldiers who took them to Santa Fe before releasing them. Pike took advantage of this misfortune by mapping this valuable area also.
Pike would be made a Brigadier General during the War of 1812 during which he would be killed.
Today in History, November 14: 1942 –
The Second Battle of Guadalcanal. Late on the 14th, early on the 15th, IJN Admiral Kondo was sent with a force of cruisers and destroyers built around the battleship Kirishima to take another shot at Henderson Field and the transports off shore.
Most of the effective American combatants had been either sunk or put out of commission in the first battle, so Admiral Halsey detached a significant portion of the screening force for the USS Enterprise to protect the airfield and the transports. The Battleships USS Washington and USS South Dakota, along with the 4 destroyers with the most fuel took the job.
This US Task Force made better use of their radar and spotted the Japanese ships first. The American destroyers sacrificed themselves to fight off Japanese cruisers and destroyers; the South Dakota had nothing but trouble after losing her electrical systems. As the Kirishima and others focused on the nearly defenseless South Dakota, the Washington closed within 9,000 yards of the Kirishima and tore her apart with her main and secondary batteries.
Kondo ordered a retreat. Some IJN supply ships beached and began unloading, but when the sun came up, they were exposed to American aircraft. By the time US aircraft and an American destroyer were done with them, only about 3,000 troops were ashore…without any supplies, munitions or food…making them more of a detriment than a help.
The major significance of this battle is that it was the last time the IJN attempted an all out assault on Guadalcanal by sea; now they would only offer meager supplies with the use of the “Tokyo Express” up the “Slot”…not enough to support their armies on Guadalcanal. By December 31st the Emperor had agreed to abandon Guadalcanal to the Allies.
The most amazing thing to me is that in ’42 the Americans won or lost by scraping together a few ships to fight…at this point Enterprise was the only US Carrier in the Pacific…by this time in ’44, American combat ships were numerous and almost invincible.
Today in History, November 13: 1942 –
The First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal takes place in what would become known as “Ironbottom Sound” off Guadalcanal. US intelligence had warned US Navy forces that the IJN planned to bombard Henderson Field and land reinforcements on the embattled island. Admirals Callahan and Scott took their forces to interdict IJN Admiral Abe’s forces. In a fierce, confusing, intense night action the Japanese won a tactical victory by sinking more American ships, while the Americans won a strategic victory…Henderson was not bombarded and the American troop ships remained undamaged. But it came at a heavy cost for both sides. Admirals Callahan and Scott would be the only US Admirals to be killed in direct ship to ship combat in the war, and aboard the USS Juneau, the five “Fighting Sullivan” brothers would all be lost.
For the Japanese; surviving battleship Hiei, among others, would fall prey to repeated air attacks from Henderson, Espirito Santo, and the USS Enterprise when the sun came up. And this was only the beginning of the battle.
Today in History, November 12: 1954 –
Ellis Island in New York Harbor, which had seen millions of legal immigrants processed through since it’s opening in 1892, closes for good. It had been used continuously to process immigrants, and also as a military hospital and a facility to process illegal immigrants out.
A few of those that claimed America as their home via Ellis that you may know (according to the National Park Service, which now manages the Island)…Isaac Asimov (science fiction author extraordinaire), Charles Atlas (fitness), Irving Berlin (White Christmas and much more), Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life and more), Claudette Colbert (silent film actress), Max Factor (cosmetics magnate), Samuel Goldwyn (Hollywood mogul), Bob Hope (Mr. USO and decades of acting), Al Jolson (actor), Meyer Lansky (gangster), Bela Lugosi (the original scary actor), HYMAN G. RICKOVER (pioneer of our nuclear Navy), Edward G. Robinson (actor), KNUTE ROCKNE (football hero when it meant something), Igor Sikorsky (helicopter pioneer), Lee Strasberg (actor), Baron Von Trapp (The Sound of Music)….so much history. Oh, and of course….Vito Corleone….