America’s First and Real “Yes We Can”

Today in History, October 17: 1777 – 

Surrender of British Army at the Battle of Saratoga. British Gen. John Burgoyne was leading an army of 8,000 British regulars south from Canada to meet up and combine forces with Gen. Sir William Howe on the Hudson River. 

 His army clashed with the American army several times, and finally had to take refuge in the village of Saratoga, NY. With about 5,000 of his troops left, surrounded by nearly 20,000 American troops, he had no choice but to surrender the largest British force to that date to the “Colonials”. 

 The battle showed the world that the Americans could defeat the British in combat, which gave France and Spain the confidence to enter the war and provide supplies, soldiers and naval support to the Americans. Their support was instrumental in winning the war, thus Saratoga is seen as a turning point in the Revolution.

The CSS Hunley Sinks – For the Second Time

Today in History, October 15: 1863 – 

The first successful (after a fashion) submarine, the CSS Hunley, sinks in Charleston Harbor. It was the second time the sub had sunk. Earlier it had gone down in Mobile Bay, killing two of it’s crew. 

 It was salvaged and transported to Charleston by train, to be used in an attempt to break the Union blockade of that port. The sub’s creator, Horace Hunley, took her out for a test run with a new crew. In front of onlookers, the sub slipped beneath the waves, and never surfaced. Hunley and 7 crewmembers died. 

Nonetheless, the sub was once again salvaged and yet another crew took her out in February of 1864. They placed a torpedo (mine) against the USS Housatonic and backed away; the explosive sank the Union ship. But the Hunley never made it back to port, sinking for the final time, taking another crew with her. She was raised in 2000.

“It Takes More Than That to Kill a Bull Moose”

Today in History, October 14: 1912 –

 “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” 

 As he is leaving his hotel in Milwaukee to give a campaign speech, former President Theodore Roosevelt is shot point blank by a would-be assassin. The bullet went through TR’s glasses case, the 50 page speech he had in his jacket, and penetrated his chest. 

 An experienced hunter, Teddy decided that since he wasn’t coughing up blood, he wasn’t in immediate danger, as he reasoned, because the bullet hadn’t penetrated his lungs. 

 He continued on and spoke for over an hour, blood still seeping from his chest wound. Afterwards he finally went to the hospital. The incident not only gave evidence of his strength and resolve, but gave a name to the party he was representing.

Today in History, October 12: 1492 – Three ships, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, commanded by Christopher Columbus, discover the New World. Columbus went ashore on one of the Bahama Islands and claimed it for his sponsors, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. He continued on to find Cuba and Hispaniola in the days ahead, which he thought were Cathay (China) and Japan respectively. The expedition believed they had accomplished their mission of finding a western trade route to the far east. He would bring back riches to Spain that would set off a competition for new lands in the New World by the major powers of Europe.

Millions would die in the years to come due to disease brought on by the meshing of multiple cultures who had no immunity to each other. Also due to the Europeans using the indigenous peoples as slave labor. 

Should we honor Columbus and his contemporaries as heroes?  Or demonize them for their abuses?  It is possible to recognize both. History is what it is and should be studied that way. 

Columbus, the Vikings, Hudson, Magellen, etc, etc. The Americas were going to be discovered and settled by what were then foreigners. 

The atrocities which occurred did not have to have occurred. Columbus statues should not be removed…they are history. Instead, lets also recognize people who have previously been forgotten to history whose stories are just as important. 

Always Be Prepared to Walk Away

Today in History, October 11: 1986 – President Reagan meets for the second time with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss limitations on nuclear missiles. The Russian attempted to add “SDI” or the Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars” to the discussion. SDI was a planned space based missile shield that would make America impervious to nuclear missile attack. Reagan, knowing the supposed defense system gave the US an incredible strength in the negotiations, refused. While they came away from Iceland empty handed, Reagan’s poker face worked. The next year in DC the two leaders came to an agreement on missile reduction. The USSR was on it’s way out.


Today in History, October 9: 1942 – The Navy’s first WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) begin school in Stillwater, Oklahoma. That should make us proud.

Morrill Hall at Oklahoma State University was the birthplace of the WAVES program. It may seem trite today, but in it’s time it was a leap forward for women’s placement in the workplace.