Today in History, October 8: 1918 – During the WWI battle of Argonne in France, a squad of American soldiers is pinned down by a German machine gun nest. Nine of the American soldiers had been cut down. The squad’s leader, Cpl. Alvin York, took action.
Born in a log cabin near the Kentucky/Tennessee border, York had been drafted into the Army and filed for conscientious objector status, but was denied. He had been a hunter back home in the hills. On that day in the Argonne, he stood his ground and used his uncanny marksmanship; each time a German soldier showed himself to sight in on the Americans, he was quickly killed by York’s deadly aim. After at least 20 Germans had been killed, their commander thought he must have miss judged the size of the American force and surrendered his remaining 90 troops. On their way back to friendly lines, the squad of now less than a dozen Americans took on more prisoners, returning with 132. York was promoted to Sergeant and the next year presented with the Medal of Honor.
Years later, as WWII was beginning, American sailors aboard the Enterprise were watching the movie “Sergeant York” on the hangar deck as they sailed unknowingly into war.
As the last photo shows…no matter our importance in our youth, we all get old. But what we chose to do in our youth remains.
Today in History, October 7: 1780 – The Battle of King’s Mountain. During the American Revolutionary War, the British, along with “loyalist” militia, had been seeing success, including at the Battle of Waxhaws in May, where Col. Banastre Tarleton’s troops had massacred defeated “rebel” troops. At King’s Mountain, South Carolina a contingent of loyalist troops led by British regulars were caught by rebel (loyalist to us) militia made up of mountain men (including Davy Crockett’s father). In a pitched 65 minute battle, the Americans made repeated advances up the mountain, finally cornering their prey. When the loyalists attempted to surrender, the furious patriots shouted “Give ’em Banastre’s Quarter!!!” and continued firing until their Colonels were finally able to regain control of them. The biggest reason for the Patriot success? Tactics. They used cover and concealment in their attacks…common sense to us, but not in the days when soldiers were lined up and advanced in the open.
Today in History, October 6: 1723 – A 17-year-old runaway arrives on the streets of Philadelphia, a fugitive for having fled an apprenticeship in Boston. After trying his hand at his apprenticeship vocation of printing, he accepted an offer to travel to London to get the equipment for a new printing shop to open in Philly. This failed, but after 4 years of adventure in England, young Benjamin Franklin returned to Philadelphia and began his career as a printer, statesman, scientist and activist for freedom. Franklin is the epitome of the theory that you only fail if you quit.
Today in History, October 5: 1892 – In Coffeyville, Kansas, four citizen give their lives in the successful effort to prevent the infamous Dalton gang from robbing two of the town’s banks at the same time. The Daltons made the mistake of attempting to rob a town where they were well known, and were recognized. As they entered the banks, the word was spreading and citizens were arming themselves. As they attempted to flee, they were gunned down, only Emmett Dalton surviving. Coffeyville citizens George Cubine, Charles Brown, Lucius Baldwin, and town Marshal Charles T. Connelly died in the gunfight.
Today in History, October 3: 1873 – Modoc Indian Chief Kintpuash, aka Captain Jack, and three others are hanged by the US Army for the murder of US Army General Edward Canby and Reverend Eleazar Thomas. The Modocs had agreed to move from their ancestral lands to the Klamath Reservation, but were treated poorly by another tribe there, so they returned to their lands in Northern California. Although they attempted to be peaceful, the settlers in the area were not happy with their presence and the army moved them back to the reservation; they again left, holding up in the Lava Beds in California. Gen. Canby agreed to a meeting with the Chief and several others. Under pressure from some of his tribe members, Captain Jack murdered Canby and Thomas. Canby had been a West Point graduate, a veteran of the Mexican-American War and a hero of the Civil War, and the first and only general officer killed in the Indian Wars. In response, Canby’s replacement, Gen. Jefferson C. Davis (no relation to the Confederate President) had Chief Kintpuash and his associates rounded up and tried for murder.
Today in History, October 2: 1919 – President Woodrow Wilson (D) had been on a whirlwind tour of the nation, 8,000 miles in 22 days, pushing America’s entry into the League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations).
On September 25 in Pueblo, Colorado, suffering from exhaustion and recovering from a bout with influenza, he collapsed. He made it back to DC before suffering a debilitating stroke that paralyzed his left side and left him bedridden.
His wife Edith, fiercely protective, cut off almost all access to him in order to keep his incapacitation a secret. She signed off on paperwork and made decisions without consulting the President, claiming she was only acting as a steward to him. He would eventually recover enough to take part in cabinet meetings, but his participation was severely limited.
As for the League of Nations? Wilson’s Republican opponents in the Congress, ferociously opposed to the League, continued to fight it, and with the election of Republican President Warren Harding, the League of Nations issue died.