Library of Congress

Today in History, April 24, 1800:

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite sources! On this date the Library of Congress was established. Congress allocated $5,000 for the initial purchase of books from London. The Library was charged with providing source material for Congress and for the American people. President John Adams signed off on the creating legislation. His successor, Thomas Jefferson, supported the Library also. Adams and Jefferson, once friends, became estranged after Jefferson defeated Adams for the Presidency.

But they both remained true to the Library of Congress. After the British invaded DC and burned the Library in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold his own vast library to the government to seed the recreation of the Library. In the late 19th century the charge of the Library was expanded to not only books, but photos and items of importance. The LOC now has over 135 million items for the Congress and the public to utilize…all books, pamphlets, maps, prints, photographs, and pieces of music registered for copyright have two copied registered in the library. Today, the Library is utilizing the latest technology to place as many of those items as possible online…so that it will truly be a source for all Americans.

By the way…those fast friends, Adams and Jefferson, who helped create America together in 1776, then became enemies, never speaking to each other in person after that fateful election? They exchanged somewhat conciliatory letters in their old age….but the old rivalry never expired. On July 4, 1826, the Nation’s 50th birthday, Adams died. His last words reportedly were, “Thomas Jefferson lives…”. But it was not so. Jefferson died a few hours before Adams on the same date.

Sir Winston Churchill, Knight of the Garter

Today in History, April 24, 1953:

British Prime Minister Winston Spencer Churchill is Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, making him a Knight of the Garter.

The Queen had wanted to make Churchill a Knight as Duke of London, a new and dynamic position, but he declined since this would require his son and other descendants to live at a certain financial level that they may not be able to sustain.

Born in 1874, Churchill had served with distinction in the Boer War as a young man, been a major player in the First World War as Lord of the Admiralty, and then been banished to the political “wilderness” for ten years leading into WWII. During those years, he constantly preached a message of military preparedness to his contemporaries…acts that made him a laughing stock…the Nazis only wanted peace and he was a militant nut. Once the realities set in with Hitler’s invasion of several European neighbors, Britons turned to Churchill for their salvation, and he proved himself up to the task.

What an amazing amount of History Sir Winston and Queen Elizabeth have been a part of!

The Importance of Petersburg, VA…in the Revolutionary War

Today in History, April 24: 1781 – British General William Phillips and British General Benedict Arnold, traitor formerly of the American Continental Army, begin a march on Petersburg, Virginia with 2,500 troops. The city was defended by 1,000 scantly trained militia led by Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who had trained General Washington’s soldiers at Valley Forge and General Peter Muhlenberg. Phillips and Arnold were sent to Virginia, which had been left mostly alone previously, to divert Washington’s attention from offenses in the north. von Steuben and Muhlenberg knew they could not prevail with their much smaller, poorly trained forces, so they retreated from the city, setting up defenses in surrounding cities until they could be joined by Continental regulars. What was supposed to lead to American defeat actually were the first steps in the south that would lead to the defeat of the British.