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.

“Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” –Militiaman Capt. John Parker, on Lexington Green

Today in History, April 19, 1775:

“Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” –Militiaman Capt. John Parker, to his troops on Lexington Green.

When the 700 British troops reached Lexington, they were confronted with a mere 77 minutemen who had managed to convene there. The British plan was to capture an American armory and arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

Thanks to the “midnight ride”, the armaments had been dispersed, Adams and Hancock sprited awat.

Capt. Parker, knowing that the British mission had already been rendered pointless, was not eager to risk the lives of is men. He had them form in ranks on Lexington Green, where they could give an expression of dissention without blocking the road to Concord.

The British commander decided to confront them anyway. With an expression of great insult, the British commander ordered the “damned rebels” to disperse. Parker directed them to do so as the well trained British regulars approached.

Nobody knows who fired the “shot heard ’round the world”. The Americans, of course, believed it was and over eager British soldier; the British believed it was from a minuteman; some speculation is that it was fired from the safety of a nearby tavern.

Whoever fired that first shot, it resulted in the British cutting down nearly a dozen minutemen, and one injured British soldier. The British then marched past the dead and injured on their way to Concord. 

The Brits, emboldened, marched on Concord. When they got there they were confronted with more than 300 minutemen. The outcome was quite different than at Lexington.

The British were quickly repelled, and decided to return to Boston.

As they completed the long march back to Boston, the minutemen continuously fired upon them from behind trees, rocks, fences, etc. By the time the regulars made it back to Boston, they had lost over 300 men.

Why was it the “shot heard ’round the world”? Not just because of the American Revolution. The acts of the revolutionaries did not affect only the “Colonies”. The French were encouraged to aid the Americans with their fleet eventually.

Other portions of the British Empire were encouraged to revolt. King George didn’t know it, but on this date, thanks to a few farmer and merchant “peasants”, the sun had begun to set on the British Empire.

Founding Brothers

 

Today in History, July 4, 1826:

Fifty years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, two of it’s signers, second President John Adams and third President Thomas Jefferson, die on the same day.

The two had become bitter political enemies for years (Adams a devout Federalist, Jefferson an equally devout state’s rights man). But in 1812 they made amends and began a years’ long correspondence, making them good friends again.

It is said that Adams’ last words were, “Jefferson survives”. He was wrong, Jefferson had died five hours before. Many Americans at the time saw their death on the same day 50 years after the Nation’s birth as a divine sign.

Moments Which Changed Naval History

Today in History, November 11: 1940 – A History changing event. The British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious launches several obsolete aircraft, “Fairey Swordfish” torpedo aircraft…flying kites, really, in an attack on the Italian Naval Base at Taranto, Italy.

The Harbor was shallow, so the Italians thought they were safe. In this, the first attack by aircraft from a carrier, the Italian navy was devastated, by what many naval officers considered a gimmick…the airplane. On the other side of the world, someone took notice of the successful attack. The Imperial Japanese Navy was encouraged in their plans against Pearl Harbor…also a shallow anchorage considered safe. Naval History was changed…tactics forever adapted by those few British pilots.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. A Date Full of Historic Significance!


Today in History, July 4: This is my favorite day of the year to post, not only because it is America’s birthday, but because the date is so rich in American History. 

 1754 – During the French and Indian Wars, a young colonial member of the British Army abandons “Fort Necessity” after surrendering it to the French the day before. The officer, 22-year-old Lt. George Washington had also commanded British forces in the first battle of the war on the American continent weeks before. The French and Indian Wars were only part of a global conflict between England and France, the Seven Years War. His experience here would serve Washington well in our War for Independence. 

 1776 – The second Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence from England after years of conflict as colonists, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

 1803 – President Thomas Jefferson announces the signing of a treaty in Paris formalizing the Louisiana Purchase, effectively doubling the size of the United States in one day for $15M. 

 1826 – 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, two of it’s signers, second President John Adams and third President Thomas Jefferson, die on the same day. The two had become bitter political enemies for years (Adams a devout Federalist, Jefferson an equally devout state’s rights man, in addition to vicious political vitriol the two had exchanged). But in 1812 they made amends and began a years’ long correspondence, making them good friends again. It is said that Adams’ last words were, “Jefferson survives”. He was wrong, Jefferson had died five hours before. Many Americans at the time saw their death on the same day 50 years after the Nation’s birth as a divine sign. 

 1863 – Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrenders Vicksburg, Mississippi to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Pemberton had sent a note asking for terms on the 3rd, and initially Grant gave his usual “unconditional surrender” response. He then thought about what he would do with 30,000 starving Southern troops, who he had lay siege to since May 18th, and granted them parole, accepting the surrender on the 4th. The capture of Vicksburg effectively secured the main artery of commerce for the Union and cut off of the Confederate states west of the Mississippi (and their supplies) from the South. Grant’s parole of the rebels would come back to haunt him, as the Confederacy did not recognize it’s terms and many of the parolees fought again…which came back to haunt the Confederacy because as a result the Union stopped trading prisoners.  Celebrated as a great victory by the North, but by Vicksburg not so much. The Citizens of the Southern city had to take to living in caves during the siege as US Navy and Army continuously bombarded their homes.  Starving and desperate, they saw Grant’s waiting a day to accept surrender as malicious.  Independence Day would not be officially celebrated in Vicksburg for a generation. 

1863 – On the same day, half a continent away, Confederate General Robert E. Lee led his defeated Army of Northern Virginia south away from the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This was no small matter…”Bobby Lee” had been out-foxing and out-maneuvering multiple Union Generals practically since the war began. No official surrender here…Lee’s army would survive to fight another day. While both battles were turning points, they did not spell the end of the South as many believe. There were years of hard, bitter fighting still to come with ghastly losses in life and injury. Gettysburg was, however, the last serious attempt by the South to invade the North. 

 1913 – President Woodrow Wilson addresses the Great 50 Year Reunion of Gettysburg, attended by thousands of Veterans from both sides, who swapped stories, dined together…and it would seem, forgave for a time. 

 1939 – “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth”. After 17 years as a beloved member of Major League Baseball, New York Yankee Lou Gehrig stands in Yankee Stadium and says goodbye to his fans, having been diagnosed with a terminal disease that now bears his name. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house. I’ve posted the video below. 

God Bless America! And thank you to our service men and women that continue to make our freedoms possible.


Today in History, May 15: 1800 – President John Adams issues an order for the entire Federal government (125 people) to leave the capitol of Philadelphia and for the government to be up and running in the new capitol, Washington, D.C. by June 15. D. C. was primarily swampland, and it would be some time until there were enough structures to house the government employees, Congress and the courts. Abigail Adams dried their clothing on a line strung in the East Room.

Setting Precedents

Today in History, February 24: 1803 – Marbury vs. Madison. The Supreme Court establishes the principle of Judicial Review. In a case fraught with typical American skullduggery, the US Supreme Court gains it’s power. In the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson had defeated the one term John Adams. In the time before the end of his term, Adams appointed as many judges and justice of the peace as he could, even working with his fellow party members to increase the number of judges. This resulted in the infamous “midnight judges” that were appointed at the last minute. Adams’ Secretary of State, John Marshall, wasn’t able to deliver all of the commissions to the judges and justices of the peace in time before Adams’ term ended, but figured the new Secretary of State, James Madison, would do so. He did not. Realizing they’d been snookered, Jefferson and Madison’s party did not deliver the new commissions. One of the Justices of the Peace, William Marbury, sued. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court…whose Chief Justice now was…John Marshall. Marshall made a decision that was a master stroke. The Court decided that the commissions should have been delivered…but at the same time decided that the court could not enforce the decision because Marbury did not have standing to file suit. While this initially seemed to emasculate the Court…in the end the decision established that the Court could render Congressional acts Unconstitutional if it chose to do so. The are dozens of examples of why appointments to the Court are important, not the least of which we are watching play out now.