Today in History, July 4, 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.
Today in History, July 4, 1913:
President Woodrow Wilson addresses the Great 50 Year Reunion of Gettysburg, attended by thousands of Veterans from both sides of the Civil War, who swapped stories, dined together…and it would seem, forgave for a time.
Today in History, July 4, 1863:
On the same day, half a continent away, Confederate General Robert E. Lee leads his defeated Army of Northern Virginia south away from the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 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.
Today in History, July 4, 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 is 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 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 bite him, as the Confederacy did not recognize it’s terms and many of them fought again…which came back to bite the Confederacy because as a result the Union stopped trading prisoners.
The South knew the consequences of the loss of Vicksburg. It would be many, many years before Independence Day was celebrated in Vicksburg again.
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.
Today in History, July 4, 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.
Today in History, July 4, 1776:
“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.”
The second Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence from England after years of conflict as colonists.