1863 – The Union and the Confederates first clash at The Battle of Gettysburg, and both send reinforcements. The first day went badly for the Union, but the largest battle in North America had three more days to go, and would become a major turning point in the Civil War.
1898 – The Battle of San Juan Hill becomes a major victory for the US in the Spanish-American War as the US Army’s Fifth Corps takes the heights over Santiago de Cuba. It also set the stage for Colonel Theodore Roosevelt to become President as he became famous for leading his Rough Riders up Kettle Hill (not San Juan).
1916 – The Battle of the Somme in France; after a week’s bombardment with over 250,000 shells, the British launch an attack into no-man’s land. The Germans had retained many machine guns despite the bombardment, and the British soldiers were slaughtered. With 20,000 dead and 40,000 wounded in one day, it was one of the worst defeats for the British military’s history.
1942 – The Battle of El Alamein; In North Africa Erwin Rommel’s army had routed the British and their allies, driving them back so quickly that they had to leave much of their equipment behind. But on today’s date the British Army, resupplied by Americans and reorganized, turned the tide back on Rommel at El Alamein.
President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first president to intervene in a labor dispute.
Anthracite coal miners, organized by the United Mine Workers, were asking for fewer work hours and more pay. The mining companies refused and the miners went on a strike that had lasted for months at this point.
American industry and transportation relied almost exclusively on coal at this time in our nation’s development, as did very many homes for heat.
The dispute had already had a significant effect on the country, and winter was coming on. The potential for countless citizens freezing to death was quite real.
President Roosevelt felt he had to act to prevent a national catastrophe. He invited both parties to the White House to mediate an agreement on behalf of the American people.
The miners agreed to negotiate, the Coal companies were not so inclined.
Roosevelt, never shy to take the bull by the horns, promised to have the military take over the industry if a settlement was not reached.
By October 23rd the miners were back to work, with less hours and more pay. The coal companies did not, however, recognize the UMWA, and the story was far from over.
But a disaster had been avoided and Roosevelt’s re-election was assured.
Rancher Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charles Mason, with the help of Ute guide Acowitz “discover” some of the Cliff Dwellings in the canyons of the Mesa Verde area of Southwest Colorado. The Wetherills were certainly not the first to discover the hundreds of amazing ancient homes built into the protection of the cliffs centuries earlier. However they did persist in a campaign to institute Federal protection of the sites. The Wetherills were fearful that tourists and vandals would loot and destroy the sites.
Archaeologists tell us ancient Native Americans made the Cliff Dwellings their home for over seven hundred years before moving away within a two generations in the thirteenth century. As a reference, elsewhere in the world the Mongols were conquering Asia and the seventh Crusades were occurring.
The Wetherill family spent years exploring the canyon dwellings, collecting hundreds of artifacts which now reside in museums. Unfortunately much of the vandalism did occur and Swedish scientist Baron Gustaf E. A. Nordenskiöld mapped and collected many artifacts, taking them back to Sweden before the American government acted to protect the site.
After years of pressure from the Wetherill family and many others, and four unsuccessful attempts, Congress finally passed a bill creating the Mesa Verde National Park, which President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law.
In the same month in 1906, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed into law “An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities”, or “The Antiquities Act”, inspired to protect sites such as Mesa Verde and others for generations to come. TR made great use of the Antiquities Act to set aside Historic sites for preservation.
According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the have been 157 National Monuments designated by 16 Presidents since President Theodore Roosevelt enthusiastically named 18 sites during his terms as Chief Executive.
The Memorial at Mt. Rushmore is dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge.
The memorial wouldn’t be declared complete until October 31, 1941, seven months after the man in charge of it’s carving, Gutzon Borglum, had died. His son Lincoln finished the project.
President Washington was chosen for obvious reasons, having led the battles that created our nation;
President Jefferson was chosen due to his instrumental work in creating our Declaration of Independence, which has inspired Democracy around the world;
President Lincoln was chosen for leading the nation through the Civil War, preserving the Union and abolishing slavery;
Theodore Roosevelt was chosen for leading the nation through the industrial revolution of the late 19th century, seeing to the construction of the Panama Canal.
An interesting aside…Mt. Rushmore is named for a young NYC attorney who visited the area in 1884 to check land ownership for some eastern investors. He was impressed with the mountain and asked prospectors what it was called…they replied that it had no name, but since he had asked, they would call it Rushmore Peak…and so it was.
Congress votes to preserve the birthplace of President Theodore Roosevelt, as well as his home in Oyster Bay, New York: Sagamore Hill.
Sagamore Hill was known as the eastern White House when TR was there, and he hosted many dignitaries there, including when he negotiated a peace treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize (when it still meant something).
Sagamore Hill was like a recharging device for TR. Whether recovering from tragedies, exhausted by his frenetic work pace or laid low by his health problems, a few days at Sagamore Hill and he was up to speed and ready to go again.
I got to visit Sagamore Hill this year, checking it off of my bucket list. It was fascinating.
US Airman Quentin Roosevelt, youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt, dies when he is shot down over France in WWI.
He and his brothers, who all served in WWI were very competitive in the voracity of their service, trying to live up to their father’s exploits…a father who also wanted to serve but was refused due to President Wilson’s fear that TR’s service might lead to a run for President in 1920. TR wouldn’t live that long…and he spent his last years heartbroken over the loss of his youngest son.
TR Jr. would die of a heart attack just weeks after leading his division in the Normandy invasion of 1944…again living up to his father’s legacy. A family of immense wealth; several generations of which dedicated their lives to service to their country.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first US President to fly in an aircraft for official business.
FDR was to meet Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco to discuss strategy in WWII. For previous meetings the President and Prime Minister had travelled by warship, but the US military was concerned about heightened U-Boat activity in the Atlantic.
As a result President Roosevelt agreed to make the trip by plane, specifically a Boeing 314 four engine flying boat named the Dixie Clipper. The flight flew from Florida to South America and crossed to North Africa. After the meeting, FDR celebrated his 61st birthday on the return flight. He was already in poor health and the 1700 mile trip took its toll.
Thirty-three years earlier, FDR’s cousin Theodore Roosevelt had become the first president to fly in an aircraft. After having left office, TR was on a speaking tour when he encountered pilot Arch Hoxley at Kinloch Field in St. Louis, Missouri.
The always adventurous TR could not resist the offer to go for a jaunt in the Wright built airplane…little more than a powered kite, and much less luxurious than the Clipper his cousin would use. In fact, TR’s pilot, Hoxley, would die in a plane crash the following December.
I have to wonder if this is historic coincidence or much more. FDR grew up in TR’s very large shadow, and greatly admired him. FDR followed TR’s path as much as he could…Under Secretary of the Navy, the New York legislature and New York governor. While TR was a Republican and FDR was a Democrat, FDR traded on TR’s legend…and TR supported his prodigy. TR wanted to break tradition and serve a third term, which did not happen. FDR was into his fourth term when he died.
So of course one has to wonder if from competitiveness or emulation, was the opportunity to follow up on a Presidentially pioneering flight just too much too pass up?
“Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”
-Vice President Thomas Marshall.
President Theodore Roosevelt dies at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York in his sleep of a heart attack. “Teddy” had taken every last drop of adventure and worthiness that he could squeeze out of life in the preceding 60 years.
Roosevelt had been a sickly child; constantly plagued by breathing problems, he could rarely play with the other children. His father, Theodore Sr., a remarkable man himself, told “Teedie” that if he wanted to have a successful life, he would have to take charge and force his body into the form he needed to match his intellect. Roosevelt did just that. He took exercise as his “raison detre” until he was barrel chested and of vigorous health. Each time he became sick during his life, he would simply work through it.
As a young man, while serving in the New York Assembly, Roosevelt was called home from Albany by an urgent message. After the train ride to NYC, he arrived home to be met at the door by his brother, “There is a curse upon this house.”
Roosevelt’s wife and mother died on the same day…February 14, 1884, within hours of each other. Writing in his diary only a large X and the words “The light has gone out of my life”, Roosevelt fled into the west, becoming a rancher and for a time a lawman in the Dakota Territory. The experience would strengthen him and give him a background people respected.
During his life he was a state rep from New York, the Police Commissioner for New York City, Governor of New York, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (he oversaw the building of a modern US Navy while his boss was not paying attention), he led the “Rough Riders” (1st Volunteer US Cavalry) up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, became Vice President, and the President after President McKinley was assassinated.
As President he defined the modern presidency, breaking up monopolies, seeing that mistreated workers got a fair shake, sent the “Great White Fleet” around the world establishing American as a world influence, saw the Panama Canal built, saw the establishment of the National Parks Service, and countless other accomplishments.
He worked tirelessly for the American people. After the Presidency he traveled extensively, going on an African Safari, and exploring an unknown region of South America, “The River of Doubt”; a region so treacherous that it was considered a no-man’s land. He nearly died in the mapping of the river, now called “Rio Roosevelt” in his honor.
All of his male children fought in WWI, and the only reason Teddy didn’t was because the Democrat President (Wilson) refused to let him, afraid Roosevelt would run against him in the next election and win. One of his sons, Quentin, would be shot down over France and be killed. That was the last straw for the “Old Lion”. He mourned dreadfully until his death.
One of his other children, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would be the only General to go ashore with the troops at D-Day in WWII; Teddy Jr would die of a heart attack himself several weeks after the Normandy invasion. The entire world would mourn President Roosevelt’s passing; he had become larger that life, a hero to people the world over. The quintessential American. And in case you couldn’t tell, my favorite Hero.
At TR’s funeral at Oyster Bay, what I believe is the best, most heartfelt eulogy was spoken in passing. Walking from the church a New York City Police Captain who had served with Roosevelt more than 20 years earlier when he was Police Commissioner, was overcome with emotion. He turned to TR’s sister and asked, “Oh…do you remember the FUN of him?”
There have been several courageous or (I dislike the term) “Badass” Presidents in our history.
They are missed.
January 30, 1835:
Outside the Capitol building in DC a man with two pistols approached President Andrew Jackson…and fired both pistols. Fortunately both misfired and war-hero Jackson, not knowing if the would-be assassin had other weapons, proceeded to use his heavy cane to beat the laundry off of the bad guy until other arrived to secure him.
President Lincoln had a habit of relaxing at the “Soldier’s Home” to get away from the madhouse. One night he was riding back to the Executive Mansion, by himself, when someone took a shot at him, putting a hole through his hat.
As Lincoln loped up to a young sentry, the sentry noticed the President was missing his trademark hat. Lincoln explained what happened…and then swore the youth to secrecy. No point working the people (and I’m sure the excitable Mary Lincoln) up and causing a panic.
October 14, 1912:
Theodore Roosevelt is running for a third term in Milwaukee. As he enters his car in front of his hotel, the madman pointed a pistol and shot TR in the chest.
Wounded, TR had the where-with-all to save the Assassin from lynching by the angry supporters who captured him. Then TR inspected his injuries…a thick manuscript and glasses case slowed down the bullet, but it still entered his chest. Being a hunter and combat vet, he took note that he wasn’t coughing up blood. Thus assured he wasn’t shot through the lung, he insisted on finishing a lengthy speech before going to the hospital. “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose!”
February 15, 1933:
The President-elect Franklin Roosevelt is in Miami riding with the Chicago mayor (Cermak) when a man fires numerous shots at them. FDR is not hit. However, though handicapped he emulated his cousin, seeing to the care of the assassin and staying by the side of the dying Cermak.
March 30, 1981:
Ronald Reagan is in DC when an assassin approached and began shooting, striking the elderly enigmatic Chief Executive and others. Seriously wounded, Reagan is rushed to George Washington hospital where he entertains the medical staff with one-liners. “Honey, I forgot to duck!” And “I hope there aren’t any Democrats in the operating room”. The chief surgeon assured him, “Mr. President, today we are ALL Republicans.”
Where have such men gone? I believe they are out there. We just have to advance them.