The Electoral College

Today in History, January 7, 1789:

The states first elected their Electoral College electors, who would elect George Washington as the first President.

The Electoral College was established so that less populated states would not be left without a say in the choice of the Chief Executive.

If the President was elected by popular vote, the states with the highest population would always made the decision. This was of great concern to the more rural, less populated states. The same holds true today. During Presidential campaigns, the segments of the country not on a coast truly would be “flyover” country. No candidate would have a need to campaign there, disenfranchising vast segments of our citizens.

The system has been tested several times throughout our history, and surely will be again.

Rawhide Down!!

Today in History, March 30, 1981:

“I hope you’re all Republicans”. President Ronald Reagan quipped to the medical team preparing to operate on him at George Washington University Hospital after he had been shot. “Today, sir, we all are.” ”

“Ronny” was leaving the D.C. Hilton where he had given a speech to Union members when he, a Secret Service agent, a D.C. Police Officer, and Press Secretary James Brady were shot by a man attempting to impress Jodie Foster.

Reagan showed his usual good form and humor in the hospital. When he awoke, a nurse was holding his hand; he looked up and asked, “Does Nancy know about us?” When Nancy arrived, he commented, “Honey, I forgot to duck” (quoting Jack Dempsey). While waiting for surgery, he stated, “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia” (W.C. Fields quote). Within two weeks the President was back at work.

I’m glad we were allowed to have his honor, humor, positive attitude and leadership as long as we did.

Cherry Blossoms

Today in History, March 27, 1912:

First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese Ambassador, Viscountess Chinda, plant two Cherry Blossom trees along the Potomac near the Jefferson Memorial.

They were part of 3,020 Cherry Blossom trees given to the US by the Japanese to be planted in DC. The city of Tokyo had actually given 2,000 trees in 1910, but they were diseased by the time they reached the US and could not be used.

A private Japanese citizen then paid to have the 3,020 trees sent in their place. The beautiful trees bloom each Spring, and are the subject of festivals.

The trees came from a famous collection in Tokyo, which was mostly destroyed during bombing in WWII. After the war, the US sent cuttings from DC’s trees to replenish the Tokyo collection from whence they came.

Naval Satellite Communication

Today in History, January 28: 1960 – US Navy Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke uses the first satellite communications system, developed by the Naval Research Laboratory, to send a secure radio message from Washington DC the Commander of the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. The satellite? The moon.

A system had been developed to bounce high frequency radio waves off of the moon, creating a stable world wide communications system for the Navy. It would be used until the late sixties when man made satellites were in place.

Evacuation Day

Today in History, November 25: 1783 –

After seven years of occupation, the last British troops depart New York City, three months after the Treaty of Paris was signed ending the American Revolutionary War.

At the outset of the war Gen. George Washington had wanted to fight to keep NYC, but after losing tactically to British forces, had to flee with his army in the dark of night. NY would remain in British hands throughout the war.

After the last British troops left, Gen. Washington entered the city to great fanfare from its citizens.

He would later be inaugurated as the first President in the city that would become the nation’s first capitol.

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.

Ernie Shore Runs the Table

Today in History, June 23: 1917 – “A perfect game”, or technically a no-hitter for Ernie Shore of the Boston Red Sox. What an exciting game it must have been!

The Red Sox faced off against the Washington Senators that day at Fenway Park. Shore wasn’t supposed to pitch, Babe Ruth was pitching. One Senator managed a run to base before Ruth’s famous temper got him into a shouting match with Umpire Brick Owens. Both refused to back down, and Owens threw Ruth out of the game. Ruth punched the umpire before being removed from the field. 

An exciting game already, right?  Now Ernie Shore was brought in to pitch. He hadn’t had much of a warm-up, having expected to be a spectator. 

With a new pitcher in the game, the base runner attempted to steal…but Ernie quickly “threw” him out. 

Shore then proceeded to deny the remaining 26 Senators a single run to base. The Red Sox were victorious, 4-0.  It was considered a “perfect game” for years, eventually officially changed to a no-hitter since Shore didn’t pitch to that first batter. 

Ernie Shore would miss the 1918 season because he signed up to go “Over There” during WWI. 

After finishing his Baseball career with the Yankees, Shore would serve for several years as the Sheriff of Forsyth County, North Carolina. 

Two Westerners, President and Lt. General

Today in History, March 10: 1864 – President Lincoln signs documents promoting Ulysses S. Grant to the rank of Lieutenant General. Grant was only the second person to hold the rank, the first having been George Washington. Winfield Scott had held the rank in the interim, but only as a “brevet” or temporary rank. Lincoln wanted his commanding general to have a rank above his other generals for leadership purposes. Grant would answer only to the President. 

Lincoln had difficulties with several Generals prior to Grant being appointed as the commander of all the Union Armies. The two communicated and worked very well together. Perhaps because they were both westerners from Illinois and understood each other. Certainly because Grant carried out Lincoln’s wishes to pursue Confederate Armies with vigor.