2, 1780: On
this date, Major John Andre, a British intelligence office
captured by American militiamen, was hung as a spy in
Tappan, New York. He
was found to be carrying papers hidden in his boot
concerning the surrender of West Point, an American fort, to
the British. Uncovered
in the investigation was the disturbing information that
Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, the American commander of
the fort, had arranged West Point’s surrender.
A courageous and brilliant leader early in the
Revolutionary War, Arnold had become disenchanted with the
cause of American freedom.
It is conjectured that his wife, a loyalist named
Margaret Shippen, whom he met in Philadelphia after the
battles at Saratoga, influenced his decision.
On September 21, he agreed to surrender West Point to
the British in exchange for 20,000 pounds.
Upon hearing of Major Andre’s capture, however,
Arnold fled to a British warship anchored on the Hudson
River, and for the remainder of the Revolution, served as a
general in the British army.
On the same day he fled, he wrote to General George
Washington begging mercy for Margaret.
Concerned for the safety of a lady, Washington
gallantly provided an escort for Mrs. Arnold.
Almost immediately, and since that time, the name
Benedict Arnold has become synonymous with traitor to
days after the discovery of his treason, the name of West
Point’s Fort Arnold was changed to Fort Clinton.
Today’s visitor to the military academy at West
Point will find in the Old Cadet Chapel a plaque
representing each of America’s 36 Revolutionary War
Generals; the one representing Benedict Arnold reads only
“Major General, Born 1740.”
In 1938, when a memorial to the American Generals
that fought at the Battles of Saratoga (Sept. 19 and Oct. 7,
1777) was unveiled, the inclusion of Benedict Arnold’s
name caused such controversy that the plaque was removed.
But history being history, and the fact that General
Arnold as second-in-command rallied his troops to victory at
the 2nd Battle of Saratoga, that banished plaque
has since been restored along with further information: a
portrait of Arnold in his British Redcoat uniform and
pictures of the London church housing his grave.
That new memorial at Saratoga, which one might say
“tells the rest of the story,” is probably the only
place on federal land where the name Benedict Arnold is
7, 1777: Fighting
is raging between the British and the Americans at the
Revolutionary War’s Second
Battle of Saratoga. An
American victory seems likely, but British Brigadier General
Simon Fraser rallies his men.
Under his direction, the British side takes on more
strength; fighting with more courage.
On the American side, Major General Benedict Arnold,
second-in-command, is attempting to do the same thing – rally his men.
He clearly sees the results of General Fraser’s
courageous leadership, and realizes something must quickly
be done. General
Arnold seeks out Colonel Daniel Morgan, commander of a group
of frontier riflemen. “Colonel
Morgan,” Arnold calls out, “That man on the gray horse
is a host in himself and must be disposed of.”
Morgan quickly turns to Timothy Murphy, one of his
Murphy climbs a nearby tree, braces his flintlock
longrifle on a branch, and fires at the British general.
His first two shots miss, but the third shot mortally
wounds General Fraser. As
word spreads down the British line that the general has
fallen, troops lose their newly found courage, the line
crumbles, and soldiers begin running for the trees.
Ten days later, with his army completely surrounded
by American forces, General James Burgoyne is forced to
surrender his entire British army.
It is this victory that finally influences the French
to provide open military support for the teetering, yet
improving, American cause.
20, 1780: The
Historical Footnote for October 7th describes the
sharpshooting of Timothy Murphy at the 1777 Battle of
years later we find Timothy Murphy stationed with New York
militia at Middle Fort near Albany.
The fort is under siege by a combined force of
British and Indians. Ammunition
is running low and the defenders, including Murphy’s wife,
Peggy, are fashioning spears for a desperate last-ditch
commander of Middle Fort, “weak-kneed” regular army
Major Melancthon Woolsey is considering surrender.
This does not fit well with Murphy’s frontier
ideals and as British negotiators approach the fort under a
flag of truce, he aims his longrifle over the palisade and
fires a shot over their heads.
The negotiators scurry for cover and Major Woolsey
angrily threatens to place Murphy under arrest.
In support of Murphy, other militiamen along with
regular officers change Woolsey’s mind.
Woolsey does not arrest Murphy, but does order a
white surrender flag raised over the fort.
Murphy responds by threatening to summarily shoot any
man who attempts to carry out such an order.
Major Woolsey, realizing that the validity of his
command has been compromised, turns over leadership to
turn, the British realize that taking Middle Fort will prove
too costly and retire back to Canada.
1 – 2, 1985: On
this date, the Cheat River in West Virginia flowed over its
banks wiping out some 30 bridges including a massive iron
trestle on the B & O Railroad’s main line.
However, the 150-year-old covered bridge leading into
suffered only minor damage – a testimony to its structural
, which was the site of the Civil War’s first land battle,
was inundated under 35 feet of flowing water.
When the water receded, two items that required
special attention were the “Mummies of the Insane” –
’s strangest roadside curiosities.
In 1888, amateur scientist Graham Hamrick obtained
two female corpses from the
for the Insane. He
then proceeded to mummify the remains with his homemade,
patented embalming potion.
He had been practicing on vegetables, snakes, and the
head of a man he had somehow obtained and kept in a jar.
His intention was to “unlock the secrets of the
say the two mummies, which can be viewed at a local museum,
look like they are made of beef jerky.
The flood did them little good, and they were laid
out on the Post Office lawn to dry.
The moisture covered them with a green fungus and
prompted a disturbing hair-like growth.
But, “a man secured some kind of a mixture that
would get the green mold off them and also the hairs…”
And, today air-wicks are kept in the glass-topped
coffins to help “stave off the aromas of time.”
If you are ever in the area, be sure to drop by and
20, 1868: Often what
we learn of life in earlier times comes from surviving
letters and journals – they are like time capsules that
open to reveal life’s realities.
Just as often those writings are not from well-known
historic figures, but rather from normal folks who lived
normal lives and in some cases may even have totally
disappeared amid the fog of years.
One such person was Emil Kuhn, a German emigrant who
came to America in 1867.
Four letters he wrote to his mother were discovered
at Germany’s Ruhr University.
In the following quote, he tells his mother about the
recent American election:
probably learned from the newspapers that recently a new
president, General Grant, was elected.
At the same time it was voted on whether the negroes,
who have been free since the end of the war, should also
have the right to be citizens of the United States, that is,
to be allowed to vote. In
our state, Missouri, the vote was overwhelmingly against
this, whereas other northern states voted to give negroes
this right. Missouri
belongs to the former slave states and here it will probably
take a good long time for blacks to be granted the same
rights as whites. – I would not be writing true opinion if
I were to say that I was not quite in agreement with that,
in spite of the liberal views that I hold.
The negro is now free, may he then use time and
opportunity to educate himself and his children.
Then, when he once understands what suffrage is, when
he is self-aware and entirely free of the filth in which
slavery kept him imprisoned, then may he be given full
rights of citizenship. But
we are not that far yet and even if there are a few among
the blacks who are not entirely uneducated, these are merely
“Weisse Raben” was a proverbial German expression
referring to something / anything very rare – rare as a
white (albino) raven.
This is the birthday of John
F. Kennedy Junior, the son of President John F.
Kennedy. On the
occasion of his third birthday, “John
John,” as he is affectionately called, watches with
the world as his father, the assassinated 35th
President of the United States, is laid to rest next to a
flickering Eternal Flame in Arlington National Cemetery.
Anyone alive today, who watched that sad affair in
1963, will remember the gray weeping day; the slow dirge of
drums; the flag-draped, horse-drawn caisson that also had
carried the body of Abraham Lincoln; the led, riderless
horse with empty boots turned backwards in the stirrups, and
the brave little boy who stepped out to salute his
father’s casket. Sadly,
as we all are well aware, in July 1999, John John joined his
father in a too-early death.
2, 1859: On
this date in the public square at Charlestown, Virginia,
abolitionist firebrand John Brown is hung for his raid on
the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.
Fearing that someone or some force might attempt to
free Brown, the gallows were surrounded by 1500 troops, and
public admittance to the hanging was severely restricted.
However, those who came wanted to see Brown die, not
to release him. In
the crowd was one man who would eventually cause the nation
far more pain and grief than Brown.
It was John Wilkes Booth, the future assassin of
President Abraham Lincoln.
He said of Brown, "I looked at the traitor and
terrorizer with unlimited, undeniable contempt."
It gives pause to consider how history has treated
these two men. Booth,
justifiably is remembered as an evil man.
Brown has been somewhat glossed over, possibly
trading his crimes for the perceived higher moral standard
of his beliefs. Yet
both men had blood on their hands.
Brown and his followers killed in both “Bloody
Kansas” and at Harper’s Ferry.
He was guilty of murder and treason and there was no
doubt that he deserved the gallows.
Brown’s prophecy, however, was profoundly correct.
In his cell, he left the following note:
John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this
guilty land will never be purged away, but with Blood. I
had...vainly flattered myself that without very much
bloodshed, it might be done." -- John Brown.
7, 1941: When
the Japanese bombed Pearl
Harbor, not everyone initially understood what was
people of Honolulu were accustomed to noisy Navy drills.
Around 9:30 a.m., Toy Tamanaha, a feisty flyweight
boxer walked down Fort Street to the Pacific Café for
could hear gunfire, but the Navy was always shooting at
in the café said the war had started, and that all the
carpenters had been called to their jobs.
Although Toy was unconvinced, he advised his friend
Johnny Kawakami, who was a carpenter, to get going.
Toy, however, decided he would go to the Cherry
Blossom Sweet Shop on Kukui Street for a popsicle.
As he stepped inside, a blinding explosion hurled him
back onto the street. He
heard yells for help, and realized that his left leg was
remembered thinking: Maybe
I only lost one leg. He
had, however, lost both of them.
Just before he dropped into unconsciousness, he heard
a friend say, “Toy, you’ll be all right.”
Toy and the Cherry Blossom Sweet Shop were not alone
that Sunday morning. Explosions
occurred all over Honolulu.
On the corner of Judd and Tholena Streets four Navy
Yard workers were killed when their ’37 Packard was blown
to bits. That
same explosion killed a 13-year-old girl sitting on her
front porch. For
years the people of Honolulu thought the explosions had been
Japanese bombs. In
actuality, all but one had been American Navy shells
initially fired at attacking Japanese planes – after-all,
if they didn’t hit a plane, the shells had to eventually
23, 1823: There
are probably few children in America, as well as their
parents, who of course, were also once children, which have
not heard the following lines:
night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
of that period not only provided news, advertisements, and
public notices, but they often included articles of general
interest and poetry. Advertisements
sometimes were even on the front page where readers were
sure to see them. On
page 3 of the December 23rd edition of the Troy
Sentinel, published in
Troy, New York, between an article on the “taking of
honey” and a marriage announcement, was an item entitled, Account
of a Visit From St. Nicholas, which we know today as Twas
the Night Before Christmas.
It was the first time the poem was published, and
it was done so anonymously.
The following is the start of the paper’s
introduction to the poem:
know not to whom we are indebted for the following
description of that unwearied patron of children – that
homely, but delightful personification of parental kindness
– Sante Claus, his costume and his equipage, as he goes
about visiting the fire-sides of this happy land, laden with
Christmas bounties; but, from whomsoever it may have come,
we give thanks for it.
either title; Account
of a Visit From St. Nicholas or Twas
the Night Before Christmas, the author was Clement
Clarke Moore (1779-1863), and the last line of his beloved
poem will stand forever as one of the best of Christmas
to all, and to all a good night.