2, 1792: During the American colonial period, the
original thirteen colonies did not possess any unique
currency of their own.
They relied primarily on trade, barter and the
monetary systems of the European nations that founded
them. So, once
the United States was established as a sovereign power, it
was a stipulation of the Constitution that the nation mint
its own money. On
this date, April 2, 1792, the first Secretary of the
Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, proposed a system of coinage
to Congress. It
provided for ten dollar and one dollar gold coins,
supplemented with silver coins of one dollar denominations
and ten cent denominations, as well as one cent and one
half cent copper coins.
The first mint was established in Philadelphia, and
the first coin struck was the copper one cent piece.
This first ever United States coin carried the date
of 1793. Two
of these coins were recently offered for sale: a virtually
perfect coin – that is worn but totally readable on both
sides – and another that was damaged (bent) and almost
unreadable on one side.
The prices were $13,995 and $2,200 respectfully.
April 14, 1865: On this night,
while attending a play at Ford’s Theater, Abraham
Lincoln, the 16th President of the
United States, was shot by John
Wilkes Booth. During
that long night as Lincoln lay diagonally across a bed in
the Peterson boarding house opposite the theater, doctors
discovered the location of the .44 caliber bullet within
the president’s head by using a metal probe.
It was lodged in his brain behind the left eye.
During an autopsy at the White House the next day,
the bullet was removed.
Today, a visitor to Ford’s Theater enjoys an
official National Historic Site that has been carefully
renovated to its original 1865 appearance.
A basement museum holds memorabilia of that tragic
night: Lincoln’s blood stained suit, the door of the
theater box with its peephole, the hunting knife Booth
used to stab Major Rathbone, the army officer who occupied
the box with the Lincolns, the hoods and ropes used
eventually at the conspirators’ execution, and the .44
Cal. Derringer Booth used to kill Lincoln.
But, there is no bullet.
After the assassination, many of the items
associated with that tragic night were held in storage by
the War department. In
1940, the War Department offered these items, which
included the knife, gun, and bullet, to the Department of
the Interior. However,
although the gun and knife were placed on display in
Ford’s Theater, the bullet was considered improper.
In 1956, the bullet was returned to the Department
of the Army, where it was placed on display in the
National Museum of Health and Medicine.
It can now be viewed there along with fragments of
’s skull and strands of his hair.
April 15, 1865: At exactly
7:22 AM, in the Petersen’s Boarding House across the
street from Ford’s Theater, the 16th
President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, draws his
last mortal breath. Secretary
of War Stanton looks about the room and quietly says;
“Now he belongs to the ages.”
Just after 10:15 the previous night, Henry Safford,
a border at the Petersen House, heard a commotion in the
out the front door, he witnessed the wounded President
being carried from Ford’s Theater.
The crowd seemed in doubt as to where to take him,
so Safford directed them into the rear downstairs bedroom
of the Petersen House.
Because of his height, Lincoln was laid diagonally
across the bed, but it was clear little could be done save
those long, mournful hours, some 90 different people made
their way to the house and its back bedroom to pay their
respects. Guards were placed in the street and upon the
roof tops. Helping
as they could, the Peterson family and some of their
borders retired to the basement.
After his death, Lincoln’s remains were placed in
a temporary flag-wrapped coffin and solemnly returned to
the White House under cavalry escort.
Today, a ticket to tour Ford’s Theater also
allows a visit to three 1st floor rooms of the
Peterson Boarding House.
It is open daily from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Furnished in an 1865 motif, none of the furnishings
are actual to the house or incident.
May 1, 1865: A member of the
Washington DC Metropolitan Police Force and bodyguard to
the President of the United States, John
F. Parker, is charged with neglect of duty.
Part of the actual charge reads, “In
this, that Said Parker was detailed to attend and protect
the President Mr. Lincoln, that while the President was at
Ford’s Theater on the night of the 14 of April last,
Said Parker allowed a man to enter the President’s
private box and Shoot the President.”
During that fatal evening, Parker left his post
to find a better seat, and then went next door to have a
drink in the saloon. On
May 3rd, Parker was tried, but there remain no
transcripts of the case, and the newspapers did not cover
the story. However,
there are existing records that the complaint against
Parker was dismissed on June 2nd.
Amazingly, although Parker left his post at
Ford’s Theater leaving open for Booth the path to the
President’s box, he still worked White House security
after the fact and was even assigned as Mary Todd
Tradition holds that Mary Todd’s dressmaker
overheard the following exchange between Mrs. Lincoln and
you are on guard tonight, on guard in the White House
after helping to murder the President."
Parker defended himself by saying he, "could
never stoop to murder much less to the murder of so good
and great a man as the President. I did wrong, I admit,
and have bitterly repented."
In response, Mary Todd reportedly ordered him away
saying that she would forever hold him responsible for her
17, 1840: For many years, Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet, a
Belgium-born Catholic priest who had migrated to Baltimore
at age 20, provided strong influences to the Flathead
Indians in the Bitterroot Valley of today's Montana.
Through his extensive travels, he was also well
known to many of the other northwestern Native American
began his life in the West when he joined the American Fur
Company's supply caravan to the last Mountain Man
rendezvous in 1840. Near
that site in today's Wyoming, he officiated at probably
the first Catholic Mass in the West (outside of California
and its Mission System). On
this date, May 17, 1840, Father DeSmet wrote:
"We traveled westward over immense plains,
destitute of trees or shrubs, except along the streams,
and broken by deep ravines, where our voyageurs lowered
and raised the carts by means of ropes…often the
thermometer would be as low as 27 in the morning, though
it might rise to 90 by noon."
During the years that Father DeSmet brought the
Gospel to the Native American people, he also introduced
the farming of oats, wheat, and potatoes to
May 29, 1736: Today is the
birthday of one of America’s great Founding Fathers, Patrick
is remembered as a brilliant speaker (“…give me
liberty or give me death”), an influential leader
throughout the American Revolution, and in the
establishment of our Constitution.
He believed in the doctrine of natural rights -
that man is born with certain inalienable rights, and that
personal liberty should “be the direct end of
that belief, Henry as governor of
’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution because it
inadequately protected the rights of the individual
the adoption of the Constitution, he worked for the
addition of the Bill of Rights to guarantee those personal
said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the
government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for
the people to restrain the government.”
The quotes and
writings of Patrick Henry contain a
timeless wisdom. Should
one wonder about the intentions of today’s politicians,
here is a possible suggestion: Sit back and think, and
then read from Patrick Henry.
Ask this question, “Are they as wise as he?”
Guard with jealous attention the
public liberty. Suspect
everyone who approaches that jewel.
Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but
downright force. Whenever
you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.
June 2, 1899: One of the great
Hollywood Westerns is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid staring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
has always had a soft spot for Western bad men, and Newman
played real characters that existed near the turn of the
Cassidy and Harry Longbaugh (Sundance) were part of the
so-called “Wild Bunch” that fed off banks and trains.
Eventually, when it got too hot for them, they fled
the West to ply their trade in
. As was the
Apache war leader Geronimo blamed for every Indian raid in
the Southwest, so too was the Wild Bunch blamed for every
train robbery. The
trademark of a Wild Bunch robbery was no loss of life for
the train crew, no molestation of the passengers, and the
tendency to use too much dynamite on the express car
and/or safe. The
scene in the movie where the train’s express car is
blown to bits is not the product of some screenwriter’s
this date, just outside
, such an explosion turned an express car into junk and
scattered literally thousands of bank notes across the
deaths of Butch Cassidy and Harry Longbaugh in South
America at the hands of the Bolivian Army are disputable.
Details are at best cloudy, and was the date really
1908, 1909 or 1911? As
with some other infamous Western bad men, the deaths of
Butch and Sundance have been much disputed.
Butch’s sister claimed he visited her in 1925.
Sundance reportedly lived for a while in
, died in 1957, and rests today in
15, 1904: New
York City’s East River flows between Manhattan and New
York City with Long Island Sound to the north and Upper
New York Bay to the south.
Approximately even with Central Park, the river
makes a hook-shaped curve, which for years of the city’s
early existence was a dangerous place.
It was laced with islands, rocks, confusing
currents, and was given the well-earned name; Hell Gate.
A New York history says, “In
the gloom of cloudy weather, moving toward late summer
dusk and twilight, the passage was filled with dark
memories and forebodings. Hell Gate is a graveyard for
ships and sailors and passengers, its islands the refuge
of the wayward and unwanted.”
Today the Triborough Bridge crosses the river near
here. On this
date it was the scene of one of New York City’s worst
disasters, but this time Hell Gate itself was not
recently overhauled excursion ferry, General
Slocum, which had a passenger capacity of 3000, was
skippered by 68-year old William van Schaick who had an
unblemished safety record for ferrying literally millions
of passengers. This
day the General Slocum had been chartered by St. Mark’s Lutheran Church to
transport members of the “Little Germany” immigrant
community – mostly women and children - to an annual
picnic at Locust Point on Long Island’s North Shore.
(Located near Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Oyster
Bay.) As the General
Slocum navigated through Hell Gate, fire suddenly
broke out below the bow section and in seconds involved
the entire forward part of the ferry.
Passengers rushed to the rear of the ferry while
winds fanned the flames aft.
Fire eaten decks began to collapse upon helpless
women and children as Captain van Schaick, heroically
staying on station in his flaming wheelhouse, tried to run
the doomed ferry aground.
With his hat and uniform in flames, van Schaick did
succeed in running the ferry aground, but it was precious
little help or hope for 1,021 of the 1,358 passengers.
Many died in the flames while others were swept
away by currents. As
with any such disaster, there were examples of both
courage and cruelty. The
General Slocum had
run aground near a hospital, and while a nurse who
“always wished she could swim” suddenly did learn to
swim and rescued several, a man on a white motor yacht
safely stayed away, watched, and “did not lift a
25, 1876: At
the Battle of the Little Bighorn, George Custer divided
his forces. One
of the sections was led by Major Marcus Reno, who was
ordered to take three companies into the river valley and
attack the south end of the Indian village.
In this effort, Company G was commanded by 1st
Lieutenant Donald McIntosh.
Initially meeting light resistance, Reno ordered
his men to dismount and form a skirmish line, but as
warriors rallied to meet the threat, he retreated into
timber along the river to form a defensive perimeter.
The situation quickly unraveled, and when the
brains of his scout, Bloody Knife, were blown into his
face, Reno lost control.
They retreated back across the river with the
troopers of Company G being some of the last to leave the
never made it. He
was pulled from his horse, killed and mutilated.
Two days later when the relief column came upon the
scene, the bodies in the valley, on Custer’s battle
site, and where Reno made his stand on the hill above the
river, were quickly – and not very completely –
“buried where they fell.”
In May 1877, Lt. General Philip Sheridan ordered
his brother, Lt. Col. Michael Sheridan to recover the
bodies of the officers.
He was escorted by Company I of the 7th
Cavalry, and in early July the detachment arrived on the
scattered around the original individual burial sites were
gathered, reinterred, and marked with cedar stakes.
The bones of officers were placed in coffins: those
on Custer Hill on July 3rd, and those in the
valley and on Reno Hill on July 4th.
Only Lt. John J. Crittenden remained “buried
where he fell” as directed by his father.
The remains of McIntosh were re-interred at Fort
Leavenworth National Cemetery, but in 1909 they were again
disinterred and moved to Section I at Arlington National
May 12, 1910, his widow, Mary, joined him there. Buried
nearby is Francis M. Gibson; McIntosh’s brother-in-law,
who as a member of the defensive position on Reno Hill
survived the Little Big Horn.
In June 1995, a finger bone with a ring was
discovered in the Reno valley fight area near McIntosh’s
memorial stone. The
ring, which was inscribed with McIntosh’s initials,
those of his wife, and the date of their marriage was thus
identified as McIntosh’s wedding band.
Of course, the finger bone was also his.