1 to 4, 1913: Virtually
all Americans, as well as many educated people throughout
the world, know what happened around the Pennsylvania town
of Gettysburg during July 1 to 3, 1863.
Some 160,000 men of the two most prominent American
Civil War armies engaged in some of the most savage
fighting of the war. Some
historians have arguably labeled the Union victory at
Gettysburg as the turning point of the Civil War.
Certainly that week, which included not only the
loss at Gettysburg, but also the fall of Vicksburg, was
disastrous to the Confederacy.
Still, the war continued for two more bloody years.
On these dates, some 47,000 Union Civil War
veterans joined with some 9,000 Confederate veterans in a
grand reunion on the sacred ground of the Gettysburg
Military Park. The
administration of the Military Park Association, a reunion
commission appointed by the state of Pennsylvania, the
veterans association of the Grand Army of the Republic,
and the United Confederate Veterans orchestrated the
political resentments were to be laid aside and the
intention of the reunion was to stress the personal
courage of the soldiers who fought upon that ground,
national reconciliation that had grown since 1865, and the
laying of the cornerstone for a national Peace Memorial
located within the park.
Emotional reunions between members of regiments,
brigades and divisions that participated in the battle
were covered in the national press, and on July 3rd
around 150 survivors of the original Picket’s Charge
walked across the fields from the Confederate positions on
Seminary Ridge to the Union line on Cemetery Ridge.
They were led by a band playing Dixie and were met
with cheers and handshakes at the “High Water Mark” by
several hundred Union veterans of the Philadelphia Brigade
all then joined in the singing of “My Country ‘Tis of
next day, July 4, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson
highlighted the theme of national reconciliation by laying
the cornerstone of the Peace Memorial.
In 1938 the Peace Memorial, which included an
eternal flame, was dedicated by President Franklin D.
War II, politics (the 1970’s oil shortage), and the
Eternal Flame on John F. Kennedy’s grave all adversely
affected the Peace Memorial’s “eternal” gas flame.
At one point it was replaced by a light bulb.
But, for the 50th rededication of the
Peace Memorial in 1988, the gas flame was restored.
For those who visit the battlefield, the Peace
Memorial with its Eternal Flame is located NW of town near
the Mummasburg Road in the general area of the 1st
23, 1945: The
“battle flag” of a submarine was generally an informal
affair hand-crafted by the crew to designate victories on
their war patrols. The
battle flag of the American WW II submarine, USS Barb, is one of the most unusual.
Not only are there symbols – Japanese flags –
depicting more than 29 enemy vessels (there is also a Nazi
flag symbolizing a German vessel), but at the top of the
flag there is a symbolic Medal of Honor ribbon
representing the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded
Captain Eugene Fluckey, which he received in name of the
submarine and crew during their eleventh war patrol.
At the bottom of the flag is the symbol of a
locomotive and its tender, which represents a Japanese
train the Barb “sank”
on this date. While
searching for targets near Patience Bay off the coast of
Karafuto, Japan, the Barb noted a rail line running along the coast.
Captain Fluckey determined that under the cover of
darkness a shore party could plant explosives to destroy
the rail line, but also seeing frequent trains using the
rail line sparked the idea that possibly the Barb
could nail a train too.
It had to be accomplished, however, without
endangering the lives of the shore party.
The problem was how to detonate an explosive charge
at the moment a train was passing over it.
One of the crewmen, Billy Hatfield, explained that
as a boy he had cracked nuts by placing them on a tie so
that when the rail sagged from the weight of the train it
would crack the nut. “Just
like cracking walnuts,” Hatfield continued, “to
complete the circuit (for the explosive charge’s
detonator) we hook in a microswitch between two ties.
We don’t set it off, the train does.”
It was a brilliant idea!
By midnight the Barb
had approached within 950 yards of the coast, and eight
crewmen, including Billy Hatfield, paddled to the beach.
They made their way to the railway line, but to
their surprise found that what they had believed was a
water tower, was actually an occupied enemy watch tower.
The Japanese sentry, however, was asleep.
Quietly they dug holes for the explosives and the
batteries, covered them with fresh soil, and then Hatfield
attached the switch. At
approximately 1:32 a.m. the Barb
received a flashlight signal indicating the shore
party was returning to the sub.
Thirteen minutes later, well before the shore party
made it back to the sub, one of the Barb’s
lookouts reported a train coming up the tracks.
At 1:45 a.m. the weight of the train set off the
explosive charge blowing pieces of the locomotive over 200
feet in the air. As
explosions continued through the length of the train, the
shore party was picked up, and the Barb
slowly made her way out to deep water with her crew
admiring their work from the submarine’s deck.
The eight sailors from the USS
Barb became the only American servicemen to conduct a
ground combat operation on Japanese “homeland” soil in
World War II.
26, 1903: On
this date, automobile enthusiast Dr. Horatio Nelson
Jackson completed the first coast-to-coast drive in an
a time when America had only 150 miles of paved road, he
bet $50 that he could drive from San Francisco to New York
in 90 days. He
won the bet. The
drive took 63 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes.
To make the drive, Dr. Jackson bought a bright red
Winton touring car. It
had no top, no windshield, a right-hand steering wheel
that tilted forward to allow the driver easier entrance,
and a 2-cylinder, 20-horsepower engine that could race the
vehicle along at 30 mph.
Joined by Sewall Crocker as mechanic and co-driver,
they packed the Winton with tools, extra gas tanks, oil
cans, personal necessities, and tied a spare tire around
the single acetylene-fired headlight.
While cruising through Idaho, he picked up an extra
passenger: a bulldog named “Bud” he bought for $15.
Dr. Jackson commented that Bud was the only one
“who used no profanity” during the trip.
Not subtracting the won $50 wager, Dr. Jackson’s
coast-to-coast bet cost him some $8000.
As that investment included purchasing the car, one
can only wonder with the relative differences in the value
of a dollar and today’s prices, if the same trip today
wouldn’t cost more.
2, 1876: At
age 39, Wild
Bill Hickok is one of the most famous personalities in the
American West. His
reputation has been built upon real deeds, dime novel
stories, his participation on stage with Western showman
and friend Buffalo Bill Cody, and his own knack for
claimed in interviews to have killed “considerably over
a hundred” men.) Tall,
muscular, well-dressed in frock coat and broad-brimmed
hat, with flowing mustache, hair down to his shoulders,
and two ivory-handled Colt Navy revolvers tucked backwards
into a sash, he fully looks the part.
He is the “Prince of Pistoleers.” Yet,
reputation or not, reality catches up with all men, and
Bill is now older, slower, and suffering from poor
the afternoon of this date, he sits down to play poker in
Nuttal and Mann’s Saloon No. 10, Deadwood, Dakota
self-protection he commonly sits with his back to the
however, he picks a different chair.
Whether this is personal oversight, or he is denied
his favorite chair because of his ebbing skills as a
dangerous man, is a matter of question.
Tradition has it that he was denied the chair.
At any rate, it is a fatal error.
Jack McCall, who later claimed to be avenging a
slain brother, edges up behind Hickok and shoots him
through the head. Bill’s
poker hand containing two black aces and two black eights,
has forever since has been dubbed “The Dead Man’s
on the fifth card differs: some sources say it was the
Jack of Diamonds, while others say the fifth card had yet
to be dealt.) Wild
Bill is laid to rest in Deadwood’s
Moriah Cemetery. (Actually
Mt. Moriah is his second resting place, as Deadwood’s
first cemetery was moved due to expansion of the town.)
McCall, who initially gets away with the murder, is
eventually hung in Yankton.
He made the mistake of leaving the Black Hills,
where there was no official legal jurisdiction, for the
federal jurisdiction of Dakota Territory.
In 1903, one of Bill’s friends, Calamity Jane
(Martha Jane Canary-Burke), is by her last request buried
next to him. Possibly
because these two share eternity, they have been
traditionally matched as oddly-paired lovers.
However, one must consider that at the time of his
death, Bill Hickok was married to
, a circus performer he met as Marshal of Abilene, Kansas.
They were married on March 5, 1876 – only 5
months before his death.
Possibly Bill’s true feelings are revealed in the
last letter Agnes received: “Agnes, darling, if such
should be we never meet again, while firing my last shot,
I will gently breathe the name of my wife, Agnes, and with
wishes even for my enemies I will make the plunge and try
to swim to the other shore.”
Clearly, despite personal fault or historical
error, James Butler Hickok was a class act.
The story that Bill was holding the so-called
“Dead Man’s Hand” – aces and eights – was
originally authored by Dr. Ellis T. Pierce, who prepared
the body for funeral.
Also, when the fatal shot was fired, the ball
traveled through Wild Bill’s head, exited his right
cheek, and lodged in the wrist of William Massie, a
steamboat captain, who was seated opposite to Bill.
He carried that ball in his wrist for the remainder
of his life and on occasion enjoyed the bragging rights.
So, while Wild Bill Hickok is buried on Mt. Moriah
in Deadwood, the bullet that killed him is buried in St.
22, 1903: Professional
baseball’s National League
was established in 1876 and the
American League played its first season as an equal in
1901. On this
date, Barney Dreyfuss, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates
from 1900 to 1932, wrote a letter to Henry J. Killilea,
president of the Boston Americans saying, "The time
has come for the National League and American League to
organize a World Series. It is my belief that if our clubs
played a series on a best-of-nine basis, we would create
great interest in baseball, in our leagues, and in our
players. I also believe it would be a financial
Boston Americans were given the nickname “Pilgrims” by
sportswriters and fans, but as we all know, eventually
they became the Boston Red Socks.
That first World Series started on October 1, 1903
and as is continued today, the games were played at two
“home” stadiums: Huntington Avenue
in Boston and Exposition Park in Pittsburgh.
For that first game, Boston rolled out its big
pitching weapon, 28-game winner Cy Young, but the Pirates
jumped on him immediately.
After two quick outs, a combination of Pirate
hitting and Boston errors put Pittsburg ahead 4 to zip,
and the Americans never recovered: they lost that first
game 7 to 3. The
series was to go eight games, and although the
Pirates won three of the first four games, the Boston
Americans won the last four giving the first World Series
to Boston. Barney
Dreyfuss’ team may have lost, but his prediction of the
World Series being a financial success was correct.
In an era before both radio and TV, local fans
flocked to the games.
Attendance ranged from 7,455 fans in the last game
to 18,801 in the third game – the average crowd being
first World Series game drew 16,242 fans.
Those were unheard of numbers for a sports event in
those days and they clearly heralded the start of a new
American tradition. The
2015 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the
New York Mets averaged over 40,000 attendees per game,
while the 2012 World Series between the San Francisco
Giants and the Detroit Tigers had a stadium attendance of
over 49,000 per game.
Obviously, stadiums today are much larger than
those in1903, but also, millions of fans around the world
watch the series on TV.
31, 1895: There
can sometimes be found in history little anomalies that
are quite surprising.
For example, did you know that the Union general
that wrote out the articles of surrender for Robert E.
Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court
House was a full-blood American Indian?
His name was Ely S. Parker, and he was General
Ulysses S. Grant’s adjutant.
A Seneca, he was given the birth name of
Hassanoanda (“Leading Name”) and then with the advent
of manhood was renamed Donehogawa (“Keeper of the
Western Door of the Iroquois Loghouse”).
His father was a Seneca chief, a veteran of the War
of 1812, and his mother was Iroquois.
In 1851 he became the head-chief – the great
sachem – of the Six Tribes.
Referred to as the
"Iroquois League" the Six Tribes, or "Six
Nations", comprised the Mohawk,
Although this was a respectable position, it did
him little good in a white world.
Wanting to practice law, he was refused admission
into Harvard University, and was denied the over-all right
to practice law because he was “not a citizen.”
He therefore switched his education to engineering
and earned a degree from Rensselar Polytechnic
met Grant while working on a government project in Galina,
Illinois and they became life-long friends.
When at the outbreak of the Civil War Parker was
again told that his services were unwanted due to his
Indian blood, he sought out his friend, then General
friendship worked, and as a captain, Parker served as an
engineer during the Vicksburg campaign, and from that
point on served as a member of Grant’s staff.
By Appomattox, he had reached the rank of brigadier
the war, Parker told an interesting story about the
Appomattox surrender meeting.
Seeing General Parker at work, General Lee assumed
he was of African-American descent, and was surprised to
see such an individual in such a high position.
When Lee learned Parker was a Native-American, he
reportedly commented that he was pleased to see “one
real American” among the assembly of officers.
Parker said that he replied, “We are all
continued to serve with Grant after the war, but this time
with President Grant as Commissioner of the Bureau of
Indian Affairs. Sadly
however, as most students of history know, the Grant
Administration fell on its nose with corruption and
Parker’s Indian Bureau was fully awash in scandal.
Never recovering any real success, Ely S. Parker
passed away in poverty on this date.
In 1897 his remains were moved from Connecticut to
the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York, where he was
reinterred with tribal members.
1, 1842: Approximately
100 miles north of today’s San Francisco is Fort Ross,
once the California outpost of the Russian American Fur
thirty years, as the Russians drained the coast of otters,
they had been quietly friendly to their Spanish / Mexican
neighbors whose authority they simply did not recognize
north of Yerba Buena (San Francisco.)
There was no army in California to oppose them.
Now the company had ordered Fort Ross to close up
shop and return north to Sitka.
What would they take with them and what would they
leave behind? Personal
possessions could be loaded aboard ship at Bodega Bay, but
there were besides the fort, homes, and out buildings, a
twenty-two ton launch, several boats, forty-nine plows, a
well-stocked granary, hundreds of oxen, cows, sheep,
horses and several cannons.
To whomever the Russians sold these supplies could
be a powerful force in California.
Their first offer was to Mexico, but authorities in
Mexico City thought the Russians were leaving in defeat
and that their California governor would simply walk into
Fort Ross. They
would not buy. Next
the Russians offered everything to a neighbor, Colonel
Mariano Vellejo, but he was only interested in the
offered everything to the Hudson Bay Company for $30,000,
but because HBC could not buy the land, they also refused.
Into the picture stepped Swiss-born John Sutter.
The Russians liked Sutter, he had been their guest
at Fort Ross and had been to Sitka, but he had little
money and could make only a small down payment.
Yet, in California’s great inland valley between
the American River and the Sacramento River, Sutter was
building an empire based on crops and livestock.
They made a deal.
Beginning on this date, Sutter was to make four
payments for Fort Ross and its supplies: the first two at
$5000.00, the other two at $10,000. The
first three payments could be made in crops and goods.
Only the last payment was for cash.
History has its great moments.
Consider the possibilities of this moment.
Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848
igniting the California Gold Rush of 1849.
What if the Russians had stayed a few more years?
What if the Mexicans had purchased the supplies and
cannon of Fort Ross? Would
there have been a Bear Flag Revolt in 1846?
Would it have been successful?
What if the Hudson Bay Company had moved into Fort
Ross establishing British authority in California?
9, 1923: As
the morning fog slowly melts away, the California sun
finds seven United States Navy destroyers wallowing
in the rocks and surf of Point Pedernales.
It is the U. S. Navy's worst peacetime disaster.
The destroyers of Squadron 11 ran aground in fog
shortly after 9:00PM, and during the long confused hours
before dawn 800 lives hung in the balance - nearly
two-dozen sailors died.
The warships were healed over on their side, pushed
into the beach's shallow water, with waves washing over
them. The USS
Young had huge holes torn in her bottom.
Although navigation clearly had lacked that night,
courage did not. Sailors
from the stricken ships worked together running lifelines
between ship and shore.
Men braved heavy seas to swim the ropes between the
ships. A USS
Delphy sailor, James Conway, fell between his rolling
ship and the rocks. His
legs were crushed, and when the ship rolled back he was
whipped at the end of a rope past the spinning propellers
into the raging sea. Another
had his glasses crushed into his eyes.
But, by dawn most of the sailors were on the beach
and people from
were arriving to help.
The officers in command of the USS
Delphy, the lead ship, took full responsibility for
their navigational error.
Although much equipment was salvaged off the seven
destroyers, the ships were a total loss.
Their rusting pieces could be seen in the surf for
Point Pedernales, also called Honda Point, is located
approximately two miles north of Point Arguello west of
the city of Lompoc on today’s Vandenberg Air Force
26, 1820: On
this date, the famous “Longhunter,” Daniel
Boone, quietly dies in his sleep at his Missouri
home. He was
86 years old. Boone
became famous “in-his-own-time” for his role in the
early settlement of
through the opening of the
– also called “Boone’s Trace.”
Yet, when one realizes that Boone did not discover
the Cumberland Gap, was not the first white man to travel
the Wilderness Road, and was convinced by others (John
Finley) to explore
, one may wonder just how he became so famous.
The answer is simple, Boone wrote and published his
adventures, which in turn made him a household name and
folk legend. In
1784, The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon, Formerly a
Hunter; Containing a Narrative of the Wars of
, was published by John Filson to commemorate
Boone’s 50th birthday.
It opens with the following words, “Curiosity is
natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a
powerful influence on our affections…thus we behold
the fact that Boone published such a narrative does not
diminish either his courage or his frontier skills.
The publication may have made him famous beyond
, but within the deep woods of the “Dark and Bloody
Ground” he was already a hero.
It is, of course, that fame that truly counts.
have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused
for several weeks.” Daniel Boone