JULY 16 - JULY 22
Learn Our History Today: On July 16, 1779, during the American Revolution, the strategic Hudson River fortification known as Stony Point was assaulted by Americans under the command of General Anthony Wayne. Following
France’s entry into the Revolutionary War on the American side, the British were forced to change their strategy. They decided to hunker down around the New York City area, and from there launch small raids and expeditions with the purpose of drawing George Washington’s troops into a fight. Washington had positioned his troops in various locations around New York City but would not engage the British in a large and costly battle.
In May of 1779, the British launched a raid north along the Hudson River and captured the strategic location known as Stony Point. This fortification was critical to controlling the Hudson Highlands and Washington decided he could not leave it in British hands. Choosing from his commanders, Washington selected the daring and proven General Anthony Wayne, who commanded the Continental Corps of Light Infantry. These elite and swift moving soldiers would carry out the assault on Stony Point. The attack began just after midnight, with two columns of men moving around the flanks and one column moving against the British front as a diversion. With the exception of those engaging the British front, the men were instructed to keep their muskets unloaded and use bayonets only, as their objective was to keep the attention on themselves.
The assault went exactly as planned with both columns storming over the British ramparts almost simultaneously. General Wayne was at the head of his men, and he was hit in the head during the fighting. The wound appeared to be fatal, but in reality, it was only a very painful graze wound. His head bleeding heavily, Wayne yelled out to his advancing troops, “Forward, my brave fellows, Forward!” and then called his aides to his side saying, “Carry me into the fort, if I am to die, I want to die at the head of the column.” Wayne would survive the battle and serve throughout the rest of the Revolutionary War and the Indian Wars of the Old Northwest. Overall, the assault was a major success, with Stony Point being taken in just 30 minutes. In addition, the fight proved to be one of the last major battles in the Northern Theater, and it was a major morale booster for American troops.
Also, on this day in U.S. history:
1790: Congress names the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, the permanent capital of the United States.
1957: US Marine Major John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, sets a transcontinental speed record of 3:28:08.
1969: The Apollo 11 is launched, carrying the first men to land on the Moon.
Learn Our History Today: On July 17, 1945, the leaders of the three major Allied powers of World War II met at Potsdam, Germany. Many issues were discussed, including the administration of Germany following its defeat, the fighting in
the Pacific, the occupation of Austria, the future of Eastern European nations occupied by the Soviet Union, the borders of Poland following the war, and war reparations. In addition, this conference differed greatly from all previous meetings between the commanders of the Allied nations. Each nation was suspicious of the others, and each country was only trying to better themselves for the future now that World War II beginning to wind down.
The suspicions swiftly gave way to disputes in which the Soviet Union refused to negotiate the future of the Eastern European nations under Soviet control, and also demanded that Poland’s border extend farther to the west into German territory. This would thereby give Poland a zone of occupied Germany, something which had not been agreed upon at the earlier Yalta Conference in February 1945. In the end, the occupation zones set forward by the Yalta Conference would prevail, giving Great Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union each a part of Germany or Austria. Also, the conference at Potsdam formed a council of representatives from the four major powers to decide the fate of Austria and Germany as countries. These men were to pursue what was known as the five D’s: demilitarization, denazification, decentralization, deindustrialization, and democratization.
Also, on this day in U.S. history:
1861: Congress approves the use of paper money.
1955: The Disneyland theme park opened on 160 acres of land south of Los Angeles, CA.
1980: Ronald Reagan formally accepts the Republican nomination for president.
Learn Our History Today: On July 18, 1863, during the Civil War, the African American 54th Massachusetts regiment led an attack on the coastal fortification of Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina. One of the first
regiments of African Americans organized during the Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts was authorized to be formed in March 1863 soon after the Emancipation Proclamation made it legal for African Americans to serve in January of the same year. John Andrew, the Governor of Massachusetts and an ardent abolitionist, issued the call for soldiers and they came from as far away as the Caribbean to enlist.
The commander was a young Bostonian named Robert Gould Shaw, who had dropped out of Harvard to serve in the Union Army and had seen action at Antietam. All officers of the regiment were ordered to be white, and 37 others came along with Shaw. The regiment trained near Boston, and they received constant support from the abolitionist community there, including donations of clothing, equipment, and a battle flag. By the time the over 1,000 men of the regiment left Boston in May 1863, they were well trained and in high spirits. The 54th was sent to South Carolina where it participated in several skirmishes and raids on Confederate held towns. On July 18, it would face a much tougher task.
Guarding the approach to Charleston Harbor was the 30-foot-high Fort Wagner, and the 54th was to be the lead regiment in a head on attack on the fortification. The attack commenced at 7:45 p.m. with the 54th Massachusetts and other Union regiments marching 1,200 yards across open sand to the fort. A torrent of bullets rained down on the Union men as they advanced, and many soldiers fell. The Union troops were able to breach the fort’s defenses at two points, but their numbers were too small to take the fort. There were over 1,500 Union casualties that day, including the 54th’s commander Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. The 54th itself lost nearly half its strength, while the Confederates suffered a mere 222 men lost in the fight. In the remaining two years of the Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts would continue to distinguish itself, fighting valiantly in many more engagements.
Also, on this day in U.S. history:
1864: President Abraham Lincoln asks for 500,000 Americans to volunteer for the military.
1921: MLB’s Babe Ruth achieves 139 home runs and becomes the all-time home run leader.
1968: The Intel Corporation is founded in Santa Clara, California.
Learn Our History Today: On July 19, 1848, the first ever women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. The brainchild of Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as well as others, the Seneca Falls
Convention was billed as a discussion on the social, political, and religious rights of women everywhere. Both Mott and Stanton started out as abolitionists fighting for an end to slavery, and they met while attending what was called the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. Unfortunately, women were barred from the actual floor of the convention, and Mott and Stanton shared a common disgust at this.
Working together from that point on, by 1848 the two women knew they wanted to put together a large conference on the issue of women’s rights. Additionally, Stanton came up with a document similar in nature to the Declaration of Independence. It was entitled “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances,” and she intended to read it before the assembled convention. The document talked about many of the injustices being leveled against women, and it called on women everywhere to band together and fight for their rights, which the document stated were God-given. Day one of the convention, July 19, was a day in which only women were allowed to attend, and more than 200 showed up. Day two allowed men to attend as well, and over forty did, including former slave and famous orator Frederick Douglass.
At this point Stanton’s declaration was put before the convention and debated over. Everyone agreed on the resolution, except for one key phrase, one which pushed for women to be allowed the right to vote. Even Lucretia Mott was not initially in favor, thinking it too radical. Eventually it was Frederick Douglass who seemed to win a majority over to Stanton’s side. Speaking with his trademark eloquence, he stated that it was his belief that the world would be a better place if women could vote, and that he, as an African American, would not want to accept the right to vote himself if women could not. In the end a sizeable majority, including Lucretia Mott, signed the declaration. From this point on, women’s rights conventions were held annually, and the movement slowly but surely gained steam. The struggle for rights and suffrage would continue for many years to come. Finally, women would eventually get the right to vote in 1920.
Also, on this day in U.S. history:
1867: Despite President Andrew Johnson’s veto, congress passes the 3rd Reconstruction Act.
1954: Elvis Presley's first single "That's All Right" is released.
1980: The U.S. leads a 66-nation boycott of the XXII Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia.
Learn Our History Today: On July 20, 1969, American astronauts from the spaceship Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Eight years earlier, America was trailing behind the Soviet Union when it came to space exploration. President John
F. Kennedy stated before a joint session of Congress in May 1961 that America needed to commit itself to putting a man on the moon before the decade was out. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, otherwise known as NASA, began feverish work on America’s Space program. Despite Setbacks in 1967, in which three astronauts were killed in an accidental launch pad fire, by 1968 Apollo 7 had completed a successful orbit of the earth. They also tested several new systems crucial to a future moon landing.
By July 1969, NASA was ready to attempt a moon landing and the Astronauts of Apollo 11 were the men who would do it. Taking off on July 16, they travelled 240,000 miles before beginning an orbit of the moon on July 19. The next day, Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, in a detachable lunar module called the Eagle, touched down at 4:18 p.m. in the Sea of Tranquility. They immediately transmitted back to the control center in the message, "The Eagle has landed." Later that night, at 10:39 Armstrong opened the hatch of the module and began lumbering down the ladder of the module. Then, with a television camera watching, he took