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George Washington arrives at the banks of the Delaware

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/washington-arrives-at-the-banks-of-the-delaware

In a letter dated December 3, 1776, General George Washington writes to Congress from his headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey, to report that he had transported much of the Continental Army’s stores and baggage across the Delaware River to Pennsylvania. His famous crossing of the Delaware would come less than one month later. 

In his letter, Washington wrote, “Immediately on my arrival here, I ordered the removal of all the military and other stores and baggage over the Delaware, a great quantity are already got over, and as soon as the boats come up from Philadelphia, we shall load them, by which means I hope to have every thing secured this night and tomorrow if we are not disturbed.”

Washington then made the critical strategic move of confiscating and burning all the boats along the Delaware to prevent British troops from pursuing his beleaguered forces across the river. The British strategy of chasing Washington across New Jersey, rather than capturing his entire army in Manhattan, seemed to be a stroke of genius. As New Jersey was devastated at the hands of British forces and Washington’s men cowered in Pennsylvania, even staunch Patriots, including Thomas Jefferson, considered surrender to the crown.

Also on this day, General Washington received a letter dated November 30 from his second-in-command, General Charles Lee, reporting that he was about to cross into New York near Peekskill on this day in 1776. In an apt reflection of the state of the American fortunes, the British captured General Lee nine days later in New Jersey. Richard Stockton, a leading New Jersey patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was also in British custody and was forced to swear an oath of allegiance to the British king along with thousands of his New Jersey neighbors.

CHECK OUT: George Washington: An Interactive Map of His Key Military Battles 

Coffee rationing begins

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/coffee-rationing-begins

On November 29, 1942, coffee joins the list of items rationed in the United States. Despite record coffee production in Latin American countries, the growing demand for the bean from both military and civilian sources, and the demands placed on shipping, which was needed for other purposes, required the limiting of its availability.

Scarcity or shortages were rarely the reason for rationing during the war. Rationing was generally employed for two reasons: (1) to guarantee a fair distribution of resources and foodstuffs to all citizens; and (2) to give priority to military use for certain raw materials, given the present emergency.

At first, limiting the use of certain products was voluntary. For example, President Roosevelt launched “scrap drives” to scare up throwaway rubber-old garden hoses, tires, bathing caps, etc.–in light of the Japanese capture of the Dutch East Indies, a source of rubber for the United States. Collections were then redeemed at gas stations for a penny a pound. Patriotism and the desire to aid the war effort were enough in the early days of the war.

READ MORE: Food Rationing in Wartime America

But as U.S. shipping, including oil tankers, became increasingly vulnerable to German U-boat attacks, gas became the first resource to be rationed. Starting in May 1942, in 17 eastern states, car owners were restricted to three gallons of gas a week. By the end of the year, gas rationing extended to the rest of the country, requiring drivers to paste ration stamps onto the windshields of their cars. Butter was another item rationed, as supplies were reserved for military breakfasts. Along with coffee, the sugar and milk that went with it were also limited. All together, about one-third of all food commonly consumed by civilians was rationed at one time or another during the war. The black market, an underground source of rationed goods at prices higher than the ceilings set by the Office of Price Administration, was a supply source for those Americans with the disposable incomes needed to pay the inflated prices.

Some items came off the rationing list early; coffee was released as early as July 1943, but sugar was rationed until June 1947.

READ MORE: How Soldier’s Rations Went From Live Hogs to Indestructible MREs

Sand Creek massacre

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/sand-creek-massacre

On November 29, 1864, peaceful band of Southern Cheyenne and Arapahoe Native Americans are massacred by Colonel John Chivington’s Colorado volunteers at Sand Creek, Colorado.

The causes of the Sand Creek massacre were rooted in the long conflict for control of the Great Plains of eastern Colorado. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 guaranteed ownership of the area north of the Arkansas River to the Nebraska border to the Cheyenne and Arapahoe. However, by the end of the decade, waves of Euro-American miners flooded across the region in search of gold in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, placing extreme pressure on the resources of the arid plains.By 1861, tensions between new settlers and Native Americans were rising. 

READ MORE: Broken Treaties With Native American Tribes: A Timeline

On February 8 of that year, a Cheyenne delegation, headed by Chief Black Kettle, along with some Arapahoe leaders, accepted a new settlement with the Federal government. The Native Americans ceded most of their land but secured a 600-square mile reservation and annuity payments. The delegation reasoned that continued hostilities would jeopardize their bargaining power. In the decentralized political world of the tribes, Black Kettle and his fellow delegates represented only part of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes. Many did not accept this new agreement, called the Treaty of Fort Wise.

The new reservation and Federal payments proved unable to sustain the tribes. During the Civil War, tensions again rose and sporadic violence broke out between Anglos and Native Americans. In June 1864, John Evans, governor of the territory of Colorado, attempted to isolate recalcitrant Native Americans by inviting “friendly Indians” to camp near military forts and receive provisions and protection. He also called for volunteers to fill the military void left when most of the regular army troops in Colorado were sent to other areas during the Civil War. 

In August 1864, Evans met with Black Kettle and several other chiefs to forge a new peace, and all parties left satisfied. Black Kettle moved his band to Fort Lyon, Colorado, where the commanding officer encouraged him to hunt near Sand Creek. In what can only be considered an act of treachery, Chivington moved his troops to the plains, and on November 29, they attacked the unsuspecting Native Americans, scattering men, women, and children and hunting them down. The casualties reflect the one-sided nature of the fight. Nine of Chivington’s men were killed; 148 of Black Kettle’s followers were slaughtered, more than half of them women and children. The Colorado volunteers returned and killed the wounded, mutilated the bodies, and set fire to the village.

The atrocities committed by the soldiers were initially praised, but then condemned as the circumstances of the massacre emerged. Chivington resigned from the military and aborted his budding political career. Black Kettle survived and continued his peace efforts. In 1865, his followers accepted a new reservation in Indian Territory.

READ MORE: Native American History Timeline 

President Eisenhower goes to Korea

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/eisenhower-goes-to-korea

Making good on his most dramatic presidential campaign promise, newly elected Dwight D. Eisenhower goes to Korea to see whether he can find the key to ending the bitter and frustrating Korean War.

During the presidential campaign of 1952, Republican candidate Eisenhower was critical of the Truman administration’s foreign policy, particularly its inability to bring an end to the conflict in Korea. President Truman challenged Eisenhower on October 24 to come up with an alternate policy. Eisenhower responded with the startling announcement that if he were elected, he would personally go to Korea to get a firsthand view of the situation. The promise boosted Eisenhower’s popularity and he handily defeated Democratic candidate Adlai E. Stevenson.

Shortly after his election, Eisenhower fulfilled his campaign pledge, though he was not very specific about exactly what he hoped to accomplish. After a short stay he returned to the United States, yet remained mum about his plans concerning the Korean War. After taking office, however, Eisenhower adopted a get-tough policy toward the communists in Korea. He suggested that he would “unleash” the Nationalist Chinese forces on Taiwan against communist China, and he sent only slightly veiled messages that he would use any force necessary (including the use of nuclear weapons) to bring the war to an end unless peace negotiations began to move forward. The Chinese, exhausted by more than two years of war, finally agreed to terms and an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. 

The United States suffered over 50,000 casualties in this “forgotten war,” and spent nearly $70 billion. The most frustrating war in U.S. history had come to an end. America’s first experience with a “limited war,” one in which the nation did not seek (and did not obtain) absolute victory over the enemy, did not bode well for the future. Conflict in Vietnam was just around the corner.

READ MORE: Why the Korean War Hasn’t Officially Ended

Actress Natalie Wood drowns

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/actress-natalie-wood-drowns

On November 29, 1981, the actress Natalie Wood, who starred in such movies as Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, drowns in a boating accident near California’s Catalina Island. She was 43 years old.

READ MORE: The Mystery Surrounding Natalie Wood’s Death

Born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California, Wood began her acting career as a child. She gained acclaim for her role as Susan Walker, the little girl who doubts the existence of Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). As a teenager, Wood went on to play James Dean’s girlfriend in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), for which she received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. She also earned Best Actress Academy Award nominations for her performances in Splendor in the Grass (1961) with Warren Beatty and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) with Steve McQueen. Wood’s film credits also include West Side Story (1961), winner of 10 Oscars, in which she played the lead role of Maria; Gypsy (1962), which was based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name and co-starred Rosalind Russell and Karl Malden; The Great Race (1965), with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis; Inside Daisy Clover (1966), with Christopher Plummer and Robert Redford; and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) with Robert Culp, Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon.

Wood was twice married to the actor Robert Wagner (Hart to Hart, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery), from 1957 to 1962 and from 1974 to the time of her death. On the night of November 29, 1981, the actress was with her husband on their yacht “The Splendor,” which was moored off Santa Catalina, near Los Angeles. Also on the yacht was the actor Christopher Walken, who at the time was making the movie Brainstorm with Wood. Neither Wagner nor Walken saw what happened to Wood that night, but it was believed she somehow slipped overboard while untying a dinghy attached to the boat. Her body was found in the early hours of the following morning. Brainstorm, Wood’s final film, was released in theaters in 1983.

LBJ forms commission to investigate Kennedy assassination

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lbj-forms-commission-to-investigate-kennedy-assassination

On November 29, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson appoints a special commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which had occurred a week earlier, on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

According to his memoirs and biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin, Johnson knew he had to provide strong leadership in the wake of the shocking murder of President Kennedy. One of his first official acts was to initiate an investigation into the assassination. Johnson later wrote that, in the weeks after the assassination, the American public, and the government that he now headed was in a state of confusion and disorientation “like a bunch of cattle caught in a swamp.” He felt the weight of his new responsibility keenly “in a world that is never more than minutes away from catastrophe” and knew that “the whole world would be anxiously following every move I made.”

On November 29, Johnson issued Executive Order No. 11130, appointing the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy–commonly referred to as the Warren Commission, after its leader, Chief Justice Earl Warren. Since the president’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself killed by Jack Ruby almost immediately after Oswald killed Kennedy, details of Oswald’s motive for the assassination remained murky.

During its almost year-long investigation, the Warren Commission reviewed reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, Department of State and the attorney general of Texas. It also poured over Oswald’s personal history, political affiliation and military record. Overall, the Warren Commission listened to the testimony of 552 witnesses and even traveled to Dallas several times to visit the site where Kennedy was shot. The commission concluded that Oswald had acted alone and that the Secret Service had made poor preparations for JFK’s visit to Dallas and had subsequently failed to sufficiently protect him.

READ MORE: What Physics Reveals About the JFK Assassination

The circumstances surrounding Kennedy’s death, however, have since given rise to several conspiracy theories involving such disparate characters as the Mafia, Cuban exiles, military leaders and even President Johnson. The Warren Commission’s conclusion that Oswald was a “lone gunman” failed to satisfy some who witnessed the attack and others whose research found conflicting details in the commission’s report. Critics of the Warren Commission’s report believed that additional ballistics experts’ conclusions and a home movie shot at the scene disputed the theory that three bullets fired from Oswald’s gun could have caused Kennedy’s fatal wounds as well as the injuries to Texas Governor John Connally, who was riding with the president in an open car as it traveled through Dallas’ Dealey Plaza that fateful day. So persistent was the controversy that another congressional investigation was conducted in 1979. That committee agreed with the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that killed the president and that the Secret Service failed to protect Kennedy. It did, however, also allow for the possibility that a second gunman might have been involved, but did not pursue the matter further.

New York Stock Exchange resumes bond trading

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/new-york-stock-exchange-resumes-bond-trading

On November 28, 1914, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) reopens for bond trading after nearly four months, the longest stoppage in the exchange’s history.

The outbreak of World War I in Europe forced the NYSE to shut its doors on July 31, 1914, after large numbers of foreign investors began selling their holdings in hopes of raising money for the war effort. All of the world’s financial markets followed suit and closed their doors by August 1.

By the end of November, however, American officials had decided to reopen the NYSE because it was thought that bond trading, albeit with a set of restrictions designed to safeguard the American economy, could help prevent the financial ruin of the belligerent countries by raising money for the war effort. Trading of stocks didn’t resume until December 12, 1914, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)—the most important of various stock indices used to gauge market performance—suffered its worst percentage drop (24.39 percent) since it was first published in 1896. This precipitous fall underlined the risky nature of business during the first months of the war, when nobody knew exactly how long the conflict would last or exactly what role the then-neutral U.S. would eventually end up playing.

Although the stock market would remain volatile–including a 40-percent drop in the DJIA from late 1916 to early 1917–World War I was a clear turning point in the realm of international finance. In its wake, New York would replace London as the top investment capital and the NYSE would become, for better or worse, the undisputed barometer of the world’s economies. The NYSE did not close its doors for any extended period of time again until the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, when trading was suspended for three days.

READ MORE: Wall Street Timeline

Duryea Motor Wagon wins first car race in U.S.

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/duryea-motor-wagon-wins-first-car-race-in-u-s

On this Thanksgiving Day in 1895, piloting a gas-powered “horseless carriage” of his and his brother’s own design, the mechanic, inventor and now racecar driver Frank Duryea wins the first motor-car race in the United States. The race, sponsored by the Chicago Times-Herald, was intended to drum up publicity for the nascent American car industry. It worked, especially for the Duryeas: In the year after the Times-Herald race, the brothers sold 13 of their eponymous Motor Wagons, more than any other carmaker in America.

The race course was originally supposed to loop from Chicago to Waukegan, Illinois, and back (a harrowing 92 miles) but, thanks to the sudden arrival of a spectacular blizzard, race organizers decided to abbreviate the route. (“With eight inches of snow,” one journalist wrote later, “Waukegan might as well have been Timbuktu.”) The racers would be driving just 50 miles, from Chicago to Evanston, Illinois, and back again. The other rules would remain the same: Vehicles had to have at least three wheels, all wrapped in twine to give traction in the snow, and they also had to be able to carry at least two people, the driver and a race-appointed umpire who would ride along to guard against cheating.

Because of the bad weather, only six of 89 racers made it to the starting line: the Duryea; three Benz cars, one sponsored by Macy’s in New York; and two electrics whose batteries died almost immediately after the race began.

About 10 hours after the race began, the Duryea chugged across the finish line. The only other finisher was one of the Benzes (not the one from Macy’s: that one collided with a streetcar on the way to Evanston and with a sleigh and then a hack on the return trip), which sloshed to a finish almost two hours later. The victorious Duryeas won $2,000 and enough publicity to establish themselves as theAmerican motor-car company. From then on, for the Duryeas and all who followed, automobile manufacturing was a business—not just a hobby.

WATCH: The Cars That Made America Season 1