August 1781 — Due to the summer rains and swollen rivers it was impossible for either main army to conduct maneuvers and both had gone into a stand down to “Rest and Recuperate” (R&R). Even if there had not been summer floods, the main armies would have had to cease operations as both the British/Tory and the American Regular Army under General Nathanael Greene were so exhausted and debilitated by malnutrition, disease and unhealed wounds that they could no longer function. The guerilla forces of Generals Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion were still active patrolling river crossings to spot any movement by the British. General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, Captain Robert Kirkwood and to an extent Colonel William Washington’s cavalry were also scouting and guarding against any moves of the enemy. Yet, there comes a time when even the strongest must stop and rest and on August 5th, Kirkwood and Washington joined the army in the high hills for rest and recuperation while the guerilla forces remained watchful as they retired into their usual haunts safe from British interference. — By Andrew Andy Stough. This article was reprinted by Permission of the Gold Country Chapter No. 7 of the CSSAR and was edited by the Sons of Liberty Chapter of the CSSAR • painting by Thomas Sautelle Roberts (1748-1778), creative commons
The site was originally used as a fort in the War of 1812. It later became an opera house, restaurant and theater. But today it became an emigrant landing depot, and was the only functioning one of its type in the US.
Many of the records from Castle Clinton burned in a fire on Ellis Island on June 15, 1897, so very little is known of the immigrants who entered through this station. However, it is believed that between 8 to 15 million immigrants were processed here during the building’s operation.
Castle Clinton is now a museum, as well as a point of departure to visit Ellis Island and the statue of Liberty.
August 2, 1790 — The first U.S. census was conducted, indicating there were about 3.9 million people living in the country. While great measures were taken to find credible results, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson expressed skepticism over the final count.
Nonetheless, Congress realized the country’s capacity for growth, and raised the number of seats in the House of Representatives from 69 to 105.
The law required that every household be visited and each person accounted for. Categories included: free white males of 16 years and older (to assess the country’s industrial and military potential); free white males under 16 years; free white females; all other free persons; and slaves.
British General John Burgoyne led a large campaign, which involved capturing major forts along the Hudson Valley. Fort Stanwix happened to be located in the Great Carry, a route that connected the Hudson Valley with Lake Ontario and was seen as an important region to possess.
The siege ended 21 days after it began, when British forces retreated after American reinforcements used a ruse to convince St. Leger and his troops that a much larger force was arriving. Fort Stanwix remained in the control of the US Continental Army.
The weekly publication was four pages long and included articles on current events, editorials, human interest pieces, humor, illustrations, a letter column, poetry, and single-panel gag cartoons.
In one of the Post’s earliest issues, a current event article read:
“The President of the United Sates, by his Proclamation, dated the 10th instant, agreeable to the conditional power invested in him by an act of Congress, announce the Admission of the State of Missouri into the Union.”
The Saturday Evening Post is still alive and well. View the current issue here.
August 5, 1861 — To help finance the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of 1861 today, which imposed a flat tax of 3% on individuals earning between $800 and $10,000. The comparable minimum taxable income in 2009, after adjustments for inflation, would be about $19,000.
Before asking Congress to act, Lincoln sent letters to cabinet members Edward Bates, Gideon Welles and Salmon Chase requesting their views as to whether the president had the constitutional authority to “collect [such] duties.” He also was concerned about the potential need to replace revenue from ports along the Southeastern seaboard, which he feared might fall under Confederate control.
In 1866, federal internal revenue collections reached their highest point in the nation’s 90-year history — more than $310 million, which was an amount not reached again until 1911.
After the end of the war, Congress repealed income taxes in 1872, and in 1895, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled income tax to be unconstitutional. It wasn’t until 1909, when Congress proposed the 16th Amendment, that today’s federal income-tax system was set in place. It was ratified in 1913.
August 6, 1861 — Enacted by Congress and signed by President Lincoln today, the Confiscation Act of 1861 stipulated that all property (including slaves) “used or employed, in aiding, abetting, or promoting . . . insurrection or resistance to the laws” of the United States “to be lawful subject of prize and capture wherever found; and it shall be the duty of the President of the United States to cause the same to be seized, confiscated, and condemned.”
A significant first step towards universal emancipation, the Act was extremely limited in scope and rife with shortcomings as it affected only slaves who were captured by federal forces or who escaped behind Union lines. Of that group, only slaves whose labor directly aided or abetted the Confederate war effort were considered contraband.
The greatest deficiency in the legislation was that the act left the status of the contrabands in limbo. Some Union military commanders were discouraged from trying to enforce the law due to legal hassles inherent in determining whether fugitive slaves had directly aided or abetted the Confederate cause. Other officers chose to ignore it because they were not sympathetic to emancipation — or because they didn’t welcome the added burden of caring for thousands of contrabands while trying to wage war.
While this legislation stopped short of explicit emancipation, a succession of further executive orders and constitutional amendments legally cemented the rights of all former slaves in the US.
August 7, 1782 — Although Continental Congress forbid General George Washington from granting commissions and promotions in rank to recognize merit, Washington wanted to honor merit, particularly among the enlisted soldiers.
So today he established the official Badge of Military Merit.
Washington is said to have felt that this badge of military merit granted soldiers a special distinction, historians tell us. In fact, only three Purple Hearts were given during the Revolutionary War: Sergeant Elijah Churchill, 2nd Continental Dragoons; Sergeant William Brown, 5th and Sergeant Daniel Bissel, 2nd Connecticut Continental Line Infantry.
General John J. Pershing suggested a need for an award for merit in 1918, but it was not until 1932 that the Purple Heart was created in recognition of Washington’s ideals and for the bicentennial of his birth. During WWI, that the badge was reestablished, and given to 137 veterans.
Today the Purple Heart is given to any soldier in all branches of the military who has been injured or killed while serving their country.
August 8, 1863 — On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in rebellious states. However, it wasn’t until today that then military governor of Tennessee Andrew Johnson freed his personal slaves.
Johnson (born December 29, 1808 – July 31, 1875) had successfully lobbied to have Tennessee excluded from the original proclamation. A pro-slavery advocate throughout the Civil War who fought exclusively for working white men, he disregarded African American rights and believed slavery was essential to preserving the Union.
Johnson ran with Lincoln on the National Union ticket, and was vice president at the time of Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. He became the 17th President, serving until 1869, and favored quick restoration of the seceded states to the Union.
Historians note that his plans did not give protection to the former slaves, causing Johnson to bump up against the Republican-dominated Congress. This conflict eventually culminated in his impeachment by the House of Representatives, making him the first American president to be impeached. He was acquitted in the Senate by one vote.
Gray went to sea at an early age, and after serving in the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War, he entered the service of a Massachusetts trading company.
In May 1792, as captain of the “Columbia,” he explored Gray’s Harbor (in the present state of Washington) and the Columbia River (which is named for his ship). Once again, he circumnavigated the globe, and after his return in July 1793, he spent the remainder of his career commanding merchant vessels along the Atlantic coast.
Gray is credited with giving the US a claim to the Oregon Territory.
What did James Smithson’s endowment create today? And why did it take 10 years to put his $500,000 donation to use?
August 10, 1846 — When British chemist and meteorologist James Smithson (born 1765) died in 1829, he left his sizable estate to the US “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.”
Interestingly, Smithson never set foot on American soil. So why did the illegitimate child of a wealthy Englishman choose to give the entirety of his sizable estate — which amounted to $500,000 (equivalent to $11,073,000 today) and totaled 1/66 of the country’s entire federal budget — to the US?
According to historians at the Smithsonian: “Some speculate it was because he was denied his father’s legacy. Others argue that he was inspired by the US’ experiment with democracy. Some attribute his philanthropy to ideals inspired by such organizations as the Royal Institution, which was dedicated to using scientific knowledge to improve human conditions. Smithson never wrote about or discussed his bequest with friends or colleagues, so we are left to speculate on the ideals and motivations of a gift that has had such significant impact on the arts, humanities, and sciences in the US.”
President Andrew Jackson announced the bequest to Congress, and on July 1, 1836, it accepted the legacy and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust.
However, it took another eight years of sometimes heated debate for an Act of Congress to be signed by President James K. Polk today in 1846. It established the Smithsonian Institution as a trust to be administered by a Board of Regents and a Secretary of the Smithsonian.
Today, the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and galleries, a National Zoological Park and nine research facilities make it the world’s largest museum and research complex. Visitors can pay homage to Smithson with a visit to his crypt, located on the first floor of the Smithsonian Castle.
August 11, 1834 — The Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Mass. lay in ruins today. Late last night, a mob of angry Protestants sacked it and burned it to the ground. The rioters were reportedly poor Yankee laborers who feared and hated Irish Catholic immigrants.
The nuns who lived in the once elegant building — as well as the who lived students at the all-female academy — fled or their lives.
While some of Boston’s wealthiest Protestants sent their daughters to the Ursuline Academy, most Yankees harbored a deep prejudice against Catholics. Long suspicious of “popery,” Protestant Boston was receptive to the malicious rumors that swirled about the convent. The convent burning was a prelude to the fierce anti-Catholicism that would greet the famine Irish who flooded into Boston a decade later.
The convent was never rebuilt. Its charred remains stood for the next 40 years as a reminder of the virulent prejudice against Catholics. The site was leveled in 1875, and the bricks were incorporated into Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
August 12, 1865 — British surgeon Joseph Lister applied Louis Pasteur’s advances in microbiology when he performed the first antiseptic surgery today using carbolic acid. It had been used to get rid of a cattle parasites in fields.
Lister surmised that the same microorganisms in the air that made wine spoil lead to infections during surgeries. So he cleaned the wounds of his patient and soaked the dressings in antiseptic liquid, as well.
His experiment proved to be a tremendous success. Within months, he saw the death rate of his patients drop to 15% — down from nearly 50%.
Several events linked to French Queen Marie Antoinette, including the June 1791 attempt to flee, and her role in the French Revolutionary War. These had a disastrous effects on French popular opinion.
- A little over a year later, on August 10, 1792, the attack on the Tuileries forced the royal family to take refuge at the Assembly.
- Today, on August 13, the family was imprisoned in the Temple.
- On 21 September 1792, Louis XVI was deposed and the monarchy abolished.
After a two-day trial begun on October 14, 1793, Marie Antoinette was convicted by the Revolutionary Tribunal of treason to the principles of the revolution, and executed by guillotine on Place de la Révolution on October 16, 1793.
August 14, 1765 — Today, American patriots protested against the British rule in response to the Stamp Act, which forced colonists to pay taxes on paper products in order for Britain to pay off its huge debt from the French and Indian War.
Outraged activists — known as the Sons of Liberty — protested shouting, “no taxation without representation.” They included John Adams, Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. The location of their demonstration was near an Elm tree that stood in Boston Common, Massachusetts. Today, it is known as the Liberty Tree.
John Adams was quoted about the event in the Boston Gazette, saying: “The Sons of Liberty on the 14th of August 1765, a Day which ought to be for ever remembered in America, animated with a zeal for their country then upon the brink of destruction, and resolved, at once to save her…”
The dentist’s drill didn’t come along for another 30 years, however, when on January 26, 1875, George Green patented the first electric dental drill.
There is historical evidence that the ancient Chinese used acupuncture around 2700 BC to treat the pain associated with tooth decay. But the first local anesthetic used in dentistry was Cocaine, which was introduced in 1884, by Carl Koller.
August 16, 1843 — African American activist Henry Highland Garnet gave the famous “Call to Rebellion” speech today at the National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York. Entitled, “An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America,” Garnet encouraged slaves to turn against their masters.
He said: “Neither god, nor angels, or just men, command you to suffer for a single moment. Therefore it is your solemn and imperative duty to use every means, both moral, intellectual, and physical that promises success.”
Garnet’s activism was known to be more radical than many abolitionists of his day. He believed that it was the African Americans job to emancipate themselves through political action rather than moral suasion.
August 17, 1807 — The Clermont began its trip up the Hudson River today, traveling 150 miles in 30 hours. The first commercial steamboat, it was designed by American engineer and inventor Robert Fulton.
He adapted the steam engine to fit his boat, which was also built to be comfortable. Fulton’s staff provided the passengers with tea, meals, and storage for their belongings.
August 18, 1868 — French astronomer Pierre Janssen discovered helium in the solar spectrum during a eclipse today. It occurred while Janssen was observing a solar eclipse at Guntur, Madras State (now in Andhra Pradesh), British India.
He noticed bright lines in the spectrum of the chromosphere, showing that the chromosphere is gaseous. There was also a bright yellow line later measured to have a wavelength of 587.49 nm in the spectrum of the sun.
From the brightness of the spectral lines, Janssen realized that the chromospheric spectrum could be observed even without an eclipse and proceeded to do so immediately.
On October 20 of the same year, Joseph Norman Lockyer in England set up a new, relatively powerful spectroscope. He also observed the emission spectrum of the chromosphere, including same yellow line. Within a few years, he worked with a chemist and they concluded that it could be caused by an unknown element, after unsuccessfully testing to see if it were some new type of hydrogen.
This was the first time a chemical element was discovered on an extraterrestrial body before being found on the earth. Lockyer and the English chemist Edward Frankland named the element with the Greek word for the Sun, helios.
August 19, 1791 — Today, African American scientist, surveyor and farmer, Benjamin Banneker (November 9, 1731 – October 9, 1806) sent a manuscript to Thomas Jefferson with the goal of getting him to change his stance on slavery.
In the letter, Banneker accused Jefferson of criminally using fraud and violence to oppress his slaves, stating:
“Sir, how pitiable is it to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of Mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of these rights and privileges, which he hath conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren, under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.”
Jefferson responded amicably, sympathizing with Banneker’s words. Although a fire on the day of Banneker’s funeral in 1806 destroyed many of his papers and belongings, one of his journals and several of his remaining artifacts are presently available for public viewing.
August 20, 1866 — President Andrew Johnson formally declared an end to the Civil War today. Although bloodshed ended over a year before, there had never been a formal declaration of peace and reunification in the country before today.
So Johnson signed Proclamation, which declared that “Peace, Order, Tranquillity, and Civil Authority Now Exists in and Throughout the Whole of the United States of America.”
Back in April, Johnson declared peace with all of the Confederate states — with the exception of Texas. The signing of the proclamation formally ended the rift saying: … that the insurrection which heretofore existed in the State of Texas is at an end and is to be henceforth so regarded in that State as in the other States before named in which the said insurrection was proclaimed to be at an end by the aforesaid proclamation of the 2d day of April, 1866.
August 21, 1831 — Today began the most violent slave revolt to date in the American south. Led by Nat Turner, 70 enslaved and free African-Americans followed him from house to house in in Southampton, Virginia and for two days killed nearly 65 white men, women and children. (more…)
August 22, 1865 — William Sheppard of New York was granted patent number 49,561 for his “Improved Liquid Soap” today. He made the product by dissolving one pound of solid soap in water, and then adding 100 pounds of ammonia until the liquid thickened to the consistency of molasses, the thick by‑product when producing sugar.
His invention became common in public areas, but could generally not be found in homes.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s when the Minnetonka corporation offered a modern version of Sheppard’s recipe. Called Crème Soap on Tap, it came in decorative ceramic containers through specialty boutique shops. By the 1980’s Minnetonka created a mass market version of the product in a unique pump bottle dispenser, which they named Softsoap.
The proclamation ordered British officials to “use their utmost endeavors to withstand and suppress such rebellion.”
King George expanded on the Proclamation in October of 1775, for he believed that American leaders were instigating the rebellion in a “desperate conspiracy” to become an independent nation.
The colonists responded that they were loyal to the king, and said that while they would defend their rights and retaliate, they told the King that they hoped to avoid a civil war. Less than a year later, however, they declared their independence and the Revolutionary War began.
August 24, 1814 — During the dramatic burning of the White House, today British soldiers invaded the iconic seat of the American government in response to an American attack on the city of York in Ontario, Canada.
President James Madison left the White House on August 22 following threats that the British were on their way. First lady Dolley Madison also fled with her staff fled by carriage across the Potomac on August 23, and was gone by the time the solders arrived. Reportedly, the soldiers enjoyed a meal that Dolley had prepared for a group of esteemed American guests.
Before she left, Dolley is said to have broken the frame holding the iconic portrait of George Washington, rolled up the artwork, and carried it to safety.
The Madisons safely returned to Washington, DC three days later to find the White House in ashes. The interior of the building was completely burnt out, and the exterior suffered extensive damage. While the building was torn down and rebuilt, the Monroes lived in the nearby City Octagon House until the new White House was reconstructed in October 1817.
The discoveries — announcing multiple life forms were living on la Luna, from bison and goats to unicorns and human-bat hybrids — were said to be found by famous astronomer Sir John Herschel, an English polymath, mathematician, astronomer, chemist, inventor, and experimental photographer (March 7, 1792 — May 11, 1871).
The actual author is believed to be Richard Adams Locke, a British journalist at Cambridge. Although Locke never admitted to the rumors, it is believed that he wrote the piece to satirize recent serious theories of extraterrestrial life, particularly the works of Reverend Thomas Dick, a popular science writer who claimed the moon had 4.2 billion inhabitants.
The Sun’s popularity grew over the article. And while on September 16, 1835, The Sun admitted that the articles were ficticious, editors never retracted the stories, nor did the paper suffer any consequences. In fact, readers remained amused by the tall tale.
What’s more, it is believed that Locke’s hoax influenced Edgar Allen Poe to write “the balloon-hoax” in the same newspaper almost 10 years later. Poe’s story, “Lunar Discoveries, Extraordinary Aerial Voyage by Baron Hans Pfaall,” described a voyage to the moon in a hot-air balloon by Hans Pfaall.
August 26, 1863 — On August 5, 1863, a 2,000-man force of Union cavalry commanded by Gen. William W. Averell left Winchester, VA and began a raid through the Allegheny Mountains with the mission of destroying Confederate saltpeter works and gunpowder mills.
The Yankees raided west to Moorefield, WV, then south through the rugged mountains to Huntersville, where they forced a Confederate cavalry brigade to retreat eastward to Warm Springs, VA. Averell’s troopers followed the Rebels to Warm Springs on August 24 and caused them to retreat even farther to the east. The next day the Union horsemen moved south to Callaghan and there destroyed a saltpeter works on the Jackson River.
Today, on the morning of August 26, Averell and his men set out for White Sulphur Springs, a resort town just across the West Virginia border that was near a gunpowder mill. At Rocky Gap, just two miles before coming to White Sulphur Springs, the Union troopers came across 1,900 Confederate infantry deployed across the road.
The Rebels, commanded by Col. George S. Patton, had been ordered to prevent the Yankees from reaching White Sulphur Springs and had arrived at Rocky Gap just before Averell’s men. The Southerners rapidly blocked the road and awaited an attack. Averell was quick to respond; he dismounted his men and sent them forward in repeated attacks on the Rebel line.
The battle raged fiercely throughout the day, but Patton’s men repulsed each assault upon their line. Each side slept on the field, and in the morning Averell again sent his men forward through the heavily wooded terrain to attack the Southern defenders. Once again Patton’s troops repulsed the Union attacks; before noon Averell, having given up the contest as well as the attempt to reach White Sulphur Springs, retreated back to the north. Union losses at Rocky Gap were 26 killed, 125 wounded, and 67 missing. Southern losses were 20 killed, 129 wounded, and 13 missing.
It was airborne for 45 minutes and traveled a total of 21 kilometers into the village of Gonesse. According to reports, local peasants in Gonesse were so frightened by the balloon that they attacked it with pitchforks and punctured it.
Designed by brothers Anne-Jean and Nicolas-Louis Robert, these French engineers worked under Jacques Charles at the Place des Victoires in Paris. The brothers designed the hydrogen balloon based on Charles’s work.
The brothers improved on their creation, and by December 1783 built the first manned hydrogen balloon, which they piloted.
August 28, 1845 — The first issue of Scientific American magazine hit newsstands today. The oldest continuously published magazine in the US was founded by painter and inventor Rufus M. Porter, who began it as a four-page weekly newspaper.
In its pages, we have learned about everything from inventions and patents, to interviews with Albert Einstein.
Today, it focuses on topics ranging from evolution and technology to the mind/brain and space. And, in the section entitled, “this date in history,” you’ll find excerpts from articles published up to 150 years ago. Click here to read all about it. (more…)
August 29, 1786 — Today marks the first day of a 10-month uprising called Shays’ Rebellion, the name given to a series of protests in 1786 and 1787 by American farmers against state and local enforcement of tax collections and judgments for debt.
Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays led four thousand rebels (called Shaysites) in rising up against perceived economic injustices by Massachusetts, and in a later attempt to capture the United States’ national weapons arsenal at the U.S. Armory at Springfield.
Although Shays’ Rebellion met with defeat militarily against a privately-raised militia, it prompted numerous national leaders (including George Washington, who came out of retirement to deal with issues raised by Shays’ Rebellion) to call for a stronger national government to suppress future rebellions, resulting in the U.S. Constitutional Convention and according to historian Leonard L. Richards, “fundamentally altering the course of U.S. history.”
Traditionally depicted as a revolt of poor farmers embittered by land seizures and bankruptcies, recent research into the lives of Shays Rebellion’s participants suggests that Shaysites came from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, and from different professions and states.
Research shows that the Shaysites’ grievances extended beyond the specifics of Massachusetts’ economic situation to issues like: rule by a faraway elite; cronyism and corruption in government; and regressive tax policy.
Born on July 4, 1806, in Canaseraga Village, New York, the brothers chose not to join the army when the Texas War of Independence started on October 2, 1835 (it ended April 21, 1836). Instead, the brothers worked to keep supply channels open, and at their own expense outfitted Brutus, a ship that protected the Texas coast, assisted troops, and ensured supplies arrived safely in Texas.
In January 1836, they sold Brutus to the Texas Navy, making it the second ship in the fledgling naval force. Augustus and John Allen continued to raise money and operate as receivers and dispensers of supplies and funds for the war effort without charge. Despite this, some members of the Texas provisional government objected to the Allen brothers’ activities, alleging they were engaged in privateering.
After the war, an inheritance received by Augustus’s wife, Charlotte, financed the $5,000 purchase of 6,600 acres along the Buffalo Bayou for the purpose of establishing a new city. Charlotte suggested they named their townsite for the hero of the time, General Sam Houston.
Drawing on the William Tell legend, the opera was Rossini’s last, although he lived for nearly 40 more years. The overture, in four sections and featuring a depiction of a storm as well as a vivacious finale, the “March of the Swiss Soldiers,” is often played.
Charles Malherbe, archivist at the Paris Opéra, discovered the original orchestral score of the opera at a secondhand book seller’s shop, resulting in its being acquired by the Paris Conservatoire.