this date


t-rexPerhaps it’s a slow history news day, but I think this is cool: on this date in 1990, the biggest the largest T-Rex specimen ever found was discovered in South Dakota by fossil hunter Susan Hendrickson. The specimen was named Sue.

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Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious
On this day in 1804, Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton during the most famous duel in American history, possibly altering the trajectory of history, as I suspect that the former Secretary of the Treasury would have accomplished a lot more should he have survived; he was only in his late 40s (though there’s some dispute over the year of his birth).

Some linkage:
American Experience: The Duel
The 2004 bicentennial reenactment, which took place in tropical Weehawken, New Jersey.
I think this book cover is hysterical.
My favorite Got Milk? ad of all time.

Anti-Evolution protestors at Scopes Monkey Trial
On this date in 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial began. Feels like things haven’t changed much. But sometimes there is progress.

More info on the trial can be found at this University of Missouri site.

The dramatic version of the events of the trial, the play Inherit the Wind is currently on Broadway and stars Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy.

The reason we celebrate Independence Day on the 4th is because of the Declaration of Independence, a document that wasn’t so esteemed as now until Lincoln, a document that hung on a wall of the National Gallery exposed to natural sunlight for a very long time, which is why it’s about to disintegrate now. Lincoln called upon the document in the Gettysburg address and elsewhere, recalling the self-evident truths that all people are created equal and have the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Seems like a good reason to celebrate to me. Bring on the fireworks!

Links:
Wikipedia
The Declaration of Independence at the National Archive
Thinkin’ Lincoln: a webcomic
More on the Declaration, including influence on Lincoln

On this day in 1863, one of the most important battles of the American Civil War ended via a charge across an open field ordered by Robert E. Lee, known as Pickett’s Charge. It’s worth watching the history.com video if only because of the peppy music juxtaposed over some of the famous Alexander Gardner shots of dead soldiers on the battlefield.

Also on this date, Jim Morrison died, Tom Cruise was born, and Idaho became a state.

Today in 1864, plans for an underground tunnel were approved. Not to clear up congestion during rush hour. Not to add another train line, or to expand public trasnportation. It was going to be built to put a bomb under enemy lines…

…In Virginia.

History.com said this:
“On this day, Pennsylvania troops begin digging a tunnel toward the Rebels at Petersburg, Virginia, in order to blow a hole in the Confederate lines and break the stalemate.
The great campaign between Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac ground to a halt in mid-June. Having battered each other for a month and a half, the armies came to a standstill at Petersburg, just south of Richmond. Here, they settled into trenches for a long siege of the Confederate rail center.
The men of the 48th Pennsylvania sought to break the stalemate with an ambitious project. The brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, the plan called for the men of his regiment—mostly miners from Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region—to construct a tunnel to the Confederate line, fill it with powder, and blow a gap in the fortifications.
On June 24, the plan received the approval of the regiment’s corps commander, Ambrose Burnside, and the digging commenced the following day. Burnside’s superiors, Generals Grant and George Meade, expressed little enthusiasm for the project but allowed it to proceed. For five weeks the miners dug the 500-foot long shaft, completing about 40 feet per day.
On July 30, a huge cache of gunpowder was ignited. The plan worked, and a huge gap was blown in the Rebel line. But poor planning by Union officers squandered the opportunity, and the Confederates closed the gap before the Federals could exploit the opening. The Battle of the Crater, as it became known, was an unusual event in an otherwise uneventful summer along the Petersburg line.”

This is a watered down version of the truth. What actually happened was that George Meade, who disapproved of the plan before being vetoed by Grant, wanted his White, poorly rested troops to go into battle, instead of the black regiments who were not battle tested, but where well supplied and well rested. The plan failed for two main reasons. the first being that instead of going around the gigantic crater in the middle of the line, they went right down into it. And two, they waited an hour before sending those very tired troops across the field.

Within the crater, the fighting turned to hand to hand combat. The federals and confederates shook off the guns and bullets and went to clubs and fists. The fighting was so bloody because of the sheer hatred of the situation. The war had been raging since 1861, and the feelings between the two sides had been boiling over since 1776.

The issue of slavery, as Benjamin Franklin put it, “was the snake under the table that the constitution was written.” And at this point in time (1864) the issue of slavery was not what was driving the armies. The issue of pure and absolute hatred of the enemy was driving them towards oblivion. The confederates had no food, very little supplies, and even fewer men. The union was trying desperately to break their lines and couldn’t. Not even with a bomb. After creating a huge gap in the line, the confederates re-routed and held them off. And that pure rage and frustration met in a crater in a battlefield in Virginia.

Less than a year later, the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered, effectively ending the war. The slaves were emancipated. The union persevered. And the south was beaten and bruised.

The Crater is still there at Petersburg. Only now, the hole is less prominent, and covered in grass. Nature has continued and even covered up that horrifically violent moment. And if that’s not a metaphor for something, I don’t know what is.

Last night’s Final Jeopardy category was “19th Century Royalty” and wanted to know which ruler was known as “the last emperor” and “the king of cactus.” My roommate and I both thought that “the last emperor” referred to the emperor of China, but I guess we were mistaken. We were closer than the contestants, though, who guessed things like “the Shah of Iran.” Um, no.

Actual answer: Maximilian of Mexico. Who was, coincidentally, executed on this day in 1867. Maximilian was installed as emperor by France in 1864 and went about wreaking all kinds of havoc and, after France pulled out of Mexico, was ultimately deposed by Benito Juarez, the president of the Mexican Republic, and summarily executed.

Other things that happened on this date:
1885: The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor.
1953: The Rosenbergs were executed.

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