English and American troops under British Major General Edward Braddock were routed by French and Indian forces near Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) on July 9th in 1755. The leading colonial officer, George Washington, had two horses shot out from under him, his coat torn by bullets and his hat shot off, but — as you may have heard — he survived.
Jack Klugman is 88. Casey Kasem is 78.
Ulysses Grant was born on this date in 1822.
He had previously rejected requests to write about his experience as a Civil War general. Now he desperately needed the money. Mark Twain offered him 75 percent of the profits if Grant would publish with Twain’s newly started publishing house.
But by that time, Grant had also been diagnosed with throat cancer and his health deteriorated rapidly. He realized that he didn’t have long to live, and wrote his memoirs as fast as he could. In extreme pain, and in a daze from pain medication, he still managed to write 275,000 words in less than a year. In the last few weeks of his illness, he couldn’t even speak, but he kept writing and revising, and checking everything he wrote against the official records to make sure it was all factual. He finished his memoirs in July 1885, and died four days later.
Grant’s book did not appear in bookstores, but was sold by subscription, and it was Mark Twain’s idea to send out former Union soldiers, in uniform, to sell the subscriptions door to door across the country. The book eventually sold more than 300,000 copies. It provided Grant’s family with $450,000 in royalties, the largest amount of royalties that had ever been paid out for a book at that point in history.
Critics and writers of the time were shocked at how well Grant wrote. His book Personal Memoirs (1885) is one of the few books ever written by an American president that qualifies as great literature.
[I]t will be seen that Grant was a modest man, a simple man, a man believing in the honesty of his fellows, true to his friends, faithful to traditions, and of great personal honor. When the United States District Court in Richmond was about to indict Gen. Lee and myself for treason, Gen. Grant interposed and said: “I have pledged my word for their safety.” This stopped the wholesale indictments of ex-Confederate officers which would have followed. He was thoroughly magnanimous, was above all petty things and small ideas, and, after Washington, was the highest type of manhood America has produced.
Quotation from obituary in The New York Times
Walter Lantz was born 111 years ago today (1899). Lantz was the creator of such animated characters as Andy Panda, Chilly Willy, Wally Walrus and the greatest cartoon character of them all, Woody Woodpecker. Lantz was nominated for the Academy Award 10 times. He received the Academy’s Life-Time Achievement Award in 1979.
Click on the image above to visit The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia for audio and video clips and lots of other goodies.
Samuel F. B. Morse was born on April 27, 1791.
When a scarcity of commissions led Samuel Morse to reconsider his career as an artist, he turned from painting to pursue his earlier interest in inventing. In 1832, he conceived a plan for an electromagnetic recording telegraph and dedicated his energies to developing a working model for his invention.
When Morse applied for a patent in 1840, he had succeeded in devising a relay system for transmitting messages over long distances and had created the practical transmission code that bears his name.
Perhaps the game’s most proficient right-handed hitter, Rogers Hornsby captured seven batting titles — including six in a row — topping .400 three times. A complete player with a fierce passion for the game, Hornsby’s .424 mark in 1924 is a National League record for the 20th century and his career average of .359 is the highest ever in the National League. The Rajah, a two-time MVP and two-time Triple Crown winner, was the player-manager of the Cardinals’ first World Championship team in 1926 and was the first National League player to hit 300 home runs.
Had Booth missed, Lincoln could have risen from his chair to confront his assassin. At that moment the president, cornered, with not only his own life in danger but also Mary’s, would almost certainly have fought back. If he did, Booth would have found himself outmatched facing not kindly Father Abraham, but the aroused fury of the Mississippi River flatboatman who fought off a gang of murderous river pirates in the dead of night, the champion wrestler who, years before, humbled the Clary’s Grove boys in New Salem in a still legendary match, or even the fifty-six-year-old president who could still pick up a long, splitting-axe by his fingertips, raise it, extend his arm out parallel with the ground, and suspend the axe in midair. Lincoln could have choked the life out of the five-foot-eight-inch, 150-pound thespian, or wrestled him over the side of the box, launching Booth on a crippling dive to the stage almost twelve feet below.
But Lincoln had not seen Booth coming.
From James L. Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, a great read.
Go try that thing with an axe or other long-handled tool.
Above first posted here five years ago today; minor edits.
. . . died on this date in 1790. He was 84.
In his twenties Franklin had written an epitaph for himself:
B. Franklin, Printer;
(Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents worn out,
and stripped of its lettering and gilding)
Lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be lost:
For it will, (as he believed) appear once more,
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected
By the Author.
By the age of 84 he wished for something simpler. The marble over his grave simply reads: Benjamin and Deborah Franklin.
Information from Walter Isaacson’s superb biography of Franklin.
As Atzerodt and Paine fanned out to seek their targets, Booth, a celebrated actor, familiar to everybody who worked at Ford’s Theatre, had no trouble in slipping upstairs during the performance of Our American Cousin. Moving quietly down the aisle behind the dress circle, he stood for a few moments near the President’s box. A member of the audience, seeing him there, thought him “the handsomest man I had ever seen.” John Parker, the Metropolitan policeman assigned to protect the President, had left his post in the passageway, and the box was guarded only by Charles Forbes, a White House footman. When Booth showed Forbes his calling card, he was admitted to the presidential box. Barring the door behind him, so as not to be disturbed, he noiselessly moved behind Lincoln, who was leaning forward, with his chin in his right hand and his arm on the balustrade. At a distance of about two feet, the actor pointed his derringer at the back of the President’s head on the left side and pulled the trigger. It was about 10:13 P.M.
When Major Rathbone tried to seize the intruder, Booth lunged at him with his razor-sharp hunting knife, which had a 7¼-inch blade. “The Knife,” Clara Harris reported, “went from the elbow nearly to the shoulder, inside, — cutting an artery, nerves and veins — he bled so profusely as to make him very weak.” Shoving his victim aside, Booth placed his hands on the balustrade and vaulted toward the stage. It was an easy leap for the gymnastic actor, but the spur on his heel caught in the flags decorating the box and he fell heavily on one foot, breaking the bone just above the ankle. Waving his dagger, he shouted in a loud, melodramatic voice: “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants” — the motto of the state of Virginia). Some in the audience thought he added, “The South is avenged.” Quickly he limped across the stage, with what one witness called “a motion…like the hopping of a bull frog,” and made his escape through the rear of the theater.
Up to this point the audience was not sure what had happened. Perhaps most thought the whole disturbance was part of the play. But as the blue-white smoke from the pistol drifted out of the presidential box, Mary Lincoln gave a heart-rending shriek and screamed, “They have shot the President! They have shot the President!”
From David Herbert Donald’s outstanding biography of Lincoln.
On April 26, Booth and co-conspirator David Herold were surrounded while hiding in a tobacco shed in Port Royal, Virginia. Herold surrendered to Union troops, but Booth held out and was shot while the shed burned down around him.
Click on the image to see a larger version of the poster. Photo at top is from a Library of Congress exhibit showing the content of Lincoln’s pockets that evening plus a newspaper report of the assassination. Click image for larger version.
Read The New York Times story from the day after the assassination, headlined Awful Event.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13th in 1743. [It was April 2nd on the calendar when he was born, but it's that old Julian-Gregorian thing again.]
Eight-three years later, at the end of his remarkable life, he wished to be remembered foremost for those actions that appear as his epitaph:
Author of the
At a White House dinner honoring 49 Nobel laureates in 1962, President Kennedy remarked, “I think this is the most extraordinary talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
Despite serious flaws, Jefferson remains one of the most remarkable Americans.
In addition to being a writer, Jefferson was also a hard-nosed politician, lawyer, naturalist, musician, architect, geographer, inventor, scientist, paleontologist, and philosopher. Jefferson filled his house with scientific gadgets and inventions, collected mastodon bones, and kept detailed notes on the most obscure details of his life, including the daily fluctuation of the barometric pressure. After he missed the start of the solar eclipse in 1811, he designed his own more accurate astronomical clock. He composed all his papers in later life with a device that allowed him to write with two pens at the same time, so that he could keep copies of all the papers he produced.
It seems to NewMexiKen that the country could use a federal holiday during that long spell from Washington’s Birthday to Memorial Day — for shopping and sales and stuff. I propose that April 13th, Jefferson’s birthday, would be ideal.
Click on the image of the document to view Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence. The photo of Jefferson’s tomb above taken by NewMexiKen, 2001. Click to enlarge.
Harry Truman takes the oath of office at 7:09 PM (Eastern War Time) on this date 65 years ago. Franklin Roosevelt had died just over two hours earlier at his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, the “Little White House.” When called at the Capitol and told he should rush to the White House, Truman is reported to have exclaimed, “Jesus Christ and General Jackson.” Once at the White House, Truman was told of FDR’s death by Mrs. Roosevelt.
The following day, Friday the 13th, is when Truman told several reporters: “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when you told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”
Information and quotations from David McCullough’s outstanding biography of Truman. Photo from the National Archives via the White House web site.
… died on this date in 1945.
The New York Times had re-published its obituary, written by Arthur Krock with an April 12 dateline, President Roosevelt is Dead; Truman to Continue Policies
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, War President of the United States and the only Chief Executive in history who was chosen for more than two terms, died suddenly and unexpectedly at 4:35 P. M. today at Warm Springs, Ga., and the White House announced his death at 5:48 o’clock. He was 63.
The President, stricken by a cerebral hemorrhage, passed from unconsciousness to death on the eighty-third day of his fourth term and in an hour of high-triumph. The armies and fleets under his direction as Commander in Chief were at the gates of Berlin and the shores of Japan’s home islands as Mr. Roosevelt died, and the cause he represented and led was nearing the conclusive phase of success.
There is an interesting and prescient remark in the article concerning Truman: “He is conscious of limitations greater than he has.”
. . . was assassinated while standing on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on this date in 1968.
The evening before King concluded his speech with:
And they were telling me, now it doesn’t matter now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”
And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
RONALD REAGAN deserves posterity’s honor, and so it makes sense that the capital’s airport and a major building there are named for him. But the proposal to substitute his image for that of Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill is a travesty that would dishonor the nation’s bedrock principles of union, freedom and equality — and damage its historical identity. Although slandered since his death, Grant, as general and as president, stood second only to Abraham Lincoln as the vindicator of those principles in the Civil War era.
Historian Sean Wilentz goes on to explain. Click and give it a read.
“I expect that before too long Grant will be returned to the standing he deserves — not only as the military savior of the Union but as one of the great presidents of his era, and possibly one of the greatest in all American history.”
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865.
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
From the First Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933.
Hear FDR speak the first part of the famous line.