American history is a rich tapestry of constitutional, political, intellectual, economic, and competing social forces. Scroll down to read more about American History or click below to read up on specific topics about the history of the United States.
American History 1492: Christopher Columbus
(See Main Article: Christopher Columbus – Historical People}
Columbus set off on his first voyage on 3rd August 1492 with three ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina. On 12th October Columbus sighted land and named the island San Salvador. He had discovered the Bahamas. Believing that he had reached the Indies Columbus called the native people Indians. He explored the island of Cuba and Haiti before returning to Spain
Columbus embarked on his second voyage on 24th September 1493. His mission was to discover new territories and colonize them. On November 3rd he saw a rugged island and named it Dominica (Sunday). Columbus spent the next six months exploring and colonizing the area before returning to Spain.
Columbus made two further voyages exploring more of the New World and hoping to find the elusive route to the Orient.
Although he was an experienced and gifted sailor, his management skills were poor and on each return voyage, he was faced with the discontent of the native peoples and those Europeans who had been left to colonize the area.
American History 1607: Jamestown Colony, Virginia
(See Main Article: Facts about Jamestown Colony, Virginia)
Jamestown Colony Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in North America, is located near present-day Williamsburg, Virginia. Established on May 14, 1607, the colony gave England its first foothold in the European competition for the New World, which had been dominated by the Spanish since the voyages of Christopher Columbus in the late 15th century.
The development of Jamestown, Virginia, took the opposite path as the northern Puritan Colonies, which had a collectivistic approach to settlement. It began as a distinctly individualistic colony, and only later acquired group cohesion. The early settlement of Virginia was dominated by young, single men. A host of factors, prominent among them Virginia’s (not entirely undeserved) reputation as a disease-ridden deathtrap, served to discourage the kind of family migration that had characterized the Puritan experience. But as the mortality rate declined and the colony’s prosperity became widely known, it became more sensible for entire families to make their homes in the Chesapeake.
American History 1620: The Pilgrims And The Mayflower
(See Main Article: The Pilgrims And The Mayflower)
In 1607 Walter Raleigh had founded the colony of Virginia in America and a number of English companies had begun trading tobacco and other products between the colony and England.
One stock company, anxious to protect their business interests in Virginia recruited 35 members of the radical, Puritan, English Separatist Church, who had fled to Holland. The stock company agreed to finance the voyage for them and in return, they would look after the company’s business in Virginia. Other Puritans keen to start a new life in America joined the voyage.
The Mayflower left the port of Southampton in August 1620 but was forced to put into Plymouth for repairs. The 102 passengers and 30 crew eventually left Plymouth for America on 16th September 1620 and steered a course for Virginia. The ship was a double-decked, three-masted vessel and initially, the voyage went well but then storms blew up which blew them off course.
Land was sighted on November 9th and the anchor was dropped. A landing party of sixteen men left the ship on November 15th but failed to find a suitable site to establish a settlement. They set sail again and resumed their search. On December 17th they reached Plymouth Harbour and dropped anchor.
On December 21st the first of the Pilgrim Fathers set foot on what would become Plymouth settlement. The harsh winter weather meant that they were unable to build adequate shelter and many of the travelers died during that first winter. Those that survived the winter went on to build houses and defenses. In the late spring of 1621, a native American Samoset Indian offered to show the settlers how to farm the land and become self-sufficient if the men would help them fight a rival tribe. The settlers agreed and the Plymouth settlement flourished.
American History 1628 – 1692: Massachusetts Bay Colony Government
(See Main Article: 1628 – Massachusetts Bay Colony Government)
The Massachusetts Bay Colony Government (more formally The Colony of Massachusetts Bay, 1628–1692) was an English settlement on the east coast of America in the 17th century around the Massachusetts Bay, the northernmost of the several colonies later reorganized as the Province of Massachusetts Bay. This government laid many of the cornerstones of what would be the official policy of the United States government toward American Indians.
1754 – 1763: French and Indian War
(See Main Article: French and Indian War)
The French and Indian War took place between 1754 and 1763 and is also known as the Seven Years’ War. This conflict formed part of a larger struggle between France and Great Britain to expand their empires. Although Great Britain won this war with massive gains inland in North America, it also cost them dearly as it led to more conflict, ultimately resulting in the American Revolution.
American History 1765: Stamp Act
(See Main Article: How Did the Colonists React to the Stamp Act?)
When Patrick Henry presented a series of resolutions against the Stamp Act—the first direct tax on the American colonies—in the Virginia House of Burgesses in May 1765, he aimed to defend and preserve the traditional rights of Englishmen. Henry’s verbal assault on the Stamp Act was not a radical cry for equality or democracy; it was not influenced by the wave of “liberal” thought sweeping Europe in the eighteenth century. Virginians, according to the resolves, retained “all the liberties, privileges, franchises, and immunities, that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain . . . as if they had been abiding and born within the realm of England.” Henry insisted that by imposing a direct tax, the Parliament violated the “ancient constitution” of British common law, because the colonists were not and could not be represented in London. This led to the battle cry, “No Taxation without Representation!”
American History 1773: Boston Tea Party
(See Main Article: What Was The Boston Tea Party)
The Boston Tea Party is considered to have been an important event in American History, one that greatly contributed to the American Revolution. On December 16, 1773, demonstrators destroyed an entire East India Company Tea Shipment as part of a political protest to tea taxes and the Tea Act. The tea cargoes from three ships were all offloaded and dumped into the water of the Boston Harbor, ruining the tea.
Taxation Without Representation
The main issue demonstrators had was that the British parliament was unfairly taxing them for tea (which the Americans consumed on a great scale). They believed that local authorities should decide on taxes, not the British parliament where the Americans were not represented. Tea used to be smuggled into the colony due to hefty tea taxes, but the Tea Act of 1773 gave the East India Company a monopoly over tea sales. Protesters were unhappy about this and the way Britain has been treating the colonies. This was a turning point in American history.
American History War of Independence
1775–1783: American Revolutionary War
(See Main Article: American Revolutionary War)
One essential element of American history was, of course, the American War of Independence (1775–1783), also known as the American Revolutionary War, was a war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence in July 1776 as a sovereign nation; the United States of America.
The Americans defended their traditional rights. The French revolutionaries despised French traditions and sought to make everything anew: new governing structures, new provincial boundaries, a new “religion,” a new calendar—and the guillotine awaited those who objected. The British statesman Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism and a man who did understand the issues at stake in both events, considered himself perfectly consistent in his sympathy for the Americans of the 1770s and his condemnation of the French revolutionaries of 1789.
In a certain sense, there was no American Revolution at all. There was, instead, an American War for Independence in which Americans threw off British authority in order to retain their liberties and self-government. In the 1760s, the colonies had, for the most part, been left alone in their internal affairs. Because the colonists had enjoyed the practice of self-government for so long, they believed it was their right under the British constitution. The British constitution was “unwritten”—it was a flexible collection of documents and traditions—but by an American conservative’s reading, the British government had acted unconstitutionally in its restrictive acts and taxation.
While Americans sought the self-government to which they believed they were constitutionally entitled, the colonists did not seek the total transformation of society that we associate with other revolutions, such as the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, or the Russian Revolution. They simply wished to go on enjoying self-rule when it came to their internal matters and living as they always had for so many decades before British encroachments began. The American “revolutionaries” were conservative, in the very best sense of that word.
1774: The First Continental Congress
(See Main Article: Battles of Lexington and Concord)
- September: VA and Mass sent out a call for a Continental Congress to meet in Philadelphia. 12 of the 13 colonies sent representatives.
- The Congress endorsed the Suffolk Resolves, declared that Britain had no right to tax the colonies, and agreed to meet again in May 1775 to reassess the situation.
- The Congress also agreed to boycott British goods beginning in December 1774. Imports from Britain dropped 97% from 1774 to 1775, hurting the British economy.
- General Gage dissolved the Mass. legislature. They reconvened to the west, where he had little real authority.
- Gage began to hear rumors that the colonists were stockpiling weapons and gunpowder at the town of Concord. He began planning a mission to seize the weapons and gunpowder.
- Gage also heard that two of the key rebel leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, were staying in Lexington, which was on the road to Concord.
1775: Battles of Lexington and Concord
(See Main Article: Battles of Lexington and Concord)
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were of minor military significance but of world-historical importance in the modern era. They were the first military engagements of the Revolutionary War, marking the outbreak of armed conflict between Great Britain and its thirteen colonies on the North American mainland.
Fought on April 19, 1775, the battles of Lexington and Concord ruin British political strategy of ending colonial opposition to the Intolerable Acts and seizing weapons of rebels. Revolutionary leaders such as John Adams considered the battle to be a point of no return: “The Die was cast, the Rubicon crossed,” he said.
1776: The Declaration of Independence
(See Main Article: When Was the Declaration of Independence Written?)
The Declaration of Independence, which became one of the most important documents in American history, wasn’t written on a single date, but rather over a period of time between June 11 and July 4, 1776. The document is an announcement that the thirteen American colonies now regard themselves as sovereign, independent states, no longer part of the British Empire. By the time Congress voted on independence, the document was already drafted.
Congress decided to order a draft declaration on June 11, 1776 and appointed a committee of five men to do so: Robert R. Livingston, Tomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. How exactly the drafting process proceeded is unclear, as the committee didn’t leave any minutes of their meetings. They had however decided that Jefferson was to write the first draft. Apparently they initially wanted to appoint Adams, but he insisted that Jefferson do the writing. Somewhere over the next 17 days Jefferson created the first draft, drawing inspiration from George Mason’s draft of the Declaration of Rights of Virginia and his own draft of the planned Virginia Constitution.
1776: Battle Of Trenton
(See Main Article: Battle of Trenton: Location, Facts and Summary)
The Battle of Trenton was a small but crucial battle during the American Revolutionary War. It happened on the morning of December 26, 1776, in Trenton, New Jersey.
The Battle of Trenton
- The Americans’ (with 2400 soldiers) march toward Trenton began at 4 AM. As the soldiers marched, many left trails of blood from their bleeding feet.
- About 2 miles (3 km) outside the town, the soldiers were startled by the sudden appearance of 50 armed men, but they were American. This small group had attacked a Hessian outpost earlier. Washington feared the Hessians would have been put on guard, and shouted at their leader, “You sir! You sir, may have ruined all my plans by having them put on their guard.”
- In fact, the 50 men actually helped Washington. The Hessian commander Rall had been warned about a possible American attack, but he thought the first raid was the attack and that there would be no further action that day.
- Washington’s army reached Trenton around 8 AM.
- The Hessians were completely surprised. Most were asleep when the Americans arrived.
- They tried to form lines, but the American cannons were already pouring devastating fire into the Hessians. (Part of the American artillery was commanded by a young captain named Alexander Hamilton). American musket fire also decimated the Hessians. Much hand-to-hand fighting occurred.
- Within an hour, the Hessians surrendered. The Americans had suffered only two deaths (due to exposure, not gunfire) and five wounded. One of the wounded was a young lieutenant named James Monroe.
- 22 Hessians were killed (including Col. Rall), 83 were wounded, and 800-900 surrendered and became prisoners. At least 500 Hessians escaped.
1777: Battle of Brandywine Creek
(See Main Article: Battle of Brandywine Creek)
The Battle of Brandywine Creek was fought between the American Continental Army of General George Washington and the British Army of General Sir William Howe. It was an early battle in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), taking place on September 11, 1777.
Howe Moves His Army
- By the first week of March 1777, Washington became convinced that Howe was going to move his army to Philadelphia.
- But Howe did nothing in March, April, May or early June. He began to move in mid-June. He was hoping to draw Washington out of his fortified position into open battle. Washington did not take the bait.
- In July, Howe’s army began to move, and on July 23, they set to sea. But it was not clear exactly where they were going.
- On July 30, the British fleet was sighted off Delaware Bay. This made it obvious that Howe’s target was Philadelphia.
- On August 25, Howe disembarked a light infantry unit at the mouth of the Elk River, just 30 miles south of Philadelphia. It took Howe a week to offload all of his troops and supplies. Altogether, he has about 15,000 soldiers.
- They moved slowly, reaching the Brandywine River (half the distance to Philadelphia) on September 11. There they met Washington and 10,000 Continental troops. Washington’s army had marched quickly from New Jersey.
Battle of Brandywine Creek: Afterward
- On the way to meet Howe’s army, Washington’s army marched through Philadelphia. There they were joined by the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette, a 19-year old French nobleman, offered to serve in the army without pay.
- Washington reached Brandywine Creek on September 9 and spread his army out on the high ground behind the river, on either side of the main road that crossed the river.
- On the morning of the 11th, a brigade of Hessians attacked right across the river bridge, while two others, under Howe and Cornwallis, moved northward to cross the river at a couple of fords and got behind the Americans. Washington left his right flank unanchored.
- Washington’s lines held a long time but eventually collapsed. Darkness and exhaustion prevented the British from following up.
- Battle of Brandywine Creek death toll: British lost 89 dead and 400 wounded. Americans lost 200 dead, 40 prisoners, and 400 wounded (including Lafayette).
- Howe stopped for two days and did very little. Washington fell back to a new position behind the Schuylkill River, attempting to shield Philadelphia from Howe’s army. He received 3100 reinforcements.
- On the 15th, Washington re-crossed the Schuylkill, wanting to attack again, but a thunderstorm prevented an attack.
- Washington sent Alexander Hamilton to Philadelphia to warn Congress to evacuate the city. They moved to York, PA.
Was Alexander Hamilton Gay? Here’s An Analysis
(See Main Article: Was Alexander Hamilton Gay? Here’s An Analysis)
Myth: Alexander Hamilton Was Gay
One often gets the impression that myths like this are perpetrated to justify modern moral values. Hamilton certainly had a colorful career and death, but this accusation is based on amateur psychoanalysis and extremely circumstantial evidence. If Hamilton was gay, he certainly did a fine job of hiding it throughout his adult life. Here are some thoughts on the question “Was Alexander Hamilton Gay?”.
Is Alexander Hamilton gay: The myth of Hamilton’s homosexual past centers on his relationship with John Laurens of South Carolina. Both men served under George Washington during the American Revolution. Washington referred to his staff officers as his “family” during the war, and Laurens and Hamilton developed a close relationship. When the two were apart, they corresponded frequently. Their letters were written in the flowery language of the eighteenth century, and while they would raise suspicion in modern American society, they were typical in style and tone for their time. Hamilton told Laurens that he loved him, and Laurens referred to Hamilton as “My Dear.” They were both young, involved in a dire situation, and had idealistic notions about life and society. They were kindred spirits, but no hint of a sexual relationship exists.
1777: Valley Forge
(See Main Article: Valley Forge: The Great Trial of the Revolution)
Valley Forge history recounts one of the darkest moments in the Revolutionary War. The site itself was the third of eight military encampments for the Continental Army’s main body which General George Washington commanded.
Valley Forge History
- Washington needed to put his army into winter camp. He wanted to stay close to Howe’s army and protect the Congress in York.
- He chose a site on the west side of the Schuylkill River and was 25 miles NW of Philadelphia called Valley Forge.
- The army began setting up camp on December 19, 1777.
- They had to construct their own huts because the site had a little natural cover.
- Worse, the Continental Army’s commissary head and quartermaster general resigned. It was hard to find anyone competent to replace them.
- The army had to cope with the frequent lack of supplies. Washington constantly wrote to Congress, but he got little relief. Some men were nearly naked. Others had mismatched and inadequate clothing.
- The men lived mainly on “firecake,” a thin bread made of flour and water that was baked over a campfire. The cry “No meat! No meat!” was frequently heard.
- Middlekauff (420): “Pork which had been purchased in New Jersey remained there to spoil for lack of wagons. In Pennsylvania, private contractors shipped flour to New England, where prices were better, while Washington’s soldiers had short rations. And a number of farmers around Philadelphia preferred to sell to the British in the city, who had hard cash than to accept Washington’s promises of payment.”
- Washington was forced to allow occasional foraging (something he had not allowed previously).
- By February, half of Washington’s army was gone. As many of 1100 deserted to the British Army. Many of the ones who remained were sick and unable to serve. Although there was plenty of grumbling, there was no mutiny.
- John Laurens (an aide of Washington’s and the son of the president of Congress) wrote. “We have some as brave individuals among our officers as any who exist. The men in the ranks are the best crude materials for soldiers, I believe, in the world, for they possess docility and patience which astonish foreigners. With a little more discipline, we should drive the haughty Briton to his ships.”
- The supply situation improved when Nathanael Greene became a quartermaster general in May 1778.
1783: The Revolutionary War Ends
(See Main Article: When Did The Revolutionary War End?)
The American War of Independence or Revolutionary War started in 1775 and lasted 8 long years until 1783 when it finally came to an end and the North American colonies finally gained their independence. The war started as a rebellion of the thirteen colonies that declared themselves the United States of America against British rule in the colonies. France also got involved and fought on the side of the rebels in 1778, leading to the conflict culminating into a world war involving Britain, France, the Netherlands and Spain. It all ended with the signing of two peace treaties.
The Treaty of Paris
After the British suffered a major defeat at Yorktown, many politicians in Britain started to highly disagree with continuing the war and the Prime Minister, Lord North handed in his resignation in March of 1782. Shortly after, in April, the British Commons voted that the war in America should be ended. In late November, 1782 preliminary peace articles were signed and drafted, but the war only formally came to an end when the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 4, 1783. The last British troops were withdrawn from New York in November, 1783 and the Paris treaty was ratified by the U.S. Congress on January 14, 1784.
1787: The Constitution of the United States of America
(See Main Article: The Constitution of the United States of America)
The Constitution of the United States of America established America’s national government and fundamental laws, and guaranteed certain basic rights for its citizens. It was signed on September 17, 1787, by delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
In the summer of 1787, delegates from every state except Rhode Island gathered in Philadelphia to discuss revisions to the Articles of Confederation, which had been drafted and ratified during the War for Independence. The states believed that the government had become weak and ineffective, and needed an injection of vigor and strength. When the delegates met, they decided instead to create a new document, albeit one that drew from passages of the Articles.
The constitution of the United States of America gave the federal government the power to tax, which it lacked under the Articles. It established three distinct branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial—and provided “checks and balances” by which each branch could resist the encroachments of another. It provided for a two-house legislature, with representation determined on the basis of population in the House of Representatives and on equality among the states in the Senate.
1789: George Washington: The First Founding Father
(See Main Article: George Washington: The First Founding Father)
On 15 January 1783, General George Washington stood before his officers in a moment of crisis. His men had toiled and suffered for months with little pay, and Congress did not appear willing to ante-up. Washington could sense the growing possibility of mutiny. In a basic wooden structure that the men called “the Temple,” Washington reasoned with his subordinates to avoid “any measures which . . . will lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained. . . . ”
As the men anxiously listened to his words, Washington thought they were unconvinced by his plea for patience. He began reading a letter from a sympathetic member of the Congress that explained the difficulties the government faced in discharging its war debt. The army would be paid, this member assured, after the Congress resolved other pressing financial matters. The letter was barely legible and the aging Washington had trouble reading it without stumbling. He paused, removed his glasses from his pocket, and said: “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself going blind.” In those two sentences, Washington captured his men. Captain Samuel Shaw wrote of the moment, “He spoke—every doubt was dispelled, and the tide of patriotism rolled again in its wonted course. Illustrious man!”
Washington connected with the men as a human being, a patriot engaged in the same struggle, and the army and its general were entwined. His closing statement echoed in the room: “You will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind, had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.”
Washington was the first American hero, and without doubt is the most important man in American history. Contemporaries described him as a giant among men in both physical stature and character. He stood over six feet tall and weighed 190 to 200 pounds. His frame exuded strength; his countenance was firm but agreeable. Men wished to emulate him and would enthusiastically follow him to the end, and the women of Virginia society called him charming, sincere, and chatty—an amusing companion, though sometimes impudent in his conversation. They lined up to dance with him. Jefferson described him as the finest horseman in the country. He commanded respect and admiration from both his countrymen and foreign visitors. Without George Washington, the United States would not exist.
1791: The Bill Of Rights
(See Main Article: Why was the Bill of Rights Added to the Constitution?)
Why was the Bill of Rights added to the constitution? The United States Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed following the often bitter 1787–88 debate over the ratification of the Constitution, and written to address the objections raised by Anti-Federalists, the Bill of Rights amendments add to the Constitution specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights, clear limitations on the government’s power in judicial and other proceedings, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically granted to the U.S. Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people. The concepts codified in these amendments are built upon those found in earlier documents, especially the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), as well as the English Bill of Rights (1689) and the Magna Carta (1215).
Why was the Bill of Rights Added to the Constitution?
Since the most powerful states in the Union would not have ratified the Constitution if not for the Bill of Rights, the Founding generation would be its most ardent defenders. Gun control should never be considered; the “Fairness Doctrine” should never reach the floor of Congress for a vote; the Patriot Act, which allows the government to use unconstitutional powers, should be revised, amended, or placed in the trash-can; religious liberty, including the free expression of religious faith during government functions and prayer in public schools, should be defended; the burden of proof in a case involving “violations “of federal “regulations” should be placed on the government, not the accused; federal disregard for private property should cease. In short, federal activity should be severely curtailed.
1803: Louisiana Purchase
(See Main Article: Louisiana Purchase)
The Louisiana Purchase was not a simple matter for U.S. Congress. It had only authorized Monroe to spend $2 million for New Orleans and West Florida, so the increase in funds needed approval. Because it increased the public debt by nearly 20 percent, Jefferson’s secretary of the treasury, Swiss-born Albert Gallatin, was forced to finance a deal he thought went against republican principles, and it did contradict republican ideals of independence because most of the stock used to finance the purchase were sold to foreign banks.
Jefferson also had to wrestle with the constitutionality of the measure. He did not think the Constitution permitted the United States to acquire territory. James Madison persuaded him otherwise, but for good measure Jefferson immediately went to work drafting a constitutional amendment that permitted the acquisition. When nary a soul confronted Jefferson on the constitutionality of the matter (even the staunch strict-constructionist John Randolph of Roanoke supported the purchase at the time, though he later changed course) Jefferson considered the issue dead and did not follow-up. The Senate ratified the treaty with little debate.
1808: Atlantic Slave Trade Abolished
(See Main Article: The History of Slavery, Part 4: African Slavery in the New World, 1500-1865)
Slavery predates European entry into the Atlantic world in the Age of Exploration, but the system that developed during the 16th and 17th centuries was an arguably more inhumane and racially tinged institution than anything that had previously existed before. The first English colonists in the Americas believed they could become wealthy through mutual trade with Native Americans. This system failed and was replaced by chattel enslavement of Africans to work on cash-crop plantations. American slavery grew and metastasized until it swallowed up over 10 million lives in the Atlantic Slave Trade.
1812-1861: The Antebellum Period
(See Main Article: The Antebellum Period: The Storm Before The Storm)
The Antebellum Period is a five-decade period in American history that spans the years after the War of 1812 but before the Civil War in 1861. This period saw the end of the Founding Fathers and their generation when questions of slavery and states rights remained unresolved in the grand experiment of the United States. Northern and Southern economies developed along different trajectories; abolitionists battled with slavery defenders in the courts of public opinion and sometimes with actual firearms, and political factions moved toward an unavoidable collision that resulted in the Civil War.
1863: The Battle of Gettysburg
(See Main Article: Battle of Gettysburg)
The battle was fought over three days: 1-3 July 1863, with the final troop totals equaling close to 95,000 Federals and 75,000 Confederates. As the initial skirmishes began, almost accidentally, Kentucky-born Union General John Buford, an old Indian fighter, secured the high ground for the Federals.
The Confederates could have won the battle the first day. They pushed the Federals from their advanced positions in front of Gettysburg and along Seminary Ridge. The subsequent Union position—known as the “fish hook”—eventually formed like the base of the letter J at Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill, extending straight down Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top and Big Round on the Union left.
Lee asked General Richard Ewell to attack the base of the fishhook, in order to sweep the Federal line, “if practicable.” Ewell, to Lee’s dismay, didn’t think it was, though Confederate General John B. Gordon knew otherwise: “The whole portion of the Union army in my front was in inextricable confusion and in flight . . . my troops were on the flank and sweeping down the lines. The firing upon my men had almost ceased. Large bodies of the Union troops were throwing down their arms and surrendering . . . .In less than half an hour my troops would have swept up and over those hills . . . .It is not surprising that . . .I should have refused to obey that order [to retreat].”
On the Union side of the line, it had been a lucky escape, but with heavy casualties. I Corps had lost nearly 10,000 men and some units had been virtually annihilated (the 24th Michigan suffered casualties of 80 percent). But arriving at midnight was the Army of the Potomac’s new commander, General George Meade, who inspected his defensive positions and found them solid.
1854: The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
(See Main Article: The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854)
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 (10 Stat. 277) was an organic act that created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.
The controversy over the Kansas Nebraska Act proved too much for the ramshackle Whig Party, which was torn apart by sectional antagonism. Filling the political vacuum left by the self-destruction of the Whig Party was the Republican Party, created in 1854 as a sectional party—just what so many American statesmen had tried to avoid. The Republicans attracted a variety of supporters with their free-soil position and their support for high protective tariffs.
As free-soilers, they opposed slavery in the territories, though the racialist motivation of such exclusion of slavery is clear from the party’s 1856 platform, which read, in part, that “all unoccupied territory of the United States, and such as they may hereafter acquire, shall be reserved for the white Caucasian race—a thing that cannot be except by the exclusion of slavery.” Their economic program, of which the protective tariff formed an important plank, could not have been better devised to attract Southern antipathy. Abraham Lincoln, who would be elected in 1860 as the first Republican president, had been a supporter of the protective tariff for several decades by the time he reached the White House.
1861 – 1865: The Civil War
(See Main Article: American Civil War Summary)
Here’s a short American Civil War summary. It was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North (the Union) and the South (the Confederacy).
A bit more context, however, is necessary. Strictly speaking, there never was an American Civil War. A civil war is a conflict in which two or more factions fight for control of a nation’s government. The English Civil War of the 1640s and the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s are two classic examples; in both cases, two factions sought to control the government. That was not the case in the United States between 1861 and 1865. The seceding Southern states were not trying to take over the United States government; they wanted to declare themselves independent.
Civil War/Total War: The Extent of Battle from 1861 to 1865
(See Main Article: Civil War/Total War: The Extent of Battle from 1861 to 1865)
Did the North win by waging total war in the Civil War? Total war is a “war that is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the laws of war are disregarded.”
The contention of some historians that the Civil War was the first modern “total war,” setting the precedent for the murderous wars of the twentieth century, appears to be a new twist on the Myth of the Lost Cause. It implies that the Union prevailed by waging war of unethical scope and severity. “It was Lincoln, Grant, and the Civil War that incorporated total war into modern experience,” asserts Charles Strozier. He adds that “the totality of the modern state seems to require unconditional surrender as a necessary correlative of its total wars. The American Civil War brought that into focus.”
The accusation of brutality in the Union armies’ conquest of the South began right after the war. In 1866, Pollard contrasted the Yankees’ behavior with that of Lee’s army, which, he maintained, abided by its commander’s order to protect the property that lay in the path of its Gettysburg campaign. “No house was entered without authority; no granary was pillaged; no property was taken without payment on the spot, and vast fields of grains were actually protected by Confederate guards. . . . ” In fact, however, the rebels in Pennsylvania foraged extensively and confiscated livestock, transportation vehicles, and thousands of wagon loads of grains and produce—sufficient to constitute a fifteen-, twenty- or fifty-mile reserve train of wagons. Confederate “payments” for property were made in essentially worthless Confederate currency, and as many as several hundred blacks were kidnapped and sent South into slavery.
1863: Emancipation Proclamation
(See Main Article: What Was the Emancipation Proclamation?)
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This executive order was a war measure directed at the rebel states and declared the ten states that were rebelling to be free. The proclamation excluded the areas that were under the Union’s control, but still applied to around 4 million slaves at that time. The Emancipation Proclamation was not a law that Congress had passed, but an executive order based on the president’s authority over the armed forces as specified in the Constitution.
In a way, the proclamation was a way to get more soldiers on the Union Army’s side. It specifies that suitable freed slaves could enroll and be paid to fight for the Union and that the Union’s military personnel had to recognize the freedom of these former slaves. Lincoln may have seen the Emancipation Proclamation as a necessity from a military perspective: in 1862 the Union wasn’t doing too well in the war. By taking away the Confederate’s slave workers, it would not only add to the strength of the Union Forces, but also weaken the Confederacy by taking away the labor that helps to produce their supplies.
1864: Abraham Lincoln Wins Re-Election
(See Main Article: Lincoln’s Landslide Victory in the Election of 1864)
In 1864, Lincoln once again demonstrated a political aggressiveness that matched Grant’s military aggressiveness. In that year’s political campaign, he, along with Republican Radicals, insisted that the Republican platform contain a plank advocating a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. He encouraged his secretary of war to work with his generals to allow as many soldiers from non-absentee-ballot states as possible to return home to vote for president.
But the election of 1864 results, especially before the fall of Atlanta, were not pre-ordained. Lincoln was vulnerable because the North was divided on the issues of war, the draft, and slavery. There had been draft riots in New York City, anti-war “Copperhead” sentiment flourished in the Midwest, and the Democrats adopted a peace platform at their convention. Just after McClellan’s nomination, Secretary of the Navy Welles worried that “McClellan will be supported by War Democrats and Peace Democrats, by men of every shade and opinion; all discordant elements will be made to harmonize, and all differences will be suppressed.” The next day, however, he took a contrary position: “Notwithstanding the factious and petty intrigues of some professed friends . . . and much mismanagement and much feeble management, I think the President will be reelected, and I shall be surprised if he does not have a large majority.”
1865: End Of The Civil War
(See Main Article: When Did the Civil War End?)
The last battle of the Civil War was however only fought over a month later, at Palmito Ranch in Texas. Although an unofficial truce existed between the Union and the Confederates, Theodore H. Barrett ordered his Confederate soldiers to attack a Union camp close to Fort Brown. His reasons for attacking are unknown, and some say that he was just eager to lead his first attack before the war was officially over. The 34th Indiana’s Union Private John J. Williams is said to have been the last death in combat of the Civil War.
1865: Abolition of Slavery in America
(See Main Article: Abolition of Slavery in America)
Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment resulted in the abolition of slavery in America.
William Lloyd Garrison, the most prominent abolitionist in America, actually passed a resolution through his American Anti-Slavery Society insisting that it was the duty of each member to work to dissolve the American Union. (It read, “Resolved, That the Abolitionists of this country should make it one of the primary objects of this agitation to dissolve the American Union.”) He held this view in part because the North, once separated from the South, would no longer be morally tainted by its association with slavery (“No Union with slaveholders!” he declared), but also because he believed Northern secession would undermine Southern slavery. If the Northern states were a separate country, the North would be under no constitutional obligation to return runaway slaves to their masters. The Northern states would then become a haven for runaway slaves. The enforcement cost of Southern slavery would become prohibitive, and the institution would collapse.
What is the 13th Amendment?
(See Main Article: What is the 13th Amendment?)
The 13th Amendment is a large milestone in the history of African-Americans. This amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishes slavery and any service done involuntarily (except by court order as a punishment for a crime.)
It took about a year and a half for the 13th Amendment to be fully processed. After being passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, it had to be approved by the House, which happened on January 31, 1865. On December 6, 1865, it was finally ratified by the majority of states needed to make it legal. The 13th Amendment was one of the three so-called Reconstruction Amendments, which were adopted within the five years after the Civil War.’
Abraham Lincoln Assassination
(See Main Article: Who Assassinated Abraham Lincoln?)
On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head in Ford’s Theatre’s presidential box by an actor, John Wilkes Booth. After shooting the President, Booth jumped on the stage and managed to escape through the theater’s back entrance. The first president to be assassinated, Lincoln died at the end of the Civil War, only five days after Confederate Robert E. Lee surrendered. President Lincoln was actually quite a fan of his assassin’s acting skills and had invited him previously to meet at the White House. Booth, who was a Confederate spy and rebel sympathizer evaded the invitation.
Booth and his co-conspirators had originally planned to kidnap Lincoln, but in the end, decided on an assassination instead. After Booth heard a speech by Lincoln in support of giving slaves citizenship, he was said to have promised that this speech would be his last. David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Lewis Powell were part of the assassination plot, in which they wanted to kill the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State at the same time. They hoped to wreak havoc in the Union by eliminating its three top people. Although the president was assassinated, the plot failed with Atzerodt fleeing and Powell only managing to wound the Secretary of State.
1890: Wounded Knee
(See Main Article: The Old West: Manifest Destiny, Oregon Trail, Native Americans, Gold Rush)
A group of soldiers opened fire on a group of Sioux at the Pine Ridge reservation in Wounded Knee Creek killing 153 Indian men, women and children.
World War I and the Great Depression
1917 – 1918: The United States Enters World War 1; Rejects Entry Into The League Of Nations
(See Main Article: World War 1: A Comprehensive Overview of the Great War)
The reason for America to become involved in WW1 was Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare, which had already sunk several American merchant ships. The U.S. was initially contributed to the war by supplying raw materials, supplies, and money. American soldiers first arrived to the Western Front in the summer of 1918 and by the end of the war, over 4,000,000 U.S. military personnel had been mobilized. 110,000 Americans died during WW1, of which 43,000 lost their lives in the influenza pandemic. How the U.S. contributed to World War 1: Supplying raw materials, arms, and other supplies. The U.S. actually saved Britain and some other Allied powers from bankruptcy by joining the war. Previously, Britain and its allies used to buy supplies from the U.S. amounting to over 75 billion dollar per week. The American Expeditionary Forces were sent to all the campaigns the U.S. got involved in. By that time, the weary French and British troops were badly in need of relief. The first American soldiers reached Europe in June 1917 already, but only started fully participating in October in Nancy, France. The U.S. wanted its forces to be capable of operating independently but didn’t have the necessary supplies and trained troops in Europe yet at the time.
Why Did the League of Nations Fail?
(See Main Article: Why Did the League of Nations Fail?)
The League of Nations was the first intergovernmental organization that was established after World War 1 in order to try and maintain peace. It was headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and designed to be a forum for handling international disputes before they flared up into military action and caused domino effects that pulled ally nations into the conflict (as had happened with the Great War). Unfortunately, the League failed miserably in its intended goal: to prevent another world war from happening (WW2 broke out only two decades later). The idea was for the League of Nations to prevent wars through disarmament, collective security, and negotiation. It was also involved in other issues such as drug trafficking, arms trade, and global health. Although the League disbanded during WW2, it was replaced with the United Nations, which is still going strong today.
1919: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919
(See Main Article: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919)
The Paris Peace Conference opened on January 18, 1919. Its task was the writing of five separate peace treaties with the defeated separate powers: Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria, Austria, and Hungary (now separate nations). The defeated Central Powers were not allowed to participate in the negotiations. The terms would be dictated to them. Russia was also not allowed to come. The world had been remade. Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and Wilson faced a daunting task. Even as they and all the other delegates sat down to their deliberations, borders and governments were being decided in tumult, anarchy, and armed conflict. Most of the crowned heads of Europe had been deposed. The Czar and his family had been murdered. The Kaiser was in exile in the Netherlands. Bavarian king Ludwig III had given way to a socialist revolt. Austria and Hungary had declared themselves republics, making Charles I an emperor without an empire (he would eventually go into exile in Switzerland, and later Madeira). The states of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland were reemerging from the past. Communist red flags popped up, however briefly, at points in the heart of Europe. German mercenary armies, the Freikorps, fought Bolsheviks in Germany, saving the secular, socialist Weimar Republic—and even tried to annex the Baltic States, in secular emulation of the Teutonic Knights.
1919 – 1920: The 19th Amendment Gives Women The Right To Vote
(See Main Article: When Were U.S. Women Given the Right to Vote?)
Although women already started to picket and petition for the right to vote in the 1800s, it literally took 70 years before Congress finally passed the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The right to vote, also known as woman suffrage, was an important step towards equality in the U.S. and the first women voted in 1920, after the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18.
The first national women’s rights organization was launched in 1848 during a convention that took place in Seneca Falls, New York. Key figures in the early women’s suffrage movements were Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who got arrested for voting illegally.
The 19th Amendment were passed by the Senate on June 4, 1919 after being only two votes over the two-thirds majority of 56-25. All the states received the amendment for ratification, and by March 1920, 36 states had approved. They were one state short of the required two-thirds as the Southern states were very against this amendment. Seven states had already rejected it, and it was up to Tennessee to make the final decision for or against woman suffrage. State legislators of Tennessee were heavily divided with a 48-48 tie and it was up to Harry T. Burn to cast the deciding vote. He, personally was against the amendment, but his mother managed to convince him and he voted for ratification. Bainbridge Colby, the U.S. Secretary of State, certified the amendment on August 26, 1920.
(See Main Article: Prohibition: How it Happened, Why it Failed, and How it Still Affects America Today)
America has a strange relationship with alcohol. Certain drinks represented the darkest parts of the national psyche. Rum was once associated with slavery because sugar cane plantations that made rum were only profitable with chattel slavery. Whisky and hard cider were omnipresent in the 19th century, turning able-bodied men into drunkards who couldn’t support their families and left them to starve.
But it was Prohibition that is strangest of all. America successfully outlawed alcohol, the first and only modern nation to do so. The unintended consequences were enormous: from physicians falsifying alcohol’s positive effects so they could write prescriptions for “medicine” and make a handsome profit, to record numbers of men converting to Judaism so they could administer alcohol in rabbinical ceremonies.
1929 – 1933: The Great Depression
(See Main Article: When did the Great Depression Start?)
The Great Depression was an economic depression that affected countries worldwide before the start of World War II. In most countries, it started in 1930 and its effects lasted for the next decade up until the middle 1940’s for some (after the war). It has been the most widespread, most devastating depression of the 20th century and showed exactly how fragile the economy actually is.
Most historians agree that the Great Depression started with Black Tuesday, with the crash of the stock market in October 29, 1929. Stock prices have begun to fall in early September already, but the crash of the 29th sent Wall Street in a frenzy and destroyed millions of investors. The devastating effects of this crash caused profits, prices, tax revenue, and personal income to drop and international trade decreased by over 50%, which, in turn, affected countries that relied on export. Over 25% of Americans lost their jobs (13 to 15 million people) and in several countries, unemployment skyrocketed to 33% of the population. The economy only started to recover around 1939 and during World War II when the industrial demands of the war boosted American factories.
1933 – 1936: The New Deal
(See Main Article: FDR’s New Deal Policies)
FDR’s New Deal policies were a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1936. In 1932, Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Hoover in a landslide. Along with Washington and Lincoln, FDR is routinely listed in polls as among the “great” presidents. Many Americans believe his New Deal programs rescued the country from the grips of the Depression. In fact, under FDR’s new deal programs, unemployment averaged a whopping 18 percent from 1933 to 1940.
World War II and the Cold War
1941: Pearl Harbor
(See Main Article: Pearl Harbor: The Ultimate Guide to the Attack)
The attack on Pearl Harbor ranks as the most successful military surprise attack in the early years of combined naval/aerial combat. On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service struck the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory. The attack directly led to the United States’ entrance into World War Two. Japan quickly followed up the attack with the invasion of numerous Pacific Islands. They held them through several years of gruesome fighting.
1945: United States Drops Two Atomic Bombs on the Japanese Cities Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki
(See Main Article: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the End of the War)
Between December 1942 and July 1945, a team of scientists, working in secret facilities in various parts of the U. S., researched, built, and tested the world’s first atomic bomb. Japan’s failure to surrender, together with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of casualties, motivated President Truman to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Despite the bomb’s destruction of the city, including the immediate deaths of up to 80,000 people, Japan’s leaders still refused to surrender. Three days later, an American bomber dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, leveling that city and killing nearly as many people as had perished at Hiroshima. Soon after, the Emperor led Japan to surrender. In this episode, James and Scott discuss the Manhattan Project, the dropping of the two atomic bombs, the Japanese surrender, and the end of the Second World War.
1947: The Truman Doctrine Is Announced
(See Main Article: What Was the Truman Doctrine?)
The Truman Doctrine arose from a speech by President Harry Truman, but it has informally become the basis of the U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War and afterwards. Historians often refer to the Truman speech as the day the Cold War started, because the policy was geared towards containing the expansion of the Soviet Union and communism. Previously, the U.S. always had a stance of withdrawing from conflicts that were not directly affecting the U.S., but after Truman’s Doctrine was approved, interventions started to happen more frequently in far away countries.
1947: The Cold War Begins
(See Main Article: The Cold War: Causes, Major Events, and How it Ended)
The Cold War was a geopolitical chess match between the United States, the Soviet Union, and both parties’ allies in which the major power players sought to project their respective ideologies across the globe in the wake of colonialism’s collapse following World War Two. The period occurred between 1947, the year of the Truman Doctrine, and 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
1948: The Marshall Plan Is Implemented To Assist Post-War Europe
(See Main Article: Marshall Plan in the Cold War)
The Marshall Plan in the Cold War was a strategy to turn former WW2 enemies into allies by rebuilding their shattered economies. One of the enduring myths of early Cold War history involves the so-called Marshall Plan laid out by Secretary of State George Marshall in 1947. With Western Europe in economic ruin, some American policymakers suggested that massive injections of aid were necessary in order to jump-start those economies. An anti-Communist rationale was also offered for the program: Since Communism was thought to thrive amid conditions of poverty and despair, economic recovery in Western Europe would undercut whatever attraction Communist propaganda might hold there.
American History 1950 – 1954: McCarthyism
(See Main Article: The Cold War Home Front: McCarthyism)
Shortly after WWII a phenomenon known as McCarthyism began to emerge in American politics. As far as American history is concerned, McCarthyism was the practice of investigating and accusing persons in positions of power or influence of disloyalty, subversion (working secretly to undermine or overthrow the government), or treason. Reckless accusations that the government was full of communists were pursued by Republican-led committees with subpoena power and without proper regard for evidence. The two Republicans most closely associated with McCarthyism were the phenomenon’s namesake, Senator Joseph McCarthy, and Senator Richard Nixon, who served as Vice President from 1953-1961, and then President from 1969-1974. Both men were driven by personal insecurities as much as by political gain.
American History 1950 – 1953: United States Plays Leading Role In Korean War
(See Main Article: Korean War In-Depth: From Beginning to Armistice)
The Korean War was the first and largest major battle of the Cold War, as proxies of the United States and Soviet Union took up arms to defend ideologies that clashed repeatedly over the next several decades. Fought between 1950 and 1953 (and still technically ongoing since the two sides never completed formal peace talks), it was a war between North Korea, with the support of China and the Soviet Union, and South Korea, primarily supported by NATO and the United States.
Desegregation And The Vietnam War
American History 1954: Racial Segregation In Schools Becomes Unconstitutional
(See Main Article: The Civil Rights Movement: The Surge Forward)
Brown v. Board was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. In doing so, the court overturned the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision from 1896, which had legalized and justified such segregation, (although in the area of public transportation), on the merits of “separate but equal.” Brown was a class-action suit named after Oliver Brown, a parent chosen to head the case in part because he was a solid family man with a respectable history of work and service in the community as an assistant pastor at his church. Thirteen parents were involved in the suit, each of them having been rebuffed in their attempts to enroll their children in the closest neighborhood schools for the fall 1951 term. Each had instead been directed to segregated schools.
American History 1960: John F. Kennedy Is Elected President, Defeating Richard Nixon
(See Main Article: Kennedy’s Major Accomplishments)
In American history, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by the initials JFK and Jack, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. Kennedy served at the height of the Cold War, and the majority of his work as president dealt with managing relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. A Democrat, Kennedy represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate prior to becoming president.
1961: The Bay Of Pigs Invasion Begins
(See Main Article: The Bay of Pigs Invasion: Why It Failed)
The operation, which would become known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, had been conceived during the Eisenhower administration by the CIA as a way to depose Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Cuban exiles had been trained as an invasion force by the CIA and former U.S. military personnel. The exiles would land in Cuba with the aid of old World War II bombers with Cuban markings and try to instigate a counterrevolution. It was an intricate plan that depended on every phase working perfectly.
1962: The Cuban Missle Crisis Begins
(See Main Article: What Was the Cuban Missile Crisis?)
In American history, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a very tense 13-day confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and is considered the closest the Cold War was to escalating in a full scale war. What could have resulted in the deaths of over 100 million people on both the Russian and American sides, was resolved peacefully. This crisis is also known as the Caribbean Crisis and the Missile scare, took place in October 1962 and was broadcasted on television all over the world.
American History 1963: Kennedy Is Assassinated; Lyndon Johnson Becomes President
(See Main Article: What Happened on November 22, 1963?)
In American history, President Kennedy was assassinated during his Dallas trip when Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. John David Ready had been part of Kennedy’s Secret Service detail that day and was assigned to the right front running board of the presidential follow-up car. Ready, whose job was to observe the crowds and buildings, said, “I heard what appeared to be firecrackers going off from my position.” The vast majority of ear-witnesses heard three shots; many of them believed they were firecrackers.
American History 1964: Civil Rights Act Is Signed Into Law
(See Main Article: Civil Rights Act of 1964)
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 facts was one of the most momentous and far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history. The act prohibited segregation in public facilities and private establishments catering to the public, particularly restaurants and hotels. It also prohibited discrimination in private employment on the basis of race, creed, sex, or national origin. It extended federal authority over private behavior to an extraordinary degree; that power would continue to grow in the ensuing years in American history.
American History 1965: United States Enters Vietnam War
(See Main Article: The Vietnam War: Background and Overview)
Although the history of Vietnam has been dominated by war for 30 years of the 20th century, the conflict escalated during the sixties. When we talk about the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese refer to as the “American War”), we talk about the military intervention by the U.S. that happened between 1965 and 1973.
American History 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Assassinated
(See Main Article: What Did Martin Luther King Do?)
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth date is January 15, 1929. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and was known for being a very passionate civil-rights activist, who had a great impact on the relations between races in the U.S. in the 1950s. He played a great role in creating the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Acts In 1964, at age 35, King was the youngest man ever to have received the Nobel Peace Prize and he is often quoted for the “I Have a Dream” speech he delivered in 1963. His assassination on April 4, 1968, was an event in American history that shocked the world.
1969: Activity In Vietnam Escalates As Public Opposition Grows
(See Main Article: The Vietnam War: Background And Overview)
American History Richard Nixon Becomes President
(See Main Article: Was Richard Nixon Impeached?)
Richard Nixon was never impeached, not because there were no impeachment proceedings against him, but because he resigned the presidency at the near-certain prospect of losing the impeachment vote and being removed from office. Nixon served as president of America between 1969 and 1974 and was, to date, the only president in American history to ever resign from office.
American History 1973: Vietnam Ceasefire Agreement Signed
(See Main Article: The Cold War: Causes, Major Events, and How it Ended)
On January 22, 1973, in Paris, Secretary of State William Rogers and North Vietnam’s chief negotiator, Le Duc Tho, signed “An Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam.” In announcing the ceasefire, Nixon said five times that it represented the “peace with honor” he had promised since the 1968 presidential campaign.
1974: Watergate Scandal And President Nixon’s Resignation
(See Main Article: Watergate Scandal Timeline)
A crucial event in American history happened on June 16, 1972, in room 214 of the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., seven men gathered to finalize their plans to break into the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) headquarters, located on the sixth floor of one of the Watergate complex’s six buildings.
On August 8, key Republican Senators informed the President that, once impeached, enough votes existed in the Senate to convict the President in the trial and remove him from office. That night, Richard Nixon addressed the nation from the Oval Office. He informed the American people that he no longer had a base of support in Congress. Therefore, he would not see the impeachment proceedings through to their conclusion. The nation needed a full-time president. In the interests of the nation, he would resign.
1976: Democratic Party Candidate Jimmy Carter Elected President
(See Main Article: The 1976 Presidential Election)
The 1976 presidential election was the first held in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which had consumed the Nixon presidency and resulted in Gerald R. Ford becoming president. Ford, the Republican candidate, was pitted against the relatively unknown former 1-term governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter. Carter ran as a Washington outsider, a popular position in the post-Watergate era, and won a narrow victory.
1979: US Embassy In Tehran, Iran, Seized By Radical Students
(See Main Article: The Iranian Revolution: Persia Before, During, and After 1979)
In American history, Iranian “students” (they were actually revolutionary paramilitary forces acting with the full support of their government) stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held fifty-two diplomats and other American citizens hostage. For 444 days these Americans were prisoners, regularly tortured and abused. Carter couldn’t get them out.
American History 1980: Republican Ronald Regan Elected President And Adopts Strong Anti-Communist Foreign Policy
(See Main Article: Reagan Foreign Policy: Peace Through Strength)
The new conservative president summed up the aims of his foreign policy as “We win, and they lose.” In his first presidential news conference, Reagan stunned official Washington by denouncing the Soviet leadership as still dedicated to “world revolution and a one-world socialist-communist state.” As he put it in his 1990 autobiography, “I decided we had to send as powerful a message as we could to the Russians that we weren’t going to stand by anymore while they armed and financed terrorists and subverted democratic governments.”
1986: Iran-Contra Affair
(See Main Article: The Iran-Contra Affair)
In American history, the foreign-policy scandal known as the Iran-contra affair came to light in November 1986 when President Ronald Reagan confirmed reports that the United States had secretly sold arms to Iran. He stated that the goal was to improve relations with Iran, not to obtain the release of U.S. hostages held in the Middle East by terrorists (although he later acknowledged that the arrangement had in fact turned into an arms-for-hostages swap).
1989: The Fall Of The Berlin Wall
(See Main Article: When Was the Berlin Wall Torn Down?)
The Berlin Wall, often called the “Wall of Shame” and a symbol of the Iron Curtain of the Cold War, was torn down on November 9, 1989, two years after President Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
American History 1990: United States Works To Expel Iraq From Kuwait
(See Main Article: Middle East Wars: 1975-2007)
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