This Day in History
1815 — Treaty of Ghent ratified. This treaty ended the war between Britain and the United States. At issue for the U.S. was the illegal impressment of thousands of American sailors into the British navy, the economic blockade of France, and Britain’s support of hostile Indian tribes in the Great Lakes region. Once the war started America had its eyes on taking Canada also. However all its invasion attempts ended in defeat. At sea America was more successful. Led by the USS Constitution, America scored a series of victories over British warships. Britain was simultaneously at war with France and with Bonaparte’s defeat in 1814, there was no longer a need for an economic blockade as well as the impressment of American sailors. Then America scored a victory on Lake Champlain turning back an invasion attempt as well as repulsing the British at Fort McHenry protecting Baltimore. With both sides stymied militarily, peace delegators met in Ghent, Netherlands. The only issue remaining was the Indians. From en.wikipedia.org: “The Americans refused to consider a buffer state or to include Natives directly in the treaty in any fashion. John Quincy Adams argued that there was no precedent for including Native allies in Euro-American peace treaties and to do so would in effect mean the United States was abandoning its sovereign claims over Native homelands.” The treaty was signed on December 14th, 1814 but took almost two months to reach America. In the meantime the Battle of New Orleans was fought. Congress passed it on February 16th and President James Madison ratified it on February 17th.
A key, and to me an overwhelming statement, is “the U.S.’s sovereign claims over Native homelands.” Who gave us that sovereign claim? God? I’m sure that’s what they thought. And the law. Indians had no pieces of paper certifying their ownership so the land had to be there for the taking. Case closed.
1865 — Burning of Columbia, South Carolina. General William Sherman’s forces marched into Colombia on the morning of February, 17th. What, or who, caused the burning of the city remains uncertain. However it was not ordered by Union commanders. Union soldiers began breaking from their ranks and drinking. They started some of the fires. Looters started others. Retreating Confederate soldiers lit bales of cotton on fire to prevent them from falling into Union hands. Gangs of drunken soldiers rioted and plundered houses. Strong winds whipped the fires through wooden structures. Fresh Union troops arrived at 3am and quelled the riot, killing two soldiers, wounding 30 more and arresting 370 soldiers and civilians. Despite the carnage no civilians lives were lost. But the question still lingers: “Who burned Columbia?” And remains a controversial event in South Carolina history. From
scencyclopedia.org “Even after more than a century, the burning of Columbia still served occasionally as a rallying point for some white South Carolinians against “Yankees” and the Federal government.”
If they hadn’t started a war their city wouldn’t have been burned.
1974 — Stolen helicopter lands on White House lawn. Private Robert Preston joined the Army for four years with a guarantee of helicopter pilot training. When he washed out of the training program he still owed the Army four years. However he believed he hadn’t really flunked out, they had just got rid of him because America’s involvement in Vietnam was coming to a close and the Army had a surplus of combat helicopter pilots. Returning to base late one night at Fort George Meade in Maryland, close to Washington, D.C., Preston was bitter over his situation and upset over being jilted by a girlfriend. On impulse he hopped in a Huey helicopter and took off. What followed next was quite a wild ride. He buzzed a restaurant and trailer park and the state police were called. Then he decided to view the sites of our nation’s capitol. Police there saw him flying along the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol. Preston hovered a few feet off the ground at the Washington Memorial and then flew to the White House and did the same. The Secret Service was uncertain what to do, where it might crash if they shot. By now the police and Army had put their own helicopters in pursuit, three of them. What transpired was described in airspacemag.com as “modern dogfight tactics.” The Army pilots couldn’t keep up and later stated their admiration for Preston’s proficiency at flying. Realizing he was in hot water Preston decided his best bet was to surrender to President Nixon personally. When he returned to the White House a second time the Secret Service opened up. While landing the helicopter was hit by 300 bullets, five of which struck Preston, but only wounding him superficially. Arrested, court-martialed, a plea deal got him only six months in a military prison and a general discharge.
Some crimes you just gotta love.
1908 — Red Barber. Baseball announcer. Barber called games for the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. As a student at the University of Florida majoring in Education, he worked as a janitor at the school to help pay his way. He worked in the building housing the university’s radio station and one day a professor who was scheduled to read a scholarly paper over the air failed to show. Barber was asked to fill in and liked it so much switched careers. When he was hired by the Reds it was not only the first baseball game he announced, it was the first one he had ever seen. Barber introduced into baseball all kinds of folksy saying, including “can of corn” to describe a lazy fly ball. He was a dispassionate announcer and not a cheerleader for the home team. Having grown up in a traditional Southern culture, he initially opposed Jackie Robinson playing for the Dodgers, but changed his mind and became a supporter of Black players in the major leagues. At the end of the 1966 season, one in which a bad Yankee team was at the bottom of the standings, Barber made this comment about the crowd: “I don’t know what the paid attendance is today, but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium, and this crowd is the story, not the game.” The team president was listening at the time and the next day Barber was fired, ending his career. Barber retired to Florida, wrote some books, and made a weekly call to participate in a show on NPR.
I miss the old time announcers. Most of the time when I watch sports now I mute the sound because the announcers annoy me so much with their all knowing constant yapping.
1939 — Mary Ann Mobley. Miss America, 1959.
Much to my dismay and without my consent, my mother would sometimes hire me out as a babysitter. I would protest, but had to do it. This usually took place on Saturday nights so the only redeeming factor was I could watch “Have Gun will Travel” instead of my parents’ favorite, “The Lawrence Welk Show.” During one night of this indentured servitude I found myself watching the “Miss America Pageant.” Early in the program I picked Miss Mississippi to win. I was thrilled, smug, and and a little bit in love, by the time the crown was placed on Mary Ann Mobley’s head.