This Month in History: Lexington and Concord, Appomattox, NATO, and More
April is perhaps the most eventful month in American History. The start of the American Revolution, the beginning and end of the Civil War, and the formation of the world’s most powerful government organization are just a few events to reflect upon. Part of a historian’s job is to tie historical events with current issues so that we can truly make better decisions. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.
America is the story of us..
A better understanding of history, by all means, should make people more aware of how to handle the future. President Trump has recently been under fire for refusing to assist in expanding NATO’s power. While NATO is a great organization that has helped defeat communism, we must remember that it is still a government agency. President Trump understands that, though NATO has some great accomplishments, it is a government that does not need to be expanded.
Within the past week, the state of Virginia declared that Confederate monuments in Charlottesville are protected as war memorials. It is certainly true that slavery was the defining issue that drove the Confederate states to secede from the Union. Nearly all of them (especially South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas) directly cited slavery either through a secession declaration, a member of Congress or via another politician. If anything, Confederate monuments should stay simply because they remind us how far we have come as a nation.
These are just two of April’s historical events that relate to current issues. I hope you enjoy a recap of last month’s significant events. More than that, I hope you learn the importance of what it means to examine history.
April 1, 1945
The Battle of Okinawa begins. This was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Lasting until June 22, it became infamous for the large number of Japanese Kamikaze attacks. The Battle of Okinawa also became known as one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific and ended with an Allied victory.
April 3, 1968
Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Given at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, this was King’s last speech before his assassination, which occurred the following day. King motivated his followers to boycott certain goods. This was in protest to industrialized racism. The most memorable excerpt from the speech reads, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t really matter now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…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.”
April 4, 1949
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is created in Washington, DC. Its establishment resulted primarily following the Treaty of Dunkirk in 1947. During that time, Western nations feared the possibility of a Soviet invasion. The original NATO members included Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. After its formal establishment, it included the US, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. In 1955, NATO’s adversary, the Warsaw Pact, was formed.
April 6, 1917
The US declares war on the German Empire. During the early years of World War I, Germany had attack ships carrying US civilians, including the RMS Lusitania. In January 1917, the Zimmerman Telegram was intercepted. This letter from Germany was meant to inform Mexico that they would receive western land lost in 1848, provided that they accepted an alliance with Germany. This prompted President Woodrow Wilson to ask for a war declaration.
April 9, 1865
General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. Many consider this event to mark the end of the Civil War. Lee was a gentleman in defeat, and he and Grant spent several minutes discussing their previous service with one another. Both men went to West Point, both fought in the Mexican-American War, and both loved the Union. Lee, who believed secession to be unconstitutional, only fought for the Confederacy because he could not draw arms against his homeland of Virginia. Following the surrender, he became a southern icon. Grant later became 18th President of the United States.
April 11, 1945
US forces liberate Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Established in 1937, Buchenwald was one of the largest concentration camps within Germany’s borders. Over 240,000 prisoners were held at the camp. Of these, over 56,000 died. On April 8, Polish engineer Gwidon Damazyn and Soviet prisoner Konstantin Ivanovich Leonov transmitted Morse code to US troops. This led to the liberation.
April 12, 1861
Confederate forces fire on Fort Sumter, starting the Civil War. Located in Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter remained occupied by Union troops, following the declaration of secession by South Carolina. Neither presidents James Buchanan nor Abraham Lincoln had recognized the Confederacy as a sovereign nation. Lincoln, however, insisted on resupplying the besieged troops. When Union ships entered the harbor, Confederate forces opened fire on the fort. Although there were no casualties in the battle, this action prompted Lincoln to call for volunteer troops to suppress the rebellion. Not long after, a full-scale war began. It was expected to last only several months but ended up spanning four long years.
April 13, 1743
Thomas Jefferson is born in Shadwell, Virginia. The primary author of the Declaration of Independence, he played a large role in encouraging the colonies to separate from Britain. Considered the most brilliant of the founding fathers, Jefferson’s resume was impressive. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1775-1776; Governor of Virginia from 1779-1781; Delegate to the Congress of the Confederation representing Virginia from 1783-1784; Minister Plenipotentiary for Negotiating Treaties of Amity and Commerce from 1784-1786; US Minister to France from 1785-1789; Secretary of State from 1790-1793; Vice President from 1797-1801; and President from 1801-1809. A Democratic-Republican, Jefferson’s ideal nation was one with a populace based largely on Yeoman farming. He passed away on July 4, 1826.
April 14 – Palm Sunday
Although not everyone celebrates the Easter season, many of us at New Right Network would like to encourage you to reflect on it. For those who are not familiar with the holiday, Palm Sunday commemorates the day in which Jesus rode into Jerusalem. John 12:13 states, “They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!’” This was one of the many prophecies in which Jesus fulfilled.
April 14, 1865
President Abraham Lincoln is shot at Ford’s Theatre, Washington DC, by John Wilkes Booth. An actor and Confederate sympathizer, Booth leapt from the balcony and onto the stage. He yelled, “Sic Semper Tyrannus!”, which translates as, “Thus always to tyrants.” President Lincoln died the next day. Booth fled and was eventually held up in a barn at the Garrett Farm. He was shot and killed on April 26 by Boston Corbett, a Union soldier.
April 17, 1961
The Bay of Pigs Invasion begins. Drafted by Dwight Eisenhower and Executed by President Kennedy, CIA-trained Cuban rebels were deployed in Cuba. US officials had sought to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, during which Castro gained power. The rebels were severely unsupported and the mission resulted in utter failure. Virtually all of them were captured or killed. The invasion strengthened Castro’s relationship with the Soviet Union and increased Cold War tensions.
April 19 – Good Friday
This holiday commemorates the day in which Jesus gave His life on the cross. After suffering a horrible beating by Roman soldiers and being forced to wear a crown of thorns, Christ carried His own cross to Mount Calvary. From there, He was nailed to the cross and left to die. Following His death, His side was pierced by a soldier’s spear, fulfilling a prophecy. The temple also split in two, just as Jesus predicted. He would rise from the grave on the third day, forever securing the bridge of salvation between God and humanity for all who believe in Him and His sacrifice.
April 19, 1775
The Battles of Lexington and Concord are fought, starting the American Revolution. In Middlesex County, Massachusetts, British troops were under order to seize militia supplies. The battles originally consisted of British troops gaining a foothold. Colonist troops at Lexington were pushed back, but at Concord, the tides turned. When the British approached the Old North Bridge, the colonists opened fire. Not long after, the British retreated, and the American Revolution had officially begun.
April 19, 1995
The Murrah building in Oklahoma City is bombed. Orchestrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the attack occurred just after 9:00 a.m. The blast killed 168 people and damaged over 300 buildings. This was the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil until September 11, 2001. McVeigh was captured not long after and sentenced to death in 1997. He was executed by lethal injection in 2001. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison. In 1997, President Bill Clinton signed the Oklahoma City National Memorial Act. The memorial consists of many parts, including a Field of Lost Chairs, Survivor Tree, and Reflecting Pool.
April 20, 1775
The Siege of Boston begins. Following the battles of Lexington and Concord, British troops were cut off by Bostonian militia. What followed was an 11-month-long siege. During this time, some of the most significant battles of the American Revolution were fought, including Bunker Hill and Fort Ticonderoga. The siege ended with British forces retreating to Nova Scotia.
April 21 – Easter
After being crucified on a cross at Mount Calvary, the body of Jesus Christ was placed in a tomb. Blocked by a large stone and guarded by Roman soldiers, many thought all hope had been lost. Then, on the third day, Christ was resurrected, fulfilling God’s promise. His resurrection represented that all who would accept His gift will experience eternal life. As Christians, we believe Christianity to be a relationship, not a religion. Religion is man trying to work to earn God. Christianity is God working to save mankind, and all they have to do is accept His gift.
April 21, 1898
The Spanish-American War begins. Following the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, many Americans pushed for war with Spain. President William McKinley had hoped to avoid war, while his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, pushed for it. The conflict lasted a little over three months and consisted of fighting in the Caribbean and the Philippines. The result was a significant American victory. Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines were acquired by the US.
April 23, 1914
The first major baseball game is held at Weeghman Park in Chicago, Illinois. Known today as Wrigley Field, this is where the Federal League was formed. Starting as a minor league in 1913, they had franchises in six cities. The Federal League dissolved in 1915. One year later, the Chicago Cubs played their first game at the field.
April 24, 1800
The Library of Congress is established. Contained in three buildings in Washington DC, it is the world’s largest library. After being partially burned by the British Army in 1814, the library purchased Thomas Jefferson’s book collection. Three of the library’s buildings are named after founding fathers: Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.
April 27, 1822
Ulysses S. Grant is born in Point Pleasant, Ohio. A graduate of West Point Military Academy, Grant served in the Mexican-American War. Here, he fought alongside other notable figures, including Robert E. Lee. During the Civil War, he served most of his time in the western theater, notably in Tennessee and Mississippi. He was eventually given command of the entire Union Army and was present for Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, 1865. Following the Civil War, he oversaw much of the Union’s attempt to reconstruct the South. A member of the Republican Party, Grant served as president from 1869-1877. He passed away on July 23, 1885.
April 29, 1946
The International Military Tribune for the Far East convenes. The Pacific equivalent of the German Nuremberg Trials, many of these trials were held in Tokyo. Eleven countries provided judges and prosecutors. For over two years, more than 400 individuals were tried. Hideki Tojo, along with many other Japanese leaders, was accused of war crimes. The Tribunal ended on November 12, 1948. Tojo was executed on December 23 of that year. Following this, other nations held various trials, including the USSR, China, and Australia.
April 30, 1803
The US purchases the Louisiana Territory from France. Covering roughly 828,000 square miles, this territory would later consist of over 14 states. President Jefferson, who authorized the purchase, would later be featured on Mount Rushmore. His significance to the mountain, as well as in US history, is that he represents the growth of America. Following the purchase, famed explorers Lewis and Clark would set out to discover the new territory.
Many significant events in American history occurred in April. We examine the start of the two large wars fought on American soil; we observe the birthdays of Thomas Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant; we reflect upon Dr. King’s Mountaintop Speech, and we are intrigued by many more. America is the story of us, and I feel that we all have a duty to inform ourselves of our past. By properly understanding the past, we can truly understand the present.
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