American History in March: Boston Massacre, Siege of Alamo, Evil Empire, and More

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The month of March is perhaps one of the most exciting months in American memory. Many of our nation’s significant time frames hold incidents familiar with much of the American populace. This month, reflect on the era of the American Revolution with the Boston Massacre and the formation of the Articles of Confederation. Read about the good vs. evil ideology that stemmed from the Cold War, as stated within President Ronald Reagan’s Evil Empire speech. All of these and more are found within the history of America in March.

Articles of Confederation, Boston Massacre, and The Alamo

March 1, 1781
The Articles of Confederation enter into effect. Drafted to hold the states together as a loose confederation, many concerns later arose pertaining to the belief by many the articles were too “weak.” With incidents such as Shays’ Rebellion, the call for a stronger federal government began to increase. As a result, the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania beginning in May 1787. Two factions emerged, with some preferring the drafting of a new constitution, while others desired the preservation of the Articles. In the end, a new federal Constitution was adopted, resulting in a stronger central government.

March 2, 1965
Operation Rolling Thunder begins. This was one of the deadliest campaigns waged during the Cold War era. The operation began in-part due to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which occurred in August 1964. In an attempt to prevent further Communist attacks on South Vietnam, as well as to stop the delivery of supplies to the Viet Cong, President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized the operation. It lasted until October 1968, but the Vietnam War would not end until 1975.

March 3, 1945
American and Filipino soldiers recapture Manila, Philippines. This month-long battle resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 civilians and featured some of the worst fighting in the Pacific Theater during World War II. In 1942, the Philippines fell to Japanese occupation, resulting in the devastating Bataan Death March, in which over 60,000 American and Filipino soldiers suffered horrible physical conditions. Thousands were killed along the march. Following the recapture of Manila, General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines to supervise reconstruction of the region.

March 4, 1789
The First US Congress meets for the first time at Federal Hall in New York City. During this time, the Constitution officially took effect. Later the first 12 amendments were introduced. The leading positions included John Adams as Senate President, John Langdon as Senate President pro-tem, and Frederick Muhlenberg as House Speaker. Congress moved to Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1790. They relocated to Washington DC in 1800, and have remained there since.

March 5, 1770
The Boston Massacre occurs. Following heavy tension between Boston colonists and the British Empire due to newly-enacted taxes and legislation, British troops were stationed in the city. This sparked an outrage among the residents of Boston, and a confrontation between the townspeople and soldiers ensued not long after. According to eyewitness accounts, some citizens began throwing rocks and snowballs at the soldiers. No one is certain as to what exactly triggered the troops to open fire, but the result was five dead and at least six others wounded. The Boston Massacre is considered to be a primary triggering event of the American Revolution. On an interesting note, John Adams – an attorney at the time of the massacre – successfully defended the British soldiers accused, though two of them were later found guilty of manslaughter. Later, Adams would help lead the rebellion against the crown.

March 6, 1836
The Battle of the Alamo comes to an end. This battle was the result of a 13-day siege by Mexican troops under the command of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Texas forces were led by notable heroes such as Davy Crockett, William Travis, and Jim Bowie. They managed to defend the old Spanish Mission site in San Antonio, Texas from two waves of Santa Anna’s soldiers. Virtually all Texan combatants were killed and “Remember the Alamo” became a popular rallying cry. Santa Anna was eventually defeated at the Battle of San Jacinto in April 1836. The status of Texas as a republic came to an end on February 19, 1846 when Texas joined the United States.

Evil Empire, Lend-Lease Act, Andrew Jackson, and More

March 8, 1983
President Ronald Reagan delivers his Evil Empire speech. This marked the first time that the phrase “Evil Empire” was used to describe the Soviet Union since its formation in 1922. During the speech, held at the 41st National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, Reagan remarked the ideological conflict between the US and USSR was a battle between good and evil, and that he had a strategy to end the Cold War. During his presidency, Reagan would bring the USSR to its knees with the drafting of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and his “peace through strength” initiative. The Soviet Union later dissolved in December 1991, the day after Christmas.

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March 9, 1862
The Battle of Hampton Roads is fought. This battle was significant in that it was the first to feature the fighting of two ironclad ships. Replacing traditional wooden ships, ironclads dominated the southern coast and Mississippi River during the Civil War. Ironclads proved to be very successful and they paved the way for the introduction of the Dreadnought battleship several decades later. The Battle of Hampton Roads ended in a tactical Confederate victory, but with a strategic Union victory. The Union forces maintained a blockade of the James River.

March 11, 1941
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act. With World War II raging in Europe and Asia, the United States remained neutral. Nonetheless, Roosevelt sought to provide the Allied Powers with supplies. The Lend-Lease Act authorized the sending of food and material to Britain, free France, the Soviet Union, China, and other Allied nations. America would enter the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, later that year. The Lend-Lease Act would remain in effect until the Japanese defeat at the end of the war, in which it was then dissolved virtually overnight.

March 13, 1862
The US government forbids Union Army officers from returning fugitive slaves, annulling the Fugitive Slave Clause. This act was introduced with the Compromise of 1850, which admitted California into the union as a free state, as well as new territory in Texas and New Mexico. Slavery was undecided in the latter. With the federal government prohibiting Union officers from returning fugitive slaves, the stage was set for the Emancipation Proclamation. President Abraham Lincoln signed this on January 1, 1863. Some officers began referring to slaves as “contraband” in an effort to prevent them from being returned to Confederate territory.

March 15, 1767
Andrew Jackson is born in the Waxhaw Settlement. While the town of Waxhaw was later claimed by North Carolina, Jackson believed himself to have been born in South Carolina. In the late 1700s, Jackson represented Tennessee in both the US House of Representatives and US Senate. During this time, he acquired a piece of property outside of Nashville, Tennessee, and became a wealthy slave owner, as well as an attorney. After gaining fame at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, Jackson led troops during the Creek War and First Seminole War. Considered one of the founders of the Democratic Party, he served as president from 1829-1837, during which he dissolved the Second National Bank and defused the Nullification Crisis by threatening South Carolina with war. He also authorized the relocation of five Native tribes to the Oklahoma region. This became known as the Trail of Tears. Today, Jackson is considered one of the most controversial presidents in American history. He passed away on June 8, 1845.

Stay tuned for more American history in March!

Garrett Smith
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