October in American History: Part I

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October 1, 1924
Jimmy Carter is born in Plains, Georgia. Raised by a family of wealthy peanut farmers, he later inherited and expanded the business. Carter joined the US Naval Academy in 1946 and served in the US Navy, where he worked on submarines. A member of the Democratic Party, Carter served in the Georgia State Senate from 1963-1967, and then as Governor of Georgia from 1971-1975. He served as President from 1977-1981, during which his greatest accomplishment became the signing of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. His term also saw the pardoning of Vietnam War draft dodgers, transfer of the Panama Canal’s control to Panama, the 1979 Oil Crisis, the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, and the start of the Iran Hostage Crisis. Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, and he currently remains active in public life and charity work. As of 2021, Carter is the oldest-surviving former president.

October 2, 1835
The Texas Revolution begins with the Battle of Gonzales. In 1831, the Mexican government gave the settlers of Gonzales, Texas, a cannon to protect themselves from Comanche renegades. Over the following four years, the political climate in Mexico intensified, and in 1835, several Mexican states revolted. The commander of the Mexican Army considered it unwise to leave a cannon in the hands of angry Texans, and sent a detachment to retrieve it. Upon arrival, they were met with resistance, and noticed that the militia had woven a flag that featured the cannon with the words, “Come and take it.” A battle ensued, and after several hours of fighting, Mexican troops withdrew. The Texas Revolution ended on April 21, 1836, resulting in Texas becoming its own nation. The Republic of Texas lasted until 1846, when it joined the United States.

October 4, 1794
The Whiskey Rebellion comes to an end. In 1791, during the presidency of George Washington, a whiskey tax was enacted, which was the first tax placed on domestic product for the new nation. Due to farmers in rural Pennsylvania relying heavily on distillery products, the tax was met with strong resistance in the region. President Washington raised federal troops, many of whom were veterans of the American Revolution. When the rebellion was suppressed, at least three farmers had been killed and roughly 170 were captured.

October 4, 1822
Rutherford B. Hayes is born in Delaware, Ohio. At a fairly young age, Hayes moved to Cincinnati and became an attorney. During this time, he was a firm supporter of abolition, and defended fugitive slaves in court. During the Civil War, he served the Union Army, and became a mentor for William McKinley. After being wounded five times in battle, he was promoted to Brevet Major General. Hayes first became involved in politics when he served Ohio in the US House of Representatives from 1865-1867. He then served as Governor of Ohio from 1876-1877. Originally a member of the Whig Party, he joined the Republican Party in 1854. Hayes served as President from 1877-1881, and during this time, he signed the Compromise of 1877, which withdrew federal troops from the final three southern states during Reconstruction. He also defused the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 by deploying the armed forces. In an attempt to end the Spoils System, he pushed for Civil Service Examinations. Following his presidency, Hayes advocated for Prison Reform. He passed away on January 17, 1893.

October 5, 1829
Chester Arthur is born in Fairfield, Vermont. While attending various schools in New York, he supported the Fenian Brotherhood – an Irish Republican organization – and studied law. It was while he studied law that he became a teacher and returned to Vermont for a short time, then relocated to New York City to open a law firm. A member of the Whig Party until 1854, Arthur then joined the Republican Party, and served under several political positions, including Inspector General of the New York Militia, Collector of the Port of New York, Chair of the New York Republican Party, and Vice President. Arthur assumed the presidency following the assassination of James Garfield and served from 1881-1885. As Chief Executive, he signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, which advocated for rewarding federal officials based on merit rather than political affiliation, as well as the Immigration Act of 1882, which prohibited the mentally ill or those with criminal backgrounds from entering the country. He also signed the controversial Chinese Exclusion Act, banning Chinese immigrants from entering the nation for 10 years. Following his presidency, Arthur returned to his law firm. He passed away on November 18, 1886.

October 5, 1947
President Harry Truman delivers the first televised Oval Office Address. In his speech, Truman encouraged Americans to conserve food in an effort to aid post-war Europe. The same format was used 10 years later, when President Eisenhower informed the nation of his intervention during the Little Rock Crisis. Other notable televised Oval Office speeches include John F. Kennedy’s 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis Speech, Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Challenger Disaster Speech, and George W. Bush’s address on the evening of September 11, 2001.

October 7, 1780
The Battle of Kings Mountain is fought. Located near present-day Blacksburg, South Carolina, Kings Mountain proved to be a turning point for the Southern Theater of the American Revolution. Mountaineers, who became known as the “Over-Mountain Men,” learned of an attempt by Charles Cornwallis to lead a British invasion of North Carolina. British Major Patrick Ferguson had been ordered to the area to protect the primary flank, and when atop the hill, stated, “God and all the rebels of hell can’t drive me off this mountain.” Originating from the Appalachians in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, the Over-Mountain Men rallied in various locations along the way, with many starting in Abingdon, Virginia. At Kings Mountain, they had an advantage over their Loyalist opponents, as their flintlock rifles contained grooved barrels, meaning better accuracy and higher velocity than standard-issue muskets. Ferguson was killed during the battle and the British Invasion of North Carolina was halted. Thomas Jefferson called the battle “the turn of the tide of success.”

October 8, 1862
The Battle of Perryville is fought in Perryville, Kentucky. Part of the Confederate Heartland Offensive, General Braxton Bragg won a tactical victory against Union General Don Carlos Buell. The battle is occasionally classified as a strategic Union victory, due to the fact that General Bragg withdrew to Tennessee in the aftermath. As another result of the battle, Kentucky remained under the control of the Union.

October 9, 1967
Ernesto “Che” Guevara is executed in La Higuera, Bolivia. A follower of Marxism, Guevara was a major participant of the Cuban Revolution, and played a large role in assisting Fidel Castro’s rise to power. With the July 26th Movement, Castro and Guevara overthrew the regime of Fulgencio Batista, eventually establishing a Communist authoritarian state, and Guevara also assisted in bringing Soviet missiles to Cuba in 1962. He left Cuba three years later to spark Communist revolutions in Africa and South America. Guevara was later captured by CIA-assisted forces in the province of Vallegrande, Bolivia, and executed. In 1997, a statue of Guevara was raised in La Higuera.

October 10, 1913
Major construction of the Panama Canal comes to an end. Beginning in 1881, the canal’s construction consisted largely of French workers. The project was eventually halted in 1904, due to a high worker mortality rate. Construction resumed several years later, when it became a part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy. The canal officially opened to traffic in 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson triggered the explosion of the Gamboa Dike. The idea for the Panama Canal can be traced as far back as 1513, when Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus and reached the Pacific.

October 11, 1986
The Reykjavik Summit begins. Held between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, the conference lasted two days and ended abruptly. While Reagan desired to include a discussion on human rights, the Soviet War in Afghanistan, and Jewish immigration from the USSR, Gorbachev sought to limit the conference to the subject of arms control. The end result was an agreement from neither side, though it did lead to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

October 12, 1933
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary opens. Located in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island was known by Native Americans as “Evil Island” for many years, due to the fact that they believed it to be inhabited by malevolent spirits. The island was transformed into a military reservation during the 1850s and later became a Civil War base. Upon opening as a federal prison in 1933, it housed some of America’s most notorious inmates. Due to its location, surrounded by shark-infested waters and a cold, swift current, the prison was often very difficult for inmates to escape, though three of them did in 1962. Their whereabouts were never discovered, and the debate continues as to whether they survived or perished in the freezing water. Alcatraz closed operations in 1963. The island was registered as a national landmark in 1986, and today, visitors can tour the site.

October 13, 1792
The White House cornerstone is laid. A year prior, it was decided by President George Washington that the location for the new US Capital would be at the junction of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, known as the District of Columbia, in a region between Maryland and Virginia. Originally known as the Executive Mansion, John Adams was the first president to take up residence in the building. It was not officially referred to as the White House until 1901, during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, though the name arose as early as 1812. In a letter to his wife, Adams stated, “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

October 14, 1890
Dwight D. Eisenhower is born in Denison, Texas. In his young years, he relocated with his family to Abilene, Kansas, where he was raised. Eisenhower joined the military during World War I, and though he requested to be stationed in the Philippines, was instead assigned to military bases in Kansas, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. During the Second World War, he served as Supreme Allied Commander, and oversaw military operations in North Africa, before authorizing Operation Overlord. This consisted of US, Canadian, and British forces storming the beaches of Normandy, France, to invade Nazi-occupied Europe. Along with George Washington, he is one of the only presidents to reach the rank of General of the Army. Following World War II, Eisenhower served as Supreme Allied Commander of Europe from 1951-1952. A member of the Republican Party, he served as President from 1953-1961. During this time, he saw the Korean War reach a stalemate and deployed the first US troops to Vietnam. He signed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, deployed the 101st Airborne Division to integrate Little Rock Central High School, signed NASA into creation, and approved the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Following his presidency, Eisenhower retired to his farmhouse in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He passed away on March 28, 1969.

October 14, 1912
Theodore Roosevelt is shot while delivering a speech for the Progressive Party in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Having failed to secure the Republican nomination for the 1912 election, Roosevelt formed his own third party – the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party – and began to support various positions on Progressive reform. As he started his speech, he was shot in the chest by John Schrank, a mentally-disturbed saloon keeper, who used a .38 caliber revolver. The bullet was slowed by Roosevelt’s speech papers and eyeglass case, which are believed to have been life-saving factors. Miraculously, he delivered his speech, which continued for over 90 minutes. He stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot – but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” Running on the Progressive Party ticket, Roosevelt carried six states during the 1912 election, more so than any other third-party candidate in US history.

Stay tuned for more American history in October, coming soon!

Garrett Smith
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