Notes of American History

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August 16, 1896
While salmon fishing near the Klondike River in Canada’s Yukon Territory George Carmack reportedly spots nuggets of gold in a creek bed. His lucky discovery sparks the last great gold rush in the American West. Hoping to cash in on reported gold strikes in Alaska, Carmack had traveled there from California in 1881. After running into a dead end, he headed north into the isolated Yukon Territory, just across the Canadian border. In 1896, another prospector, Robert Henderson, told Carmack of finding gold in a tributary of the Klondike River. Carmack headed to the region with 2 Native American companions, known as Skookum Jim & Tagish Charlie. On Aug. 16, while camping near Rabbit Creek, Carmack reportedly spotted a nugget of gold jutting out from the creek bank. His 2 companions later agreed that Skookum Jim–Carmack’s brother-in-law—actually made the discovery.

Regardless of who spotted the gold 1st, the 3 men soon found that the rock near the creek bed was thick with gold deposits. They staked their claim the following day. News of the gold strike spread fast across Canada & the US, & over the next 2 years, as many as 50,000 would-be miners arrived in the region. Rabbit Creek was renamed Bonanza, & even more gold was discovered in another Klondike tributary, dubbed Eldorado. “Klondike Fever” reached its height in the US in mid-July 1897 when 2 steamships arrived from the Yukon in San Francisco & Seattle, bringing a total of more than 2 tons of gold. Thousands of eager young men bought elaborate “Yukon outfits” (kits assembled by clever marketers containing food, clothing, tools & other necessary equipment) & set out on their way north. Few of these would find what they were looking for, as most of the land in the region had already been claimed. One of the unsuccessful gold-seekers was 21-yr-old Jack London, whose short stories based on his Klondike experience became his first book, The Son of the Wolf (1900).

For his part, Carmack became rich off his discovery, leaving the Yukon with $1 million worth of gold. Many individual gold miners in the Klondike eventually sold their stakes to mining companies, who had the resources & machinery to access more gold. Large-scale gold mining in the Yukon Territory didn’t end until 1966, & by that time the region had yielded some $250 million in gold. Today, some 200 small gold mines still operate in the region.
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August 16, 1812
During the War of 1812, American General William Hull surrenders Fort Detroit & his army to the British without a fight. Hull, a 59-year-old veteran of the American Revolution, had lost hope of defending the settlement after seeing the large English & Indian force gathering outside Detroit’s walls. The general was also preoccupied with the presence of his daughter & grandchildren inside the fort. Of Hull’s 2,000-man army, most were militiamen, & British General Isaac Brock allowed them to return to their homes on the frontier. The regular US Army troops were taken as prisoners to Canada.

With the capture of Fort Detroit, Michigan Territory was declared a part of Great Britain & Shawnee chief Tecumseh was able to increase his raids against American positions in the frontier area. Hull’s surrender was a severe blow to American morale. In September 1813, US General William Henry Harrison, the future president, recaptured Detroit. In 1814, William Hull was court-martialed for cowardice & neglect of duty in surrendering the fort, & sentenced to die. Because of his service in the revolution, however, President James Madison remitted the sentence.
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August 17, 1862
Desperate Dakota Indians attack white settlements along the Minnesota River. The Dakota were eventually overwhelmed by the US military 6 weeks later. The Dakota Indians were more commonly referred to as the Sioux, a derogatory name derived from part of a French word meaning “little snake.” They were composed of 4 bands & lived on temporary reservations in southwestern Minnesota. For 2 decades, the Dakota were poorly treated by the Federal government, local traders & settlers. They saw their hunting lands whittled down & provisions promised by the government rarely arrived. Worse yet, a wave of white settlers surrounded them.

The summer of 1862 was particularly hard on the Dakota. Cutworms destroyed much of their corn crops & many families faced starvation. Dakota leaders were frustrated by attempts to convince traders to extend credit to tribal members & alleviate the suffering. On Aug. 17, 4 young Dakota warriors were returning from an unsuccessful hunt when they stopped to steal some eggs from a white settlement. The youths soon picked a quarrel with the hen’s owner & the encounter turned violent when the Dakotas killed 5 members of the family. Sensing that they would be attacked, Dakota leaders determined that war was at hand & seized the initiative. Led by Taoyateduta (also known as Little Crow), the Dakota attacked local agencies & the settlement of New Ulm. Over 500 white settlers lost their lives along with about 150 Dakota warriors.

President Abraham Lincoln dispatched Gen. John Pope, fresh from his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run,Virginia, to organize the Military Department of the Northwest. Some Dakota fled to North Dakota, but more than 2,000 were rounded up & over 300 warriors were sentenced to death. President Lincoln commuted most of their sentences, but on Dec. 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were executed at Mankato, Minnesota. It was the largest mass execution in US history.
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August 17, 1877
Though only a teenager at the time, Billy the Kid wounds an Arizona blacksmith who dies the next day. He was the famous outlaw’s 1st victim.
Just how many men Billy killed is uncertain. Billy himself reportedly once claimed he had killed 21 men—“One for every year of my life.” A reliable contemporary authority estimated the actual total was more like 9: 4 on his own & 5 with the aid of others. Other western outlaws of the day were far more deadly. John Wesley Hardin, for example, killed well over 20 men & perhaps as many as 40.

Yet, William Bonney (at various times he also used the surnames Antrim & McCarty) is better remembered today than Hardin & other killers, perhaps because he appeared to be such an unlikely killer. Blue-eyed, smooth-cheeked & unusually friendly, Billy seems to many to have been a decent young man who was dragged into a life of crime by circumstances beyond his control. Such seems to have been the case for his 1st murder. Having fled from his home in New Mexico after being jailed for a theft he may not have committed, Billy became an itinerant ranch hand & sheepherder in Arizona. In 1877, he was hired on as a teamster at the Camp Grant Army Post, where he attracted the enmity of a burly civilian blacksmith named Frank “Windy” Cahill. Perhaps because Billy was well liked by others in the camp, Cahill enjoyed demeaning the scrawny youngster. On this day in 1877, Cahill apparently went too far when he called Billy a “pimp.” Billy responded by calling Cahill a “son of a bitch,” & the big blacksmith jumped him & easily threw him to the ground. Pinned to the floor by the stronger man, Billy apparently panicked. He pulled his pistol & shot Cahill, who died the next day. According to one witness, “[Billy] had no choice; he had to use his equalizer.” However, the rough laws of the West might have found Billy guilty of unjustified murder because Cahill had not pulled his own gun.

Fearing imprisonment, Billy returned to New Mexico where he soon became involved in the bloody Lincoln County War. In the next 4 years, he became a practiced killer, increasingly infatuated with his own public image as an unstoppable outlaw. Sheriff Pat Garrett finally ended Billy’s bloody career by killing him on July 14, 1881.
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August 18, 1587
Virginia Dare becomes the 1st child of English parents to be born on American soil, on Roanoke Island, NC. (Sorry, couldn't find any baby pictures.)


August 18, 1590
John White, the governor of the Roanoke Island colony in present-day North Carolina, returns from a supply-trip to England to find the settlement deserted. White & his men found no trace of the 100 or so colonists he left behind & there was no sign of violence. Among the missing were Ellinor Dare, White’s daughter; & Virginia Dare, White’s granddaughter. Aug. 18 was to have been Virginia’s 3rd birthday. The only clue to their mysterious disappearance was the word “CROATOAN” carved into the palisade that had been built around the settlement. White took the letters to mean that the colonists had moved to Croatoan Island, some 50 miles away, but a later search of the island found none of the settlers. The Roanoke Island colony, the 1st English settlement in the New World, was founded by English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh in Aug. 1585. The 1st Roanoke colonists did not fare well, suffering from dwindling food supplies & Indian attacks, & in 1586 they returned to England aboard a ship captained by Sir Francis Drake. In 1587, Raleigh sent out another group of 100 colonists under John White. White returned to England to procure more supplies, but the war with Spain delayed his return to Roanoke. By the time he finally returned in Aug. 1590, everyone had vanished. In 1998, archaeologists studying tree-ring data from Virginia found that extreme drought conditions persisted between 1587 & 1589. These conditions undoubtedly contributed to the demise of the so-called Lost Colony, but where the settlers went after they left Roanoke remains a mystery.


August 18, 1795
President George Washington signs the Jay (or “Jay’s”) Treaty with Great Britain. This treaty, known officially as the “Treaty of Amity Commerce & Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty; & The United States of America” attempted to diffuse the tensions between England & the US that had risen to renewed heights since the end of the Revolutionary War. The US government objected to English military posts along America’s northern & western borders & Britain’s violation of American neutrality in 1794 when the Royal Navy seized American ships in the West Indies during England’s war with France. The treaty, written & negotiated by Supreme Court Chief Justice (& Washington appointee) John Jay, was signed by Britain’s King George III on Nov. 19, 1794 in London. However, after Jay returned home with news of the treaty’s signing, Washington, now in his 2nd term, encountered fierce Congressional opposition to the treaty; by 1795, its ratification was uncertain.

Leading the opposition to the treaty were 2 future presidents: Thomas Jefferson & James Madison. At the time, Jefferson was in between political positions: he had just completed a term as Washington’s secretary of state from 1789 to 1793 & had not yet become John Adams’ vice president. Fellow Virginian James Madison was a member of the House of Representatives. Jefferson, Madison & other opponents feared the treaty gave too many concessions to the British. They argued that Jay’s negotiations actually weakened American trade rights & complained that it committed the US to paying pre-revolutionary debts to English merchants. Washington himself was not completely satisfied with the treaty, but considered preventing another war with America’s former colonial master a priority.

Ultimately, the treaty was approved by Congress on Aug. 14, 1795, with exactly the 2/3 majority it needed to pass; Washington signed the treaty 4 days later. Washington & Jay may have won the legislative battle & averted war temporarily, but the conflict at home highlighted a deepening division between those of different political ideologies in Washington, DC. Jefferson & Madison mistrusted Washington’s attachment to maintaining friendly relations with England over revolutionary France, who would have welcomed the US as a partner in an expanded war against England.
 
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August 19, 1812
During the War of 1812, the US Navy frigate Constitution defeats the British frigate Guerrière in a furious 20 minute engagement off the 600 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shot merely bounced off the Constitution‘s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. By the war’s end, “Old Ironsides” destroyed or captured 7 more British ships. The success of the USS Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous boost in morale for the young American republic.

The Constitution was one of 6 frigates that Congress requested be built in 1794 to help protect American merchant fleets from attacks by Barbary pirates & harassment by British and French forces. It was constructed in Boston from oak planks (some up to 7 inches thick) made from 2,000 tress, & the copper bolts fastening its timbers & copper sheathing were provided by the industrialist & patriot Paul Revere. Launched on Oct. 21, 1797, the Constitution was 204 feet long, displaced 2,200 tons, & was rated as a 44-gun frigate (although it often carried as many as 50 guns). In July 1798 it was put to sea with a crew of 450 & cruised the West Indies, protecting US shipping from French privateers. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson ordered the American warship to the Mediterranean to fight Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli. The vessel performed commendably during the conflict, & in 1805 a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on the Constitution‘s deck.

When war broke out with Britain in June 1812, the Constitution was commanded by Isaac Hull, who served as lieutenant on the ship during the Tripolitan War. Scarcely a month later, on July 16, the Constitution encountered a squadron of 5 British ships off Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Finding itself surrounded, the Constitution was preparing to escape when suddenly the wind died. With both sides dead in the water & just out of gunnery range, a legendary slow-speed chase ensued. For 36 hours, the Constitution‘s crew kept their ship just ahead of the British by towing the frigate with rowboats & by tossing the ship’s anchor ahead of the ship & then reeling it in. At dawn on July 18, a breeze sprang, & the Constitution was far enough ahead of its pursuers to escape by sail.

One month later, on Aug. 19, the Constitution caught the British warship Guerrière alone about 600 miles east of Boston. After considerable maneuvering, the Constitution delivered its 1st broadside, & for 20 minutes the American & British vessels bombarded each other in close & violent action. The British man-of-war was de-masted & rendered a wreck while the Constitution escaped with only minimal damage. The unexpected victory of Old Ironsides against a British frigate helped unite America behind the war effort & made Commander Hull a national hero. The Constitution went on to defeat or capture 7 more British ships in the War of 1812 & ran the British blockade of Boston twice. After the war, Old Ironsides served as the flagship of the navy’s Mediterranean squadron & in 1828 was laid up in Boston.

2 years later, the navy considered scrapping the Constitution, which had become unseaworthy, leading to an outcry of public support, sparked by poet Oliver Wendell Holmes poem Old Ironsides, for preserving the famous warship. The navy refurbished the Constitution, & it went on to serve as the flagship of the Mediterranean, Pacific & Home squadrons. In 1844, the frigate left New York City on a global journey that included visits to numerous international ports as a goodwill agent of the US. In the early 1850s, it served as flagship of the African Squadron & patrolled the West African coast looking for slave traders. In 1855, the Constitution retired from active military service, but the famous vessel continued to serve the United States, 1st as a training ship & later as a touring national landmark. In 1941, the Navy placed the Constitution in permanent commission.

She sailed under her own power for her 200th birthday in 1997 & again in August 2012 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of her victory over Guerriere. Constitution's stated mission today is to promote understanding of the Navy's role in war & peace through educational outreach, historical demonstration, & active participation in public events as part of the Naval History & Heritage Command. As a fully commissioned Navy ship, her crew of 60 officers & sailors participate in ceremonies, educational programs & special events while keeping her open to visitors year round & providing free tours. The officers and crew are all active-duty Navy personnel & the assignment is considered to be special duty. She is usually berthed at Pier 1 of the former Charlestown Navy Yard at one end of Boston's Freedom Trail & is the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat.
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August 20, 1794
Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne proves that the fragile young republic can counter a military threat when he puts down Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket’s confederacy near present-day Toledo, Ohio, with the newly created 3,000-man strong Legion of the United States at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
Although the Treaty of Paris ceded the so-called Northwest Territory, stretching west to the Mississippi River & south to Spanish Florida to the US, the British failed to abandon their forts in the region & continued to support their Indian allies in skirmishes with American settlers. 2 earlier Army expeditions into the Ohio territory by Generals Josiah Harmar & Arthur St. Clair in 1790 & 1791, respectively, failed to end the unrest. In fact, St. Clair’s effort concluded with an Indian victory & 630 dead American soldiers.

Wayne had earned the moniker “mad” for his enthusiastic & successful undertaking of a seemingly impossible mission (a night attack on a fortified position) in 1779 at Stony Point, New York; much of Wayne’s subsequent career involved battles & negotiations with Native Americans. Following the victory at Yorktown, Wayne traveled to Georgia, where he negotiated treaties with the Creeks & Cherokees. They paid dearly in land for their decision to side with the British, & Georgia paid Wayne in land—giving him a large plantation–for his efforts on their behalf. When President George Washington confronted a frontier Indian crisis in 1794, he called upon Wayne to bring the ongoing violence to a close. Wayne was victorious & gained much of what would become Ohio & Indiana for the US in the Treaty of Greenville signed a year later.
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August 20, 1911
A dispatcher in the New York Times office sends the 1st telegram around the world via commercial service. The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 pm on Aug. 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon & the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.




August 20, 1977
A NASA rocket launched Voyager II, an unmanned 1,820-lb. spacecraft, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was the 1st of 2 such crafts to be launched that year on a “Grand Tour” of the outer planets, organized to coincide with a rare alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus & Neptune. Aboard Voyager II was a 12-inch copper phonograph record called “Sounds of Earth.” Intended as a kind of introductory time capsule, the record included greetings in 60 languages & scientific information about Earth & the human race, along with classical, jazz & rock ‘n’ roll music, nature sounds like thunder & surf, & recorded messages from President Jimmy Carter & other world leaders.

The brainchild of astronomer Carl Sagan, the record was sent with Voyager II & its twin craft, Voyager I–launched just 2 weeks later–in the faint hope that it might be discovered by extraterrestrial creatures. The record was sealed in an aluminum jacket that would keep it intact for 1 billion years, along with instructions on how to play the record, with a cartridge & needle provided. More importantly, the 2Voyager crafts were designed to explore the outer solar system & send information & photographs of the distant planets to Earth. Over the next 12 years, the mission proved a smashing success. After both crafts flew by Jupiter & Saturn, Voyager I went flying off towards the solar system’s edge while Voyager II visited Uranus, Neptune & finally Pluto in 1990 before sailing off to join its twin in the outer solar system.

Thanks to the Voyager program, NASA scientists gained a wealth of information about the outer planets, including close-up photographs of Saturn’s 7 rings; evidence of active geysers & volcanoes exploding on some of the 4 planets’ 22 moons; winds of more than 1,500 mph on Neptune; & measurements of the magnetic fields on Uranus & Neptune. The 2 crafts are expected to continue sending data until 2020, or until their plutonium-based power sources run out. After that, they will continue to sail on through the galaxy for millions of years to come, barring some unexpected collision.
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August 21, 1831
Believing himself chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery, Nat Turner launches a bloody slave insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner, an enslaved man & educated minister, planned to capture the county armory at Jerusalem, Virginia, & then march 30 miles to Dismal Swamp, where his rebels would be able to elude their pursuers. With 7 followers, he killed Joseph Travis, his owner, & Travis’ family, & then set off across the countryside, hoping to rally hundreds of enslaved people to his insurrection en route to Jerusalem. During the next 2 days & nights, Turner & 75 followers rampaged through Southampton County, killing about 60 whites. Local whites fought the rebels, & then the state militia–consisting of some 3,000 men–crushed the rebellion. Only a few miles from Jerusalem, Turner & all his followers were dispersed, captured, or killed. In the aftermath of the rebellion, scores of African Americans were lynched, though many of them were non-participants in the revolt. Turner himself was not captured until the end of October, & after confessing without regret to his role in the bloodshed, he was tried, convicted, & sentenced to death. On Nov. 11, he was hanged in Jerusalem. Turner’s rebellion was the largest slave revolt in US history & led to a new wave of oppressive legislation prohibiting the movement, assembly, & education of enslaved people.
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August 11, 1863
The vicious guerilla war in Missouri spills over into Kansas & precipitates one of the most appalling acts of violence during the war when 150 men in the abolitionist town of Lawrence are murdered in a raid by Southern partisans. The Civil War took a very different form in Kansas & Missouri than it did throughout the rest of the nation. There were few regular armies operating there; instead, partisan bands attacked civilians & each other. The roots of conflict in the region dated back to 1854, when the Kansas-Missouri border became ground zero for tension over slavery. While residents of Kansas Territory were trying to decide the issue of slavery, bands from Missouri, a slave state, began attacking abolitionist settlements in the territory. Abolitionists reacted with equal attacks into Missouri.

When the war began, the long heritage of hatred between partisans created unparalleled violence in the area. In Aug. 1863, the Union commander along the border, Gen. Thomas Ewing, arrested several wives & sisters of members of a notorious band led by William Quantrill. "Bloody Bill" Quantrill's Raiders had scorched the region, terrorizing & murdering Union sympathizers. On Aug. 14, the building in Kansas City, Missouri, where the women were being held collapsed, killing 5. Quantrill assembled 450 men to exact revenge. The army, which included such future western outlaws as the Younger brothers & Frank & Jesse James, headed for Lawrence, Kansas, long known as the center of abolitionism in Kansas. After kidnapping 10 farmers in order to guide them to Lawrence, the gang murdered each of them. Quantrill’s men rode into Lawrence and dragged 182 men from their homes, many in front of their families & killed them in cold blood. They burned 185 buildings in Lawrence, then rode back to Missouri with Union cavalry in hot pursuit.

This incident incited the North and led to even more killing by both sides along the Kansas-Missouri border.
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August 22, 1933
The notorious Barker gang robs a Federal Reserve mail truck in Chicago & kills Officer Miles Cunningham. Netting only a bunch of worthless checks, the Barkers soon returned to a crime with which they had more success—kidnapping. A few months later, the Barkers kidnapped wealthy banker Edward Bremer, demanding $200,000 in ransom.

After Kate Clark married George Barker in 1892, she gave birth to 4 boys: Herman, Lloyd, Arthur, & Freddie. Ma Barker, as Kate was known, was ostensibly responsible for discipline in the family, but she let her boys run wild. She defended her children no matter what they did, saying, “If the good people of this town don’t like my boys, then the good people know what they can do.” All the Barker boys became involved in crime during their childhood: In 1922, Lloyd robbed a post office & received a 25-year sentence in federal prison; that same year, Arthur “Doc” Barker got a life sentence in Oklahoma for killing a night watchman, though later it would turn out that he was innocent; Freddie was next to see the insides of a holding cell after robbing a bank. While he was serving time in Kansas, Herman committed suicide in the midst of a heated gunfight with police after robbing a bank in Missouri.

Herman’s death inspired Ma Barker to pressure authorities to release her other sons, & Doc & Freddie were set free. Although popular culture has painted Ma as the gang's mastermind, historians have disputed this. Whether she was behind the gang's nefarious deeds or not, the Barkers were at the center of the Midwest’s burgeoning criminal community. When they tired of bank robberies, the Barkers tried their hand at kidnapping. Their 1st victim, William Hamm, earned the gang $100,000 in ransom. Although the Bremer abduction in 1933 produced twice as much, it brought them a lot of heat from federal authorities. With the FBI on their trail, Doc & Freddie attempted plastic surgery, but were left with only with disfiguring scars, & Doc was captured in early 1935.

Doc, who was later killed while attempting to escape from Alcatraz in 1939, refused to talk to authorities, but police found papers in his hideout that led them to Ma & Freddie in Lake Weir, Florida. After a ferocious shootout lasting 45 minutes, the Barkers lay dead from the fusillade, machine guns still at their sides. 12 years later, Lloyd Barker was finally paroled. He too met a violent demise, but not at the hands of the police—his wife shot him dead in 1949. Father George Barker, who was never part of the Barker gang, was the family’s sole survivor.
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August 22, 1992
In the 2nd day of a standoff at Randy Weaver’s remote northern Idaho cabin atop Ruby Ridge, FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi wounds Randy Weaver & Kevin Harris, & then kills Weaver’s wife, Vicki.
Randy Weaver, an alleged white supremacist, had been targeted by the federal government for selling 2 illegal sawed-off shotguns to an undercover ATF informant. On Aug. 21, 1992, after a period of surveillance, US marshals came upon Harris, Weaver, Weaver’s 14-year-old son Sammy & the family dog on a road near the Weaver property. A marshal shot & killed the dog, prompting Sammy to fire at the marshal. In the ensuing gun battle, Sammy & US Marshal Michael Degan were shot & killed. A tense standoff ensued, & on Aug. 22 the FBI joined the marshals besieging Ruby Ridge.

Later that day, Harris, Weaver, & his daughter, Sarah, left the cabin, allegedly for the purpose of preparing Sammy’s body for burial. FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi, waiting 200 yds away, opened fire, allegedly because he thought Harris was armed & intending to fire on a helicopter in the vicinity. Horiuchi wounded Weaver, & the group ran to the shed where Sammy’s body was lying. When they attempted to escape back into the cabin, Horiuchi fired again, wounding Harris as he dove through the door & killing Vicki Weaver, who was holding the door open with 1 hand & cradling her infant daughter with the other. Horiuchi claimed he didn’t know that Vicki Weaver was standing behind the door. Harris, Weaver, & Weaver’s 3 daughters surrendered 9 days later. Randy Weaver was later acquitted of all charges.

The controversial standoff spawned a nationwide debate on the use of force by federal law enforcement agencies, & a US Senate panel accused the federal agencies involved of “substantial failures” in their handling of the Ruby Ridge operation.
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August 23, 1784
4 counties in western North Carolina declare their independence as the state of Franklin. The counties lay in what would eventually become Tennessee. The previous April, the state of North Carolina had ceded its western land claims between the Allegheny Mountains & the Mississippi River to the US Congress. The settlers in this area, known as the Cumberland River Valley, had formed their own independent government from 1772 to 1777 & were concerned that Congress would sell the territory to Spain or France as a means of paying off some of the government’s war debt. As a result, North Carolina retracted its cession & began to organize an administration for the territory.

Simultaneously, representatives from Washington, Sullivan, Spencer (modern-day Hawkins) & Greene counties declared their independence from North Carolina. The following May, the counties petitioned for statehood as “Frankland” to the US Congress. A simple majority of states favored acceptance of the petition, but it fell short of the 2/3 majority needed to pass, even after the counties’ changed their proposed name to “Franklin” in an attempt to curry Benjamin Franklin’s & others’ favor.

In defiance of Congress, Franklin survived as an independent nation for 4 years with its own constitution, Indian treaties & legislated system of barter in lieu of currency, though after only 2 years, North Carolina set up its own parallel government in the region. Finally, Franklin’s weak economy forced its governor, John Sevier, to approach the Spanish for aid. North Carolina, terrified of having a Spanish client state on its border, arrested Sevier. When Cherokee, Chickamauga & Chickasaw began to attack settlements within Franklin’s borders in 1788, it quickly rejoined North Carolina to gain its militia’s protection from attack.



August 23, 1927
Despite worldwide demonstrations in support of their innocence, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco & Bartolomeo Vanzetti are executed for murder. On Apr. 15, 1920, a paymaster for a shoe company in South Braintree, Massachusetts, was shot & killed along with his guard. The murderers, who were described as 2 Italian men, escaped with more than $15,000. After going to a garage to claim a car that police said was connected with the crime, Sacco & Vanzetti were arrested & charged with the crime. Although both men carried guns & made false statements upon their arrest, neither had a previous criminal record. On July 14, 1921, they were convicted & sentenced to die.

Anti-radical sentiment was running high in America at the time, & the trial of Sacco & Vanzetti was regarded by many as unlawfully sensational. Authorities had failed to come up with any evidence of the stolen money, & much of the other evidence against them was later discredited. During the next few years, sporadic protests were held in Massachusetts & around the world calling for their release, especially after Celestino Madeiros, then under a sentence for murder, confessed in 1925 that he had participated in the crime with the Joe Morelli gang. The state Supreme Court refused to upset the verdict, & Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller denied the men clemency. In the days leading up to the execution, protests were held in cities around the world, & bombs were set off in New York City & Philadelphia. On Aug. 23, Sacco and Vanzetti were electrocuted.

Labor organizer Anthony Ramuglia, an anarchist in the 1920s, said in 1952 that a Boston anarchist group had asked him to be a false alibi witness for Sacco. After agreeing, he had remembered that he had been in jail on the day in question, so he could not testify. In 1961, a test of Sacco’s gun using modern forensic techniques proved it was his gun that killed the guard. In 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation vindicating Sacco and Vanzetti, stating that they had been treated unjustly & that no stigma should be associated with their names.

The Los Angeles Times published an article on Dec. 24, 2005, "Sinclair Letter Turns Out to Be Another Expose", which references a newly discovered letter from Upton Sinclair to attorney John Beardsley in which Sinclair, a socialist writer famous for his muckraking novels, revealed a conversation with Fred Moore, attorney for Sacco & Vanzetti. In that conversation, in response to Sinclair's request for the truth, Moore stated that both Sacco & Vanzetti were in fact guilty, & that Moore had fabricated their alibis in an attempt to avoid a guilty verdict. The Los Angeles Times interprets subsequent letters as indicating that, to avoid loss of sales to his radical readership, particularly abroad, & due to fears for his own safety, Sinclair didn't change the premise of his novel in that respect.
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