Day By Day

Monday, October 05, 2009

This Day In History

Today is "Do Something Nice Day" and also "World Teacher Day" so go out there and do something nice to a teacher.

Today has been a bad day [one of many] for American Indians. On this day in 1813 the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh was killed. Tecumseh's brother, Tenskwatawa "The Shawnee Prophet", had led an Indian revitalization movement seeking to roll back the tide of white settlement. Tecumseh himself built upon this movement to create a broad political and military alliance involving several Indian nations. Beginning in 1809 Tecumseh was involved a number of confrontations with American forces led by William Henry Harrison, Governor of the Northwest Territory. In 1811 Harrison defeated Indian forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe and burned Tecumseh's headquarters at Prophetstown. One year later Tecumseh, allied with British forces, participated in the capture of Fort Detroit. Then in 1813 Harrison invaded Canada and defeated Tecumseh's forces at the Battle of the Thames. So feared had Tecumseh been that Harrison rode his victory at Tippecanoe all the way to the Presidency and the man who claimed to have personally killed Tecumseh, Richard Mentor Johnson, was elected Vice President.

And, on this day in 1877 Chief Joseph, leader of the Wallowa Nez Perce, after a 1700 mile series of running conflicts with the U. S. Army, formally surrendered to Gen. Nelson Appleton Miles. Celebrated as the "Red Napoleon", Joseph's fame continues down to the present day. Most Americans today remember the conclusion to his famous surrender speech, "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." Unfortunately, however, historians today are agreed that much of Chief Joseph's story is fantasy. Joseph was not the Nez Perce's primary war chief and his speech was fabricated by a white poet.

Happy Birthday to Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President of the United States. Arthur entered the presidency under the worst circumstances possible. He had been a protege of Roscoe Conkling, who headed the "Stalwart" Republican political machine in New York after the Civil War. Although Arthur seems to have been personally honest he was associated with a lot of corrupt politicians and was part of a political machine that derived its power from the spoils system. In 1880 James Garfield, a political rival of Conkling's, chose Arthur as his running mate in order to gain Stalwart support for his presidential campaign. So far, so good.

Garfield won and Arthur became Vice President. But then in 1881 Garfield was assassinated by Charles Guiteau who stood over the President's body brandishing his gun and shouting "I am a Stalwart, and now Arthur is President!" [or something along those lines, reports vary]. You can see how people jumped to conclusions. In office, Arthur seems to have worked hard to distance himself from the Stalwarts [understandably]. This led to his major accomplishment. He worked to pass the Pendleton Act which in 1883 established the Civil Service Commission.

This was also a bad day for outlaws. On this day in 1882 Frank James, the older and smarter brother of Jesse James, turned himself in. Jesse had been killed several months earlier. And ten years to the day later the Dalton gang tried to simultaneously rob of two separate banks in Coffeyville, Kansas in an attempt to build a reputation bigger than the James gang. It didn't work out well. When the gang exited the banks the townfolk were waiting for them. In the ensuing shootout Bob and Grat Dalton were killed along with two other members of the gang. Their brother, Emmett survived despite receiving twenty-three [that's right 23!!!!] bullet wounds. He served 14 years in prison then, upon his release, moved to Hollywood and became an actor and technical advisor for the movies.