Today in 1775 the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy. The Alfred; Columbus; Andrew Dona; and Cabot were the first ships of the fleet, under the command of Esek Hopkins of Rhode Island. Admiral Hopkins’ standard which flew from the fleet was designed by Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina. The yellow flag bore the image of a coiled snake with the motto “Don’t Tread On Me.”
Four captains, five first lieutenants (one was John Paul Jones), five second lieutenants, and three third lieutenants were also commissioned.
Today in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman presented the city of Savannah, Georgia, to President Abraham Lincoln. Sherman captured the city after his famous March to the Sea from Atlanta. Savannah had been one of the last major ports that remained open to the Confederates.
Sherman cut free from his supply lines and headed south and east across Georgia. Along the way, his troops destroyed nearly everything in their path. Sherman’s intent was to wreck the morale of the South and bring the war to a swift end.
For nearly six weeks, nothing was heard from Sherman’s army. Finally, just before Christmas, word arrived that Sherman’s army was outside Savannah. A Union officer reached the coast and found a Union warship that carried him to Washington, D.C., to deliver news. Sherman wired Lincoln, “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”
Today in 1984 Bernhard Goetz, a 45-year-old white male, shot four young black men after they surrounded him and asked for $5. After wounding three of the unarmed men, Goetz pointed his gun at 18-year-old Darrell Cabey, who was not wounded but cowering terrified in the subway car, and said, “You don’t look too bad, here’s another.” Goetz then shot Cabey in the back, severing his spinal cord. Three of the youths recovered, but Cabey was paralyzed and suffered permanent brain damage.
Goetz fled the scene of the crime and turned himself in to police in New Hampshire nine days later. Goetz admitted on videotape that when one of the threatening young men smirked at him, he wanted to “kill them all.” The seemingly racially motivated shooting caused considerable controversy in New York and around the country, especially after Goetz pleaded innocent to charges of attempted murder in the criminal trial.
Goetz’s lawyers argued that the men were trying to rob him and that he was only acting in self-defense, while the prosecution maintained that the four young men were merely panhandling. The case proved particularly divisive in New York City. In 1987, Goetz was cleared of murder and assault charges, but convicted of illegal gun possession and served 250 days in prison. In April 1996, Darrell Cabey won a civil lawsuit against Goetz and was awarded $43 million by a Bronx jury. Goetz declared bankruptcy soon after the rulings.
Today in 1941 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with President Franklin Roosevelt on a unified Anglo-American war strategy and a future peace.
Churchill and Roosevelt created a combined general staff to coordinate military strategy against both Germany and Japan and drafted a joint invasion of the Continent. Roosevelt also agreed to an increased U.S. arms production program. The 12,750 operational aircraft to be ready for service by the end of 1943 became 45,000; the proposed 15,450 tanks also became 45,000; and the number of machine guns to be manufactured almost doubled, to 500,000.
Among the results of these U.S.-Anglo meetings was a joint declaration that enjoined 26 signatory nations to use all resources at their disposal to defeat the Axis powers and not sue for a separate peace. This confederation called itself the “United Nations.” Lead by the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, all 26 nations declared a unified goal to “ensure life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve the rights of man and justice.” This became a blueprint for a future international peacekeeping organization.
Rest in peace John Simpson Chisum, wealthy cattle baron and figure in New Mexico’s Lincoln County War, who died today in 1884 at Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Chisum’s role in the Lincoln County War was about economic and political control of the region and is overshadowed by Billy the Kid. Chisum lost much of his wealth and power at the end of the Lincoln County War in 1881, though he did leave an estate of $500,000, a considerable sum for those days.
John Chisum was born August 15, 1824, at Hardeman County, Tennessee. He was age 60.
Rest in peace Darryl Francis Zanuck, studio executive, producer, director, three-time Academy Award recipient, and major force in the movie business for four decades, who died today in 1979 at Palm Springs, California, at age 77.
His final film was Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Zanuck was born September 5, 1902, at Wahoo, Nebraska. He is buried at Westwood Village Park Memorial Cemetery, California.