A Brief History
This article presents a video timeline for students of American History through the Civil War (History 212) at Ashland University. For each date below, please click on the date to be taken to a video covering that date’s event.
I. Course Introduction
- On July 14, 1789, Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie finally reached the mouth of the river named after him, a failed attempt to find a route to the Pacific Ocean.
II. The New Global World, 1450-1620
- On March 5, 1496, in the wake of the tremendous news about the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World, King Henry VII of England granted “letters patent” to John Cabot, an Italian sailor and adventurer, along with his sons, to explore the world on behalf of the English Crown.
- On June 9, 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier became the first European (White) man to discover the mighty St. Lawrence River, the gateway into North America for European explorers.
- On July 7, 1550, chocolate is thought to have been introduced to Europe from the Americas.
III. The Invasion and Settlement of North America: Creating a British Empire in America, 1550-1750
- On June 23, 1611, the ship appropriately named Discovery, captained by explorer Henry Hudson, was in what is now called Hudson Bay and was the scene of a mutiny.
- On May 23, 1701, Scottish Captain William Kidd was hanged in London for piracy and murder.
- The 22nd of November is indelibly etched in the public’s mind with the death of a revered hero! (And John F. Kennedy also died on November 22nd.) Yes, pirate aficionados everywhere mourn the 1718 loss of one of the most colorful pirates of all time, Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.
IV. Growth and Crisis in Colonial Society, 1720-1765
- On June 2, 1763, as part of a general Indian (as in Native American) uprising known as Pontiac’s Rebellion, Chippewa warriors captured Fort Michiimackinac what is now present day Mackinaw City, by storming the fort.
V. Toward Independence: Years of Decision, 1763-1776
- On March 5, 1770, British soldiers opened fire on a group of unarmed American protesters, killing 5 (either 3 or 4 immediately, one dying later), an event referred to as The Boston Massacre, sometimes called the first shots fired in the American Revolutionary War.
- On April 14, 1772, the building tension toward open rebellion of Americans against the British erupted in New Hampshire in an incident known as The Pine Tree Riot.
VI. Making War and Republican Governments, 1776-1789
- On July 2, 1777, Vermont became the first territory in what had just (kind of) become the United States to abolish slavery.
VII. Politics and Society in the New Republic, 1787-1820
- On June 1, 1813, the commander of the USS Chesapeake, James Lawrence, lay dying, and uttered the immortal words, “Don’t give up the ship!”
VIII. Economic Transformation, 1790-1860
- On May 5, 1809, Mary Kies became the first woman granted a US patent.
- On July 19, 1814, Samuel Colt was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and though he lived only to the age of 47 became rich and famous as the man that made the repeating firearm a practical reality.
IX. A Democratic Revolution, 1820-1844
- On December 1, 1824, it was determined that the vote for the presidential election of 1824 did not have a winner!
- On February 9, 1825, the United States of America had the only incident (so far) of no presidential candidate winning a majority of the Electoral votes in a presidential election, forcing the House of Representatives to elect our next president.
X. Religion and Reform, 1820-1860
- On October 27, 1838, Missouri’s governor issued an order for all Mormons to leave the state or face extermination!
XI. The South Expands: Slavery and Society, 1800-1860
- On May 20, 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul (later Emperor) of France, made a mistake he later regretted the rest of his life when he reinstated slavery in the French colonies.
- On June 5, 1829, the British ship, HMS Pickle, a 5 gun schooner, captured an armed slave ship, the Voladora, off the coast of Cuba.
- On March 3, 1859, the largest sale of African slaves in the United States came to a sad conclusion near Savannah, Georgia when the last slaves formerly owned by plantation owner Pierce Mease Butler (1807/10-1867) were sold in order for Butler to satisfy his considerable debts.
XII. Expansion, War, and Sectional Crisis, 1844-1860
- On June 4, 1855, Major Henry C. Wayne got on board the USS Supply in New York Harbor and headed to the Mediterranean Sea to procure camels (29 of the Dromedary or one-hump variety and 2 of the Bactrian or two-hump kind) for use by the US Army in the Western United States.
XIII. Two Societies at War, 1861-1865
- On April 1, 1861, the municipality called East St. Louis was established.
- On June 3, 1861, in the first organized land battle (barely a battle in reality) of the American Civil War, the Union Army with 3000 men routed an untrained force of 800 Confederate volunteers in what it now West Virginia at Philippi, a small town that today has only about 3000 residents.
- On July 26, 1861, Major General George McClellan was appointed the commander of the Army of the Potomac, a move President Lincoln hoped would instill professionalism and competence to that Army.
- On October 23, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln, defender of the Union of the United States, illegally suspended the rule of Habeas Corpus, the Constitutional protection of Americans against being held in confinement without charges and due process.
- On March 8, 1862, during the American Civil War, perhaps the most important naval battle of the war began, a battle that would see the first clash of ironclad or armored warships.
- On July 16, 1862 and July 16, 1882, we commemorate the birthdays of 2 significant African-American women, Ida B. Wells (who first developed statistics on lynching in the US) and Violette Neatley Anderson (the first African-American woman to practice law before the United States Supreme Court).
- On July 23, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln finally found a replacement for General George B. McClellan as General-in-Chief of the Union Army when he appointed General Henry W. Halleck.
- On July 1, 1863, the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania began, perhaps the most important battle of the US Civil War.
- On July 3, 1863, the Army of the Potomac fought a defensive battle against the Army of Northern Virginia at the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg.
- On July 30, 1864, Union forces exploded 8,000 pounds of black powder in a tunnel underneath Confederate trenches at Petersburg, Virginia, creating a crater 170 feet long and 120 feet wide, and 30 feet deep.
- On November 30, 1864, Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood set what has to be a record for an American general for getting his subordinate generals killed and wounded after ordering an epic fail charge against Union forces led by Major General John M. Schofield at the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee during the American Civil War.
XIV. Our Final Lectures
- On May 31, 1866, Irish nationalists known as Fenian Brotherhood invaded Canada in an attempt to force Britain into granting Ireland independence.
- On December 25, 1868, much maligned and embattled President of the United States Andrew Johnson issued a blanket pardon for all Confederate veterans of the US Civil War.
Question for students (and subscribers): What is the most interesting event from this timeline? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Wood, Gordon S. The American Revolution: A History (Modern Library Chronicles). Modern Library, 2003.
Johnson, Michael P. Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War: Selected Writing and Speeches (The Bedford Series in History and Culture). Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.
The featured image in this article, a print showing Columbia’s noblest sons, is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division
under the digital ID cph.3b37728. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States, because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.