September 15th “History Lesson”
1862 – General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson captured Harpers Ferry, Virginia (present-day West Virginia) and 12,000 Union soldiers.
General George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, sent messages to Union General Dixon Miles, commander of the Harpers Ferry garrison, urging Miles to hold the town at all costs. Instead, Miles offered little resistance before agreeing to surrender. As Miles’ aid, General Julius White, rode to Jackson to negotiate surrender terms, one Confederate cannon continued to fire. Miles was mortally wounded by the last shot fired at Harpers Ferry.
Some of his men accused Miles of being drunk on duty again and were so thoroughly disgusted by his inept defense that it was said to be difficult to find a man to carry him to the hospital. Miles died the next day. A court of inquiry into the surrender denounced Miles for “incapacity, amounting to almost imbecility.”
1935 – German Jews were stripped of their citizenship, reducing them to mere “subjects” of the state. German Jews were excluded from a host of high-profile vocations, from public office to journalism, radio, theater, film, and teaching-even farming. The professions of law and medicine were also withdrawn slowly as opportunities. “Jews Not Welcome” signs could be seen on shop and hotel windows, beer gardens, and other public arenas.
With the Nuremberg Laws (which were imposed on this date), these discriminatory acts became embedded in the culture by fiat, making them even more far-reaching. Jews were forbidden to marry “Aryans”. Jews could not employ female Aryan servants if they were less than 35 years of age. Jews found it difficult even to buy food, as groceries, bakeries, and dairies would not admit Jewish customers. Even pharmacies refused to sell them medicines or drugs.
1940 – The Battle of Britain reached its climax when the Royal Air Force downed 56 invading German aircraft in two dogfights lasting less than an hour. The costly raid convinced the German high command that the Luftwaffe could not achieve air supremacy over Britain. Although heavy German aid raids on London and other British cities would continue through spring 1941, the Battle of Britain was effectively won.
1949 – The Lone Ranger premiered on ABC. Although the program ran for seven season, that’s a little misleading. The first 78 episodes were produced and broadcast for 78 consecutive weeks without any breaks or reruns. Then the entire 78 episodes were shown again before any new episodes were produced. All were shot in Kanab, Utah and California. Much of the series was filmed on the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California, including the iconic opening sequence to each episode, in which the cry of “Hi-Yo Silver” is heard before the Lone Ranger and Silver gallop to a distinctive rock and Silver rears up on his hind legs. The rock seen next to Silver is known as Lone Ranger Rock and remains in place today on the site of the former movie ranch … which is, incidentally, part of the ranch (known as the Spahn Ranch) that was occupied by Charles Manson and his followers in 1969.
1954 – The famous picture of Marilyn Monroe, laughing as her skirt is blown up by the blast from a subway vent, was shot during the filming of The Seven Year Itch. The scene infuriated her husband, Joe DiMaggio, who felt it was exhibitionist, and the couple divorced shortly afterward.
1957 – Bachelor Father premiered on CBS. By the time the series ended in 1962, it had appeared on all three of the major networks.
1958 – A commuter train plunged off a bridge into Newark Bay in New Jersey killing 47 passengers. The bridge could be raised to allow large ships to pass underneath it. In order to avoid problems with the rail lines that used the bridge, there was an automatic warning system installed. If the bridge was raised, warning lights alerted oncoming trains 1,500 yards from the bridge. A second warning was put in place 200 yards before the bridge. Finally, a derailer was installed just before the bridge to force a train from the tracks if the bridge was raised.
As commuter train 3314 from Bay Head Junction was leaving the Elizabethport station, a large freighter was radioing ahead to have the bridge raised. As the train approached Newark Bay, its crew either did not see or ignored both warning-light systems. The train was traveling about 40 miles per hour when it hit the derailer.
The locomotive and one other car jumped the tracks and plunged into the bay below. A third car was left hanging over the side of the bridge. There were no people in the first car, but the 47 people in the second car all drowned. The people in the third car were able to escape just before it also fell into the bay. Forty-eight people were injured.
1963 – A bomb exploded during Sunday morning services in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls. The church bombing was the third in Birmingham in 11 days after a federal order came down to integrate Alabama’s school system. Fifteen sticks of dynamite were planted in the church basement, underneath what turned out to be the girls’ restroom. The bomb detonated at 10:19 a.m., killing Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins–all 14 years old–and 11-year-old Denise McNair.
A well-known Klan member, Robert Chambliss, was charged with murder and with buying 122 sticks of dynamite. In October 1963, Chambliss was cleared of the murder charge and received a six-month jail sentence and a $100 fine for the dynamite.
Although a subsequent FBI investigation identified three other men – Bobby Frank Cherry, Herman Cash and Thomas E. Blanton, Jr. – as having helped Chambliss commit the crime, it was later revealed that FBI chairman J. Edgar Hoover blocked their prosecution and shut down the investigation without filing charges in 1968. After Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley reopened the case, Chambliss was convicted in 1977 and sentenced to life in prison.
1965 – Green Acres and Lost In Space both premiered on CBS. The Big Valley and Gidget debuted on ABC, while NBC premiered I Spy.
1966 – President Lyndon B. Johnson, responding to a sniper attack at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote a letter to Congress urging the enactment of gun control legislation.
Six weeks earlier, on August 1, Charles Whitman had killed 14 people and wounded 32 others during a shooting rampage on and around the University of Texas at Austin’s campus. An ex-Marine, three of his victims were killed inside the University’s tower, and 10 others were killed from the 29th floor observation deck of the University’s 307-foot administrative building.
1971 – Twelve members of the Don’t Make a Wave Committee founded Greenpeace, the environmental organization committed to a green and peaceful world. The group from Vancouver, British Columbia was aboard the Phyllis Cormack sailing to Amchitka, Alaska to protest nuclear testing.
1971 – Originally broadcast as a movie of the week one-off in 1968, Columbo premiered as a series (part of the Sunday Movie Mystery) on NBC.
1981 – The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Sandra Day O’Connor for the U.S. Supreme Court.
1983 – On the same day the Committee Against Racially Motivated Police Violence was holding a news conference to publicize a Congressional hearing into complaints of police abuse, graffiti artist Michael Stewart was beaten into unconsciousness by New York City police for spray painting on a wall of the First Avenue subway station.
Stewart – an African American – died 13 days later without ever regaining consciousness. Three officers, John Kostick, Anthony Piscola and Henry Boerner, were charged with criminally negligent homicide, assault and perjury. Three other officers, Sgt. Henry Hassler, Sgt. James Barry and Susan Techky, who denied that they saw officers kick Stewart, were charged with perjury.
All six were acquitted by an all-white jury.
1986 – L.A. Law began an eight-year run on NBC.
1987 – The Senate Judiciary Committee began confirmation hearings on President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court. The rancorous process included a strong condemnation of Bork by U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy which successfully fueled widespread public skepticism of the nominee. Bork’s nomination was subsequently defeated by the full Senate, 58-42.
2004 – The collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players Association expired. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a lockout that resulted in the cancellation of the entire season; the first time a major professional sports league in North America canceled a complete season because of a labor dispute.
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