Category Archives: American History

1882 – Jesse James is Murdered

Image result for jesse james outlaw

One of the most famous bank robbers in American history was killed in his own home by one of his own gang members in 1882.  Brothers Charley and Robert Ford joined the infamous James-Younger Gang hoping for an opportunity to capture James and bring him in in exchange for the massive bounty on his head.  According to the brothers, James laid down his revolvers on the sofa in his St. Joseph, Missouri home and climbed a ladder to dust a picture.  Once his back was turned, Robert Ford shot him in the back of the head and he died at the age of 33.

In the aftermath of James’ death, the Ford brothers were charged with murder, but pardoned by the Governor, and in 1884, Charley committed suicide while his younger brother was himself murdered in 1892.  James himself was buried at his family farm in Kearney, Missouri before his body was moved to the local cemetery, where he rests today with his wife Zerelda Mimms.  His mother wrote the epitaph that can still be seen on his original tombstone, which states that he was “Murdered by a Traitor and Coward Whose Name is not Worthy to Appear Here.”

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Posted by on April 3, 2017 in American History


Documentary Sunday – Secrets of the Founding Fathers

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Posted by on March 5, 2017 in American History


1963 – John F. Kennedy is Assassinated

The 35th President of the United States died at the age of forty-six after a fatal gunshot wound to the head and to the throat.  He was the second youngest president to take the office and the youngest to leave it.

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Posted by on November 22, 2015 in American History


Independence Day – 4 July 1776

It is a day Americans know well, but today we celebrate our nation’s separation from the British Empire with alcohol, barbecues, and fireworks.  Very few take the time to remember the struggles of our Founding Fathers over two centuries ago.

When King George III refused to acknowledge the many grievances of the American colonists, they declared themselves to be separate from the British Empire in a document known as The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America, known commonly today as the Declaration of Independence.  (You can see the original name on the document copy below)  Penned by Thomas Jefferson, the youngest of the delegates of the Continental Congress, and edited with the help of John Adams and Dr. Benjamin Franklin, the final draft was adopted by Congress on the Second of July and formally signed by all members during the summer, not on one day as is commonly thought.  Months prior in January 1776, when it became clear that there was no way for the Americans to peacefully negotiate with the King, John Adams, a lawyer from Massachusetts and cousin to Patriot Samuel Adams, persuaded Congress to have his friend and fellow delegate Thomas Jefferson, a planter from Virginia, write the first draft since he knew the younger man to have a great way with words.  It took several tiring and stressful weeks, but soon, the document was completed and unanimously agreed upon by all delegates of all 13 states.  This is seen as the defining moment of the American Revolution, though the war itself did not end until 1778.

The real Independence Day is in fact July Second, however the date instead commemorates the date on which the Declaration’s existence was made public.


1706 – Benjamin Franklin is Born


On 17 January 1706, Founding Father Dr. Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, the Bay Colony of Massachusetts, one of ten children of Josiah Franklin and his second wife Abiah.  He was a newspaperman from a young age, getting his start by writing to his brother’s newspaper under the pseudonym Silence Dogood before developing his own paper, The Pennsylvania Gazette in Philadelphia.  Later he became a Freemason, author, scientist, and a member of the Continental Congress, where he was one of five men selected to edit and revise and create the Declaration of Independence.  In addition, he also too office as the first Minister to France and Sweden and the first US Postmaster General, among other things, before his death on 17 April 1790 at the age of eighty-four.


1777 – The Continental Army Enters Valley Forge

Typically, the histories of Europe are what I tend to post to Thorns of Time, but the truth is, my fascination with history began with the American Revolution, so today I revisit that love with a small “article” on the winter encampment of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  I plan to go deeper in depth in the near future, but for today, here is a taste of what will soon become a much larger piece.

The American War for Independence is something every child born into the United States knows a little bit about: the colonials fought against the King of England for their freedom to become a nation of their own.  I find the stories of the Revolution to be incredible and inspiring, which led to the two hour road trip I took today to visit the Continental Army’s winter encampment from 1777 to 1778 – the infamous Valley Forge.

When British forces captured the city of Philadelphia, American Commander-in-Chief General George Washington selected this area to settle his troops for the harsh winter.  Just eighteen miles from the city, here he could keep an eye on the British and take cover from surprise attacks, but his forces were in terribly poor condition.  Tired, cold, sick and starving, the men of the Continental Army were weary and losing the war.  Winter was on its way when they settled in Valley Forge in December of 1777 until the end of 1778’s frigid February.  Today, the area is registered as a historical park open to bus tours.

I had the pleasure of visiting Valley Forge this spring and was amazed.  To know of the hardships the Continental soldiers faced is one thing, but to see firsthand their living conditions really takes your breath away, and I gained a new respect for soldiers in general (my grandfather was in the Marines, so that is saying something, too!).

Food and supplies were severely limited.  Congress had not paid its troops, who were promised new clothes and boots but never received them.  Housing consisted of tents until cabins could be built – such as the one pictured below – and up to twelve men shared a hut at a time in some cases.

The horrible truth of the soldier’s conditions was that only one third of the men had shoes despite the frigid cold, and one could often see bloody footprints on the snow.  Those who did not have durable footwear wrapped their feet in cloth and with the thin wool of their uniform jackets sometimes being the only shelter they had against the harsh conditions, a man was lucky to get through the winter alive.  Disease ran rampant, including hypothermia, smallpox, pneumonia, dysentery, and typhoid fever among others.  By the spring of 1778, 2500 men and 700 horses lay dead.

However, what keeps Valley Forge from going down in history as a great horror was the fact that here, the men became soldiers.  They learned to fight against the most powerful army in the world and became a powerful force to be reckoned with.  They trained every day, changing from simple peasants and farmers to a true army fighting for a country that they themselves would bring to life.


1773 – The Boston Tea Party

While America was still part of the British Empire, its colonists were heavily taxed on goods such as sugar and stamps, but soon, the tax on tea, an extremely popular drink, rose as well.  The colonists responded by purchasing tea from Dutch trading companies and British importing companies began to fail and the Empire began to treat the acts of legal trade as smuggling.  The taxing increased and soon, a group of Patriots called the Sons of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams, called a meeting that led to what is traditionally held as the first American protest against the British Empire.  In the early hours of 16 December 1773, colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three ships docked in Boston Harbor and proceeded to throw the cargo – 342 crates of English tea – overboard into the water.  Contrary to popular belief, Adams was not the mastermind of the plan and actually opposed it, and the identities of the majority of the “tea partiers” remained a mystery for many years.

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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in American History