Year
1777

Americans retreat from Fort Independence

Facing a surprise British counterassault in the bitter cold and with a snowstorm approaching, American commander Major General William Heath and his army of 6,000 abandon their siege on Fort Independence, in Bronx County, New York, on this day in 1777.

Acting on orders from General George Washington, General Heath and his men had begun their assault on Fort Independence 11 days earlier on January 18, 1777. General Washington, who was under British attack in nearby New Jersey, believed that a successful assault on Fort Independence would force the British to divert troops from New Jersey to defend the outpost, located just outside British-controlled Manhattan between the Post Roads to Boston and Albany.

On January 25, a torrential rainstorm overflowed the Bronx River and muddied the battlefield, making troop movement nearly impossible for the Patriots. A British counterassault and the pending snowstorm forced General Heath to admit defeat, and he ordered his troops to retreat on January 29, 1777.

Fort Independence was first built by the Patriots in 1776 and then burned by them as they retreated from New York City. The British partially rebuilt the fort when they took control later in the year. The fort endured the Patriots’ attack in 1777, but was destroyed again as the British left in 1779 . The city park that now exists on the site memorializes the fort on its front gates, as well as in its name.

Also on this day in 1777, Washington placed Major General Israel Putnam in command of all Patriot troops in New York, charging them with defense of the city and its water routes.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

King George III dies

Ten years after mental illness forced him to retire from public life, King George III, the British king who lost the American colonies, dies at the age of 82. In 1760, 20-year-old George succeeded his grandfather, George II, as king of Great Britain and Ireland. Although he hoped ...read more

Divided Kansas enters the Union

The territory of Kansas is admitted into the Union as the 34th state, or the 28th state if the secession of eight Southern states over the previous six weeks is taken into account. Kansas, deeply divided over the issue of slavery, was granted statehood as a free state in a ...read more

Fighting continues in South Vietnam

The fighting continues in South Vietnam despite the cease-fire that was initiated on January 28, 1973, under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords. This latest fighting was part of the ongoing battles that followed the brief lull of the cease-fire. The Peace Accords had left ...read more

Baseball Hall of Fame inducts first members

On this day in 1936, in Cooperstown, New York, the Baseball Hall of Fame announces the election of five charter members: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. The idea of a Baseball Hall of Fame began gathering steam in 1935, when members of the ...read more

William McKinley is born

On this day in 1843, future President William McKinley is born in Niles, Ohio. McKinley fought bravely as a Union infantryman in the Civil War and was awarded a battlefield commission by Union officer and fellow future President Rutherford B. Hayes. After the war, McKinley ...read more

Edward Abbey is born

Uncompromising environmentalist and author Edward Abbey is born in Home, Pennsylvania. A self-proclaimed “enemy of the modern military-industrial state,” which he believed was destroying the natural world and human freedom, Abbey’s passionate dedication to protecting and ...read more

“The Raven” is published

Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven,” beginning “Once upon a midnight dreary,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror. Poe’s dark and macabre work reflected his own tumultuous and difficult life. Born in Boston in 1809, Poe was orphaned at age three and went ...read more

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward marry

One of Hollywood’s most enduring marriages begins on this day in 1958, when Paul Newman weds Joanne Woodward in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two actors first met in the early 1950s while working in New York City on a Broadway production of the romantic drama Picnic. Newman had a ...read more

Theater collapses in Washington, D.C.

Accumulated snowfall from a blizzard collapses the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D.C., on this day in 1922. The blizzard formed in the Carolinas on January 26 and moved into the Washington area the following day. For two days, snow blanketed the nation’s capital, resulting ...read more

School shooting in San Diego

Brenda Spencer kills two men and wounds nine children as they enter the Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego. Spencer blazed away with rifle shots from her home directly across the street from the school. After 20 minutes of shooting, police surrounded Spencer’s home ...read more