Year
1831

John Rawlins born

On this day in 1831, Union General John Rawlins is born in Galena, Illinois. Rawlins was a close personal aide to General Ulysses S. Grant and was reported to have kept Grant from drinking heavily during the war.

Rawlins’ family was originally from Virginia but had settled in Illinois shortly before Rawlins’ birth. When Rawlins was a teenager, his father abandoned the family and headed for the gold fields of California. The younger Rawlins received little formal education, but was admitted to the bar inIllinoisin 1854 and went on to practice law and involve himself in state politics.

When the Civil War started, Rawlins became the aide-de-camp to Grant. He was Grant’s principal staff officer throughout the war, and Grant said that Rawlins was nearly indispensable. Grant was known to be a heavy drinker when he served on the frontier in the 1850s, and it appears Rawlinswas instrumental in keeping the general from excessive imbibingthroughout theCivil War.

After the war, Rawlins served in the West. He helped General Greenville Dodge survey the route for the Union Pacific Railroad, which later became part of the first transcontinental line. For his efforts, the town of Rawlins, Wyoming, was named after him. When Grant became U.S. president in 1869, he made Rawlinssecretary of war. However, Rawlins’ health declined after taking office, andthe 38-year-olddied in September 1869.Hewas buriedat Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First Medal of Honor action

The earliest military action to be revered with a Medal of Honor award is performed by Colonel Bernard J.D. Irwin, an assistant army surgeon serving in the first major U.S.-Apache conflict. Near Apache Pass, in southeastern Arizona, Irwin, an Irish-born doctor, volunteered to go ...read more

Dresden devastated

On the evening of February 13, 1945, the most controversial episode in the Allied air war against Germany begins as hundreds of British bombers loaded with incendiaries and high-explosive bombs descend on Dresden, a historic city located in eastern Germany. Dresden was neither a ...read more

Galileo in Rome for Inquisition

On this day in 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rometo face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that ...read more

Johnson approves Operation Rolling Thunder

President Lyndon B. Johnson decides to undertake the sustained bombing of North Vietnam that he and his advisers have been contemplating for a year. Called Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign was designed to interdict North Vietnamese transportation routes in the ...read more

Additional troops ordered to South Vietnam

As an emergency measure in response to the 1968 communist Tet Offensive, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara approves the deployment of 10,500 troops to cope with threats of a second offensive. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had argued against dispatching any reinforcements at ...read more

Ashley advertises for western fur trappers

Missouri Lieutenant Governor William Ashley places an advertisement in the Missouri Gazette and Public Advisor seeking 100 “enterprising young men” to engage in fur trading on the Upper Missouri. A Virginia native, Ashley had moved to Missouri just after President Thomas ...read more

Long-lost Twain manuscript authenticated

On this day, Sotheby’s announced the discovery of a long-lost manuscript of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. The manuscript was the first half of Twain’s original version, heavily corrected in his own handwriting, which had been missing for more than a century. The manuscript ...read more

ASCAP is founded

“If music did not pay, it would be given up.” So wrote Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1917. Holmes wasn’t referring to musicians themselves in that statement, but to places of business in which copyrighted musical works could be heard, ...read more

Cinema burns in Turin

On this day in 1983, 74 people are killed when a fire blazes through a cinema in Turin, Italy. The Statuto Cinema in Turin had a capacity of just over 1,000 people on two levels, though the show on Sunday, February 13, was not nearly full. A fire began on the ground floor and ...read more

Serial killer strikes in Colorado

A 21-year-old woman named Mary accepts a ride from a man in the ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado, and is raped and severely beaten with a claw hammer. The attacker, Tom Luther, was traced through his truck and apprehended. Luther told a psychiatrist thatMary reminded him of his ...read more

Chernenko becomes general secretary

Following the death of Yuri Andropov four days earlier, Konstantin Chernenko takes over as the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, the ruling position in the Soviet Union. Chernenko was the last of the Russian communist “hard-liners” prior to the ascension to power ...read more

Actor Mel Gibson completes DUI probation

On February 13, 2008, a California judge rules that the actor Mel Gibson, star of such movies as the Academy Award-winning “Braveheart” and the “Mad Max” and “Lethal Weapon” series, has successfully completed the terms of his no-contest plea to misdemeanor drunk driving. The ...read more