Year
1781

Mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line

On this day in 1781, 1,500 soldiers from the Pennsylvania Line–all 11 regiments under General Anthony Wayne’s command–insist that their three-year enlistments are expired, kill three officers in a drunken rage and abandon the Continental Army’s winter camp at Morristown, New Jersey.

British General Henry Clinton sent emissaries from New York to meet the mutineers and offer them full pardon and the pay owed them by the Continental Army in exchange for joining the Redcoats. Instead, the men turned south towards Princeton, which they captured on January 3, intending to march on Philadelphia and Congress. From Princeton, the mutineers dispatched envoys to meet with General Wayne, who was following behind them. They aired their grievances and handed over Clinton’s men for eventual execution.

With this show of devotion to the Patriot cause, the mutineers strengthened their position in negotiations with Congress. General Wayne and Congressional President Joseph Reed met with the mutineers to hear their grievances on January 7; they came to an agreement three days later. Half the men accepted discharges, while the other half took furloughs coupled with bonuses for reenlistment. Those who reenlisted formed the Pennsylvania Battalion, which went on to participate in the southern campaign.

These excellent terms prompted 200 New Jersey men stationed at Pompton to follow suit with their own mutiny. This time, the response was quite different. General George Washington used New England soldiers to disarm their New Jersey compatriots and executed two of the leading mutineers.

These actions kept the Patriot army from disintegrating, but it still faced severe challenges–early 1781 saw more Americans fighting for the British than fighting for Washington.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First modern Mummers’ Parade

In honor of the American centennial, the first area-wide New Year’s Day Mummers’ Parade is held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Mummers’ celebrations in America date back to colonial times, when the boisterous Swedish custom of celebrating the end of the calendar year with noise ...read more

New Year’s Day

In 45 B.C., New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1 for the first time in history as the Julian calendar takes effect.Soon after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh century ...read more

Haitian independence proclaimed

Two months after his defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s colonial forces, Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaims the independence of Saint-Domingue, renaming it Haiti after its original Arawak name.In 1791, a slave revolt erupted on the French colony, and Toussaint-Louverture, a former ...read more

Operation Sam Houston begins

Operation Sam Houston begins as a continuation of border surveillance operations in Pleiku and Kontum Provinces in the Central Highlands by units from the U.S. 4th and 25th Infantry Divisions. The purpose of the operation was to interdict the movement of North Vietnamese troops ...read more

Lincoln signs Emancipation Proclamation

On this day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation. Attempting to stitch together a nation mired in a bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln made a last-ditch, but carefully calculated, decision regarding the institution of slavery in America.By the end of 1862, ...read more

E.M. Forster is born

British writer E.M. Forster is born on this day in London. Forster’s architect father died when he was two, and Forster was raised by his mother and a great-aunt in an old house called Rooksnest, which later became the model for the country estate portrayed in Howard’s End. ...read more

Sneak preview of The Birth of a Nation

On this day in 1915, audiences file into the Loring Opera House at 3745 7th Street in Riverside, California, for a special sneak preview of D.W. Griffith’s first full-length feature film, The Clansman. Later renamed The Birth of a Nation, the controversial Civil War epic would ...read more

Air India jet crashes just after takeoff

An Air India Boeing 747 jet crashes into the sea just after takeoff from a Bombay airport on this day in 1978, killing all 213 people on board. The crash was apparently the result of pilot error and equipment malfunction.Air India Flight 855 left Santacruz Airport (now called ...read more

Cuban dictator Batista falls from power

In the face of a popular revolution spearheaded by Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista flees the island nation. As celebration and chaos intermingled in the Cuban capitol of Havana, U.S. policymakers debated how best to deal with the radical ...read more

The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect

On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signs the final Emancipation Proclamation, which ends slavery in the rebelling states. A preliminary proclamation was issued in September 1862, following the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland. The act signaled an ...read more

United Nations created

On this day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issue a declaration, signed by representatives of 26 countries, called the “United Nations.” The signatories of the declaration vowed to create an international postwar peacekeeping ...read more