Nathanael Greene takes command of Long Island

On this day in 1776, shortly after the American victory at Boston, Massachusetts, General George Washington orders Brigadier General Nathanael Greene to take command of Long Island and set up defensive positions against a possible British attack on New York City.

Greene’s troops were arranged to defend themselves against a frontal attack in Brooklyn Heights across from Manhattan. On August 26, 1776, the British took the vast majority of Long Island with ease, as the island’s population was heavily Loyalist. On August 27, the troops at Brooklyn Heights disintegrated under an unexpected attack from their left flank. In a British effort to earn goodwill for a negotiated peace, they allowed American survivors to flee to Manhattan. Otherwise, the War for Independence might easily have been quashed less than three months after it began.

Born in Rhode Island in August 1742, Greene was elected to the Rhode Island legislature at the age of 28 in 1770. Overcoming his Quaker scruples against violence and warfare, Greene joined a local militia at the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1774 and was promoted to the rank of brigadier general of the Continental Army by Congress in 1775.

At the siege of Boston in March 1776, Greene was assigned to General Washington’s brigade and a lifelong friendship between the two men began. Shortly after several American losses in and around New York in the summer and fall of 1776, Greene was promoted to major general of the Continental Army under Washington.

After leading troops into several successful battles, including the Battle of Trenton in December 1776 and the Battle of Germantown in October 1777, Greene succeeded Thomas Mifflin as quartermaster general in March 1778. Greene was named commander in chief of the Southern Army in October 1778; he commanded troops on the battlefield throughout the rest of the revolution. After twice turning down offers to become secretary of war, Greene retired from the military in 1785. Less than one year later, in June 1786, Greene died at his Georgia home.


Riots erupt in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, California, four Los Angeles police officers that had been caught beating an unarmed African-American motorist in an amateur video are acquitted of any wrongdoing in the arrest. Hours after the verdicts were announced, outrage and protest turned to violence as the more

Joan of Arc relieves Orleans

During the Hundred Years’ War, the 17-year-old French peasant Joan of Arc leads a French force in relieving the city of Orleans, besieged by the English since October. At the age of 16, “voices” of Christian saints told Joan to aid Charles, the French dauphin, in gaining the more

Dachau liberated

On April 29, 1945, the U.S. Seventh Army’s 45th Infantry Division liberates Dachau, the first concentration camp established by Germany’s Nazi regime. A major Dachau subcamp was liberated the same day by the 42nd Rainbow Division. Established five weeks after Adolf Hitler took more

Operation Frequent Wind begins

Operation Frequent Wind, the largest helicopter evacuation on record, begins removing the last Americans from Saigon. The North Vietnamese had launched their final offensive in March 1975 and the South Vietnamese forces had fallen back before their rapid advance, losing Quang more

New casualty figures released.

U.S. casualty figures for April 18 to April 24 are released. The 45 killed during that time brought total U.S. losses for the Vietnam War to 45,019 since 1961. These figures made Southeast Asia fourth in total losses sustained by the U.S. during a war, topped only by the number more

William Randolph Hearst is born

The newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst is born in San Francisco. He was the only son and principle heir to western mining magnate George Hearst. George Hearst had made a fortune with his shrewd investments in successful western mining operations. His son William, however, more

Hair premieres on Broadway

In a year marked by as much social and cultural upheaval as 1968, it was understandable that the New York Times review of a controversial musical newly arrived on Broadway would describe the show in political terms. “You probably don’t have to be a supporter of Eugene McCarthy to more

Daniel Day-Lewis born

The actor Daniel Day-Lewis, famous for his intense Method acting and chameleon-like ability to disappear into character, is born on this day in 1957, in London, England. Day-Lewis’ father, Cecil Day-Lewis, was a British poet laureate; his mother, Jill Balcon, was an actress and a more

Cyclone kills 135,000 in Bangladesh

On this day in 1991, a devastating cyclone hits Bangladesh, killing more than 135,000 people. Even though there had been ample warning of the coming storm and shelter provisions had been built in the aftermath of a deadly 1970 storm, this disaster was one of the worst of the more

Rodney King trial verdict announced

A jury in the Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley acquits four police officers who had been charged with using excessive force in arresting black motorist Rodney King a year earlier. The announcement of the verdict, which enraged the black community, prompted the L.A. riots, which more