Year
1777

Redcoats kill sleeping Americans in Paoli Massacre

On the evening of September 20, 1777, near Paoli, Pennsylvania, General Charles Grey and nearly 5,000 British soldiers launch a surprise attack on a small regiment of Patriot troops commanded by General Anthony Wayne in what becomes known as the Paoli Massacre. Not wanting to lose the element of surprise, Grey ordered his troops to empty their muskets and to use only bayonets or swords to attack the sleeping Americans under the cover of darkness.

With the help of a Loyalist spy who provided a secret password and led them to the camp, General Grey and the British launched the successful attack on the unsuspecting men of the Pennsylvania regiment, stabbing them to death as they slept. It was also alleged that the British soldiers took no prisoners during the attack, stabbing or setting fire to those who tried to surrender. Before it was over, nearly 200 Americans were killed or wounded. The Paoli Massacre became a rallying cry for the Americans against British atrocities for the rest of the Revolutionary War.

Less than two years later, Wayne became known as “Mad Anthony” for his bravery leading an impressive Patriot assault on British cliff-side fortifications at Stony Point on the Hudson River, 12 miles from West Point. Like Grey’s attack at Paoli, Wayne’s men only used bayonets in the 30-minute night attack, which resulted in 94 dead and 472 captured British soldiers.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Amish convicted in beard cutting attacks

On this day in 2012, 16 members of a dissident Amish group in Ohio are convicted of federal hate crimes and conspiracy for forcibly cutting the beards and hair of fellow Amish with whom they had religious differences. The government classified the ruthless attacks as hate crimes ...read more

Magellan sets out

Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan sets sail from Spain in an effort to find a western sea route to the rich Spice Islands of Indonesia. In command of five ships and 270 men, Magellan sailed to West Africa and then to Brazil, where he searched the South American coast for a ...read more

First European battle on American soil

Spanish forces under Pedro Menéndez de Avilés capture the French Huguenot settlement of Fort Caroline, near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. The French, commanded by Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere, lost 135 men in the first instance of colonial warfare between European powers in ...read more

First Cannes Film Festival

The first annual Cannes Film Festival opens at the resort city of Cannes on the French Riviera. The festival had intended to make its debut in September 1939, but the outbreak of World War II forced the cancellation of the inaugural Cannes.The world’s first annual international ...read more

King triumphs in Battle of Sexes

On this day in 1973, in a highly publicized “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, top women’s player Billie Jean King, 29, beats Bobby Riggs, 55, a former No. 1 ranked men’s player. Riggs (1918-1995), a self-proclaimed male chauvinist, had boasted that women were inferior, that ...read more

U.S. officials defend use of defoliants

U.S. military spokesmen defend the use of defoliants in Vietnam at a news conference in Saigon, claiming that the use of the agents in selected areas of South Vietnam had neither appreciably altered the country’s ecology, nor produced any harmful effects on human or animal ...read more

King defeats Riggs in Battle of the Sexes II

On September 20, 1973, Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in a widely publicized exhibition tennis match dubbed the “Battle of the Sexes.” The 55-year-old Riggs, a tennis champion from the late 1930s and 40s who was notoriously skeptical of women’s talents on the tennis court, ...read more

Upton Sinclair is born

On this day, Upton Sinclair, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and reformer, is born in Baltimore, Maryland.Sinclair came from a once well-to-do Southern family that had suffered reverses. When he was 10, the family moved to New York. Starting at age 15, he earned money writing dime ...read more

Avalanche thunders into Russian village

A glacial avalanche in Russia buries a village on this day in 2002, killing more than 100 people.The North Ossetia area of Russia was hard hit by floods in June 2002. These floods, along with an early and hot summer, proved to be a precursor to a much larger disaster in ...read more

Kennedy proposes joint mission to the moon

An optimistic and upbeat President John F. Kennedy suggests that the Soviet Union and the United States cooperate on a mission to mount an expedition to the moon. The proposal caught both the Soviets and many Americans off guard. In 1961, shortly after his election as president, ...read more