Year
1864

Sherman presents Lincoln with a Christmas gift

On this day in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman presents the city of Savannah, Georgia, to President Abraham Lincoln. Sherman captured thecity after his famous March to the Sea from Atlanta. Savannah had been one of the last major ports that remained open to the Confederates.

After Sherman captured Atlanta in September 1864, he did not plan to stay for long. There was still the Confederate army of General John Bell Hood in the area, and cavalry leaders like Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joe Wheeler, who could threaten Sherman’s supply lines. In November, Sherman dispatched part of his force back to Nashville, Tennessee, to deal with Hood while Sherman cut free from his supply lines and headed south and east across Georgia. Along the way, his troops destroyed nearly everything in their path. Sherman’s intent was to wreck the morale of the South and bring the war to a swift end.

For nearly six weeks, nothing was heard from Sherman’s army. Finally, just before Christmas, word arrived that Sherman’s army was outside Savannah. A Union officer reached the coast and found a Union warship that carried him to Washington, D.C.,to personally deliver news of the success. Sherman wired Lincoln with the message, “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Dreyfus affair begins in France

French officer Alfred Dreyfus is convicted of treason by a military court-martial and sentenced to life in prison for his alleged crime of passing military secrets to the Germans. The Jewish artillery captain, convicted on flimsy evidence in a highly irregular trial, began his ...read more

The Bernhard Goetz subway shooting

On the New York City subway, Bernhard Goetz, a 45-year-old white male, shoots four young black men after they surround him and ask for $5. After wounding three of the unarmed men, Goetz pointed his gun at 18-year-old Darrell Cabey, who was not wounded but cowering terrified in ...read more

Romanian government falls

The Romanian army defects to the cause of anti-communist demonstrators, and the government of Nicolae Ceausescu is overthrown. The end of 42 years of communist rule came three days after Ceausescu’s security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Timisoara. After the army’s ...read more

First gorilla born in captivity

On this day in 1956, a baby gorilla named Colo enters the world at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, becoming the first-ever gorilla born in captivity. Weighing in at approximately 4 pounds, Colo, a western lowland gorilla whose name was a combination of Columbus and Ohio, was the ...read more

Julie Nixon marries David Eisenhower

On this day in 1968, Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower, both progeny of United States presidents, tie the knot in New York City.Julie Nixon was the daughter of Richard M. Nixon, who was running for president at the time of the wedding. Her groom was the grandson of Dwight D. ...read more

John Chisum dies in Arkansas

A central player in the violent Lincoln County War of 1878-81, the cattleman John Chisum dies at Eureka Springs, Arkansas.Born in Tennessee in 1824, Chisum moved with his family to Paris, Texas, when he was eleven years old. For several years he worked as construction contractor, ...read more

Dostoevsky reprieved at last minute

On this day, writer Fyodor Dostoevsky is led before a firing squad and prepared for execution. He had been convicted and sentenced to death on November 16 for allegedly taking part in antigovernment activities. However, at the last moment he was reprieved and sent into ...read more

Hollywood mogul Darryl Zanuck dies

On this day in 1979, Darryl Zanuck, the powerful Hollywood studio chief and producer behind a long list of classic movies, including The Grapes of Wrath, All About Eve and The Longest Day, dies at age 77 in Palm Springs, California. The cigar-chomping, womanizing Zanuck was a ...read more

Express trains collide in Germany

Two express trains collide in Magdeburg, Germany, killing more than 100 people on this day in 1939. Occurring at the outset of World War II, the accident was probably a result of the fact that the country’s best rail engineers had all been conscripted into the military.Between ...read more

John Wayne Gacy confesses

On this day in 1978, John Wayne Gacy confesses to police to killing over two dozen boys and young men and burying their bodies under his suburban Chicago home. In March 1980, Gacy was convicted of 33 sex-related murders, committed between 1972 and 1978, and given the death ...read more

Lech Walesa sworn in as president of Poland

Lech Walesa, well-known Polish labor leader and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is sworn in as the first noncommunist president of Poland since the end of World War II. His victory was another sign of the Soviet Union’s lessening power and communism’s waning influence in ...read more