History Happenings March: 18th Century, Civil War, WWII | Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours

History Happenings March

Pirate Anne Bonny
Anne Bonny from a Dutch version of Charles Johnson’s book of pirates

There have been many historical occurrences in March on either side of the Ides over the centuries. Perhaps the mid-month assassination of Julius Caesar is the most famous event, but here are a few others of note that happened during the 20th century around the world, 18th century Ireland, the American Civil War, and WWII. Any of which might rate as more significant than that tragedy that befell Caesar at the Forum? Et tu, Lector?

20th Century

8 March – International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women, took place for the first time on 1911. Many countries around the world celebrate the holiday with demonstrations, educational initiatives and customs such as presenting women with gifts and flowers. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. The U.S. Congress followed suit the next year, passing a resolution establishing a national celebration. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March. (From: The History Channel)

18th Century

8 March 1702 – Anne Bonny, née Anne Cormac, in Cork, Ireland and moved as a child to Charleston, South Carolina.  Anne was an Irish American whose brief career marauding in the Caribbean during the 18th century enshrined her as a legend in the annals of piracy.

Disenchanted by her youthful marriage, she became involved with notorious buccaneer, “Calico Jack” Rackham.  She left her husband and with Rackham commandeered a sloop, the William from Nassau Harbor in the Bahamas. With a hand-picked crew, the pair began pirating merchant vessels along the coast of Jamaica. Rackham’s decision to partner with Bonny was highly unusual, as women were considered bad luck aboard ship. He may have been swayed by her fierce disposition: There was a story that in her youth, she had beaten an attempted rapist nearly to death. Bonny’s shipmates were well aware that she was a woman, but when pillaging she disguised herself as a man and weighed fearlessly into the fray. (From: Stuff Mom Never Told You and Encyclopaedia Britannica

The Civil War


4 March – Monday saw the Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth president of the United States. After a hotly contested, multi-candidate electoral campaign, in which he was not even on the ballot in some states, he took the oath of office for a sharply divided and fractured nation. Aides practically had to smuggle the president in through hostile Maryland and he was ensconced at the Willard hotel in Washington. The city was an armed camp: soldiers lined Pennsylvania Avenue and sharpshooters watched the crowds from rooftops. Division was just part of it. Seven states had seceded to form the Confederacy. While he adamantly declared that there could be no dissolution of the Union, he assured Southern states of their “States Rights” and that there would be no interference with the institution of slavery.


La Glorieta Pass 28 March – New Mexico does not often come to mind in thinking of Civil War battles, but not far from Santa Fe was an encounter between a contingent of Henry Sibley’s Confederates and Colorado militia and volunteers. The Confederates were making a move to take control of the New Mexico Territory and a contingent under Colonel William R. Scurry and Major Charles Pyron met Colonel John Slough’s Colorado “Pike’s Peakers” in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The Confederates pushed the Unionists back, but when a company of Slough’s men ambushed their wagon train, the Confederates withdrew.


3 March – The U.S. began conscription when President Lincoln signed the “Act for enrolling and calling out the National Forces” on this Tuesday. Any physically able male citizen between the ages of 20-45 was eligible. Each draft district would have a quota, but the Act did allow a draftee the ability to pay a substitute $300 in his stead. The level of volunteers to the Union Army increased as a result, since many young men preferred enlisting in a unit as opposed to receiving an assignment from the draft board.

8 March – On this quiet Sunday night in Fairfax, Virginia, the Confederate “Grey Ghost,” John Singleton Mosby carried out a successful black ops mission. He and a party of his rangers crept into town after 25-year old Union General Edwin H. Stoughton had retired for the night following a party at a home he had commandeered. Mosby himself captured Stoughton in his very bedroom, waking him with a whack on his rear. His men also captured two other officers some thirty other prisoners as well as 58 horses. It is said that President Lincoln mourned the loss of the horses more than the general. Stoughton, a West Pointer, resigned from the service after his exchange two months later.


9-10 March – On Wednesday, Ulysses S. Grant received his commission as Lieutenant General in Washington. The following day, President Lincoln conferred on him the command of the Armies of the United States. Grant was already deep in planning his Overland Campaign.



9 March – The heroic Finns, struggling in their fight against the Soviet Union unveiled the “Molotov Cocktail” just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. The instructions: fill an empty vodka bottle with gasoline and tar; stop-up with a wadded rag; leave enough for a fuse; ignite and hurl at the engine compartment of a Red Army tank. Brave Finns disposed of numerous Soviet tanks with this improvised method.

21 March – In London, two German scientists who had fled the Third Reich and were working with the British government, presented a significant report. Their paper outlined the possibility of developing the most destructive bomb imaginable by means of nuclear fission, and the use of a uranium isotope.


8-15 March – On the Ides of March, the German air forces, the Luftwaffe, launched the spring offensive against British cities and civilians. Nightly bombing raids struck targets as diverse as Buckingham Palace in London, the harbor in Portsmouth, industrial areas in Birmingham and the Clydeside shipyards in Scotland. In Paris, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering showed what an art connoisseur he was. The Nazis considered art legitimate spoils of war and Goering chose priceless works from the Louvre and private collections to ship to his country estate near Berlin.

1942 7 March – The Dutch opened surrender negotiations with the invading Japanese on the island of Java. The Japanese had control of much of the Dutch East Indies (modern day Indonesia) and they had Dutch forces outnumbered 5-1. Jakarta had already succumbed to the invaders and the events marked another conquest in the Japanese quest to control the Pacific.

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