“The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. Love of the past implies faith in the future.” – Stephen E. Ambrose
It is in the spirit of our founder, Stephen E. Ambrose, that director and historian Mark Bielski shares some of the interesting historical events that occurred during WWII, WWI and the Civil War in the month of November.
World War II
NOVEMBER – The events that propelled the war in Europe were moving at breakneck speed. German sea mines sunk a Dutch civilian passenger liner with 400 aboard. Nearly 100 perished, many of them women and children. The Luftwaffe bombed the Shetland Islands attempting to strike British naval vessels. In London, Scotland Yard began an intensive censorship of mail as well as a roundup of suspicious citizens who were sympathetic to the Nazis and enemy agents.
4 NOVEMBER – The Nazi occupiers of Warsaw marshaled the city’s Jews into what would be Europe’s largest Ghetto. Hans Frank, the Nazi lawyer in charge of occupation made it part of the plan for administration of the General Gouvernement—the part of Poland not incorporated into the Greater German Reich nor annexed by their allies, the Soviet Union.
23 NOVEMBER – Adolf Hitler berated the General Staff of the Wehrmacht. He reproached the generals for their timidity and proclaimed that only he can lead the Third Reich to victory. He then announced that Germany will attack France and England at the earliest possible moment.
15 NOVEMBER – The German Luftwaffe laid waste to the English cathedral city of Coventry. The British fighers and bi-planes, ground-based home guard and anti-aircraft defenses were inadequate to stop the 450 German bombers that turned the old town to ruins.
World War I
1918 – ARMISTICE DAY
11 NOVEMBER – On the Eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the Allies had Germany sign the armistice to end hostilities in the Great War. Immediately European order broke down. Revolutionaries took over buildings in Berlin. The Kaiser fled Germany for Holland. New countries were born, Russia was in a state of chaos and Poland emerged as the bulwark against Bolshevik and Communist expansion into western Europe.
American Civil War
15 NOVEMBER – Confederate diplomats John Slidell of Louisiana and Virginian James Mason arrived at Fort Monroe, Virginia as captives aboard the USS San Jacinto. Captain Charles Wilkes had seized them from the British mail ship HMS Trent in what many throughout the North thought was a major coup. They had been on missions to England and France to negotiate for Confederate diplomatic recognition from those foreign powers—Slidell to France and Mason to Great Britain. After vigorous protests from members of Parliament and Prime Minister Lord Palmerston’s emphasis on British neutrality, the U.S. Government released the Southern diplomatic agents.
7 NOVEMBER – An official military emissary from Washington came to General George B. McClellan’s headquarters in Northern Virginia late at night. His mission was to inform the Union General that he was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac. His job went to Ambrose Burnside who would lead his army to a disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia later in December.
19 NOVEMBER – In Thursday, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his “Gettysburg Address.” He had arrived the previous day by special train from Washington at the Pennsylvania town where the momentous battle had occurred earlier in July. After Massachusetts politician, Edward Everett, delivered his two-hour, 13,000 word oration, the president delivered his most famous speech of 270 words that still rings to this day.
16-20 NOVEMBER – With the city of Atlanta lying in smoking rubble, General William Tecumseh Sherman launched his infamous “March to the Sea. He led his marauding troops southeasterly towards Savannah. Georgia Governor Joe Brown appealed for help in thwarting Sherman. He called for every able-bodied man between the ages of sixteen and fifty-five to take up armed resistance. Despite some minor skirmishes that slowed him temporarily, Sherman steadily advanced.
Later in the month, a team of Confederate agents plotted and attempted to create havoc in New York City and panic the Federal government. The group came to the city from Canada and set fires in nearly a dozen New York hotels as well as the P.T. Barnum Museum. Authorities captured Robert C. Kennedy, one of the plots ringleaders, who had “fired several of buildings” by his own admission. He had sought help from Southern sympathizing Copperheads to no avail. The authorities apprehended him and a military court had him executed by hanging.
6 NOVEMBER – Captain Henry Wirz, the Swiss-born Confederate commandant at the prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia died by hanging at the Old Capitol Prison in Washington. After his capture, he went through trial and conviction for war crimes related to his management of the prisoners, the many deaths and deplorable conditions at the camp. His appeals and explanations that he was without adequate supplies and means to provide for the prisoners were unsuccessful.