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History's Happenings for November 16

Sherman Begins March To Sea

When General Ulysses S. Grant, the victor of Shiloh, Vicksburg and Chattanooga, was promoted to the supreme command of the Union Army in February, 1864, his position as commander of the Army of the West was filled by his associate, General William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman's first order: the capture of Atlanta, heart of the South.

It was a tall order, and the road to Atlanta exacted a price on both sides. But on September 1-2, 1864, the goal was achieved. As important as Atlanta was to the South, the victory, combined with Admiral Farragut's nearby success in the battle of Mobile Bay, gave Union spirits a boost.

After destroying military facilities in Atlanta, on November 16th Sherman, with his army of some 60,000 troops, began a sweep southeast across Georgia that has, in time, come to be known as Sherman's March to the Sea. Between Atlanta and the Atlantic coast city of Savannah, Sherman destroyed not only military targets and railroads, but also pillaged and burned plantations and ordinary farms, destroying livestock and crops.

As cruel as it may seem, Sherman's goal was to carry out the concept of Total War -- not only destroying the opposing army, but also his sources of supply, his will to fight, and his support back home. In an argument that resonates rather like the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in World War II, the ugliness of Sherman's March may be seen in a better light if we accept that it shortened a much uglier war.

In any event, after capturing Savannah, Sherman turned his army north and began a similar campaign through the Carolinas, hoping to join Grant in Virginia. After causing havoc in South Carolina -- which his troops blamed for having started the War -- and burning the capital of Columbia to the ground, the War ended. Sherman accepted the surrender of the opposing Confederate army in North Carolina in late April while, two weeks earlier, Grant had accepted General Lee's at Appomatox.

British Capture Ft. Washington

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
On the other hand, if you'd like to try writing
one  ... send it in! )

Adamses Move Into White House

As the capital of the United States was officially relocated to the new city of Washington in November, 1800, the family of President John Adams became the first to inhabit the newly completed Executive Mansion when they moved in on November 16th.

Following its burning by the British in 1814, the Mansion received a coat of whitewash which later led President Theodore Roosevelt to officially label it the "White House".

The new city itself was embroiled in controversy over construction details, short of financing, and as yet only partially completed. Congress moved in on the 17th.

Oklahoma Admitted to Union

One of the country's last large-scale refuges for the American Indian, and still inculcated with their culture and traditions, Oklahoma was admitted to the Union on November 16, 1907, as our 46th state.

When European explorers arrived in the mid-sixteenth century, Oklahoma was home to the Kiowa, Wichita, Commanche and other native American Indian tribes, who lived mainly in the river valleys. Oklahoma was at least partially explored by Spanish Conquistadores, then by La Salle, who claimed it for France as part of the new province of Louisiana, and a few French settlements appeared. In 1803, it was ceded to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. At the time, Oklahoma represented America's boundary with the Spanish provinces of the Southwest.

Following the Purchase, Oklahoma was explored by a variety of American adventurers, including the party heading to the Rocky Mountains under Zebulon Pike. But the territory remained largely unsettled by whites.

After the War of 1812, American pressure to expand westward beyond the Appalachians, lust after their lands by American farmers, and the discovery of gold in Georgia in 1829, drove the government to negotiate relocation treaties with the several American Indian tribes living in the east, including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole and Creek.

In 1834 the government created the Indian Territory out of what is currently Oklahoma and much of Kansas and Nebraska. The tribes were granted land in the Territory, along with the promise of provisions, and were relocated -- often by force -- into the area along what the Indian came to call the Trail of Tears.

Despite the tribulations and basic unfairness of the relocation, the tribes flourished in Oklahoma, setting up their own tribal governments as had been promised, and creating constitutions for the exercise of governance. Written equivalents of their native languages had been developed and the literacy rate was high. They set up businesses, cleared and planted farms, built towns, and even owned slaves.

Unfortunately this all ended when the Indian Nations almost unanimously signed on with the Confederacy during the Civil War. With the South's defeat came punitive measures against the Indian. Besides being forced to give up his slaves -- as were all slaveholders -- he was also forced to cede much of his land in the Territory so that the American government could relocate still more tribes from the West. Added to the original tribes and the peoples relocated from the East were the Pawnee, Iowa, Kickapoo, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other western tribes. Farms and homes had been devastated during the War, and poverty replaced prosperity for the Indian.

War broke out as the newly relocated tribes continued to follow their game off the reservations and to attack white settlements. The situation was exacerbated in the 70's as white hunters reduced the once-sprawling buffalo herds. Army units called in to quell the disturbances gradually wore down the tribes and they returned to their reservations in ever-shrinking Indian Territory, now about the size of present-day Oklahoma.

Prosperity gradually returned as the need for grazing lands provided the opportunity for the tribes to lease their vast grasslands to white ranchers. Peace encouraged the U.S. Army to help the Indian keep white squatters and poachers out of the Territory. The discovery of coal gave birth to a busy mining industry which paid royalties to the tribes.

But as had so often happened in the past, white settlers in search of new lands began to eye the Indian Territory. Despite the government's early efforts to respect its treaties as long as the Indian remained peaceful, in 1889 it finally gave in to pressure to open a portion of the Territory for settlement. Three million acres were carved out of the Indian Territory in central Oklahoma and allotted first-come first-served to settlers who raced into the area in the Land Rush of April 22, 1889. The settled portion became the Oklahoma Territory.

By the turn of the century, the Indian population of the Territories had become a minority. When application for statehood was considered in the 1890's, Congress realized that it could not create two states, but that Indian and Oklahoma Territory must be admitted as one. Further it would not allow the Indian lands to enter the Union held in common by the tribes; in 1896 it forced the subdivision of the lands into parcels held individually by the tribe members. It also abolished tribal government and placed the Indian Territory under federal law.

In late 1906, a convention was formed to draft a constitution for the proposed state. Completed in the summer of 1907, the document was approved by both Territories, and the state of Oklahoma was admitted on November 16th of that year. Its name comes from the Choctaw meaning Land of the Red People.

Oklahoma's Stats

Capital: Oklahoma City
Land Area: 69,956 square miles (18th)
Population (1994): 3,258,069 (28th)
Largest Cities: Oklahoma City (444,719/1990), Tulsa (367,302/1990), Lawton (80,561/1990) Nicknames: Sooner State.
Motto: "Labor omnia vincit (Work overcomes all obstacles)."
Emblems: Mistletoe, scissortailed flycatcher, American buffalo.

Federal Reserve Banks Open

Responding to frequent financial panics, such as those of 1873, 1883, 1893 and 1907, Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913 to create a system of federally-controlled decentralized repository banks that would insure a sound national banking and monetary system through regulation of the banking industry and control of the national currency.

On November 16, 1914 the system of twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks authorized by the Act became a reality.

Financial panics result from a variety of causes, but are almost always precipitated by a loss of confidence in the economic markets and, equally often, the overextension of the banking industry. The resulting fear can cause bank "runs", where depositors demand their accounts be liquidated into cash which the bank neither has nor can quickly find, and the institution fails. Providing that cash back-up is one of the purposes of the Federal Reserve System, or Fed. Maintaining the temper of the markets and preventing the overextension of credit that can cause panics is another.

Treading a tight line between market regulation and laissez-faire capitalism, the Fed attempts to control what might otherwise be runaway market conditions by altering the interest rate (the "prime rate") at which its regional banks loan funds to subsidiary banking institutions. Small changes in the resulting cost of capital can spur or dampen the financial markets, in effect controlling them without actual government interference.

The Fed also issues regulations for member banks in order to prevent dangerous lending practices, and controls the national money supply through the issuance of Federal Reserve Notes (paper currency).

U.S. Establishes Relations With U.S.S.R.

On November 16, 1933, the same year that Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed his first term as President of the United States, America extended diplomatic recognition to the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Put out by both the methods through which the Bolsheviks came to power, and by the methods subsequently employed by them in ruling the country, the United States had withheld recognition of the Communist government for seventeen years. It was the last major power to establish formal relations with the U.S.S.R.

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