This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
December 9 is the 343rd day of the year (344th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 22 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1861, The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War is established by the U.S. Congress.
The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was a United States Congressional investigating committee created to handle issues surrounding the American Civil War. It was established on December 9, 1861, following the embarrassing Union defeat at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, at the instigation of Senator Zachariah T. Chandler of Michigan, and continued until May 1865. Its purpose was to investigate such matters as illicit trade with the Confederate states, medical treatment of wounded soldiers, military contracts, and the causes of Union battle losses. The Committee was also involved in supporting the war effort through various means, including endorsing emancipation, the use of black soldiers, and the appointment of generals who were known to be aggressive fighters. It was chaired throughout by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, and became identified with the Radical Republicans who wanted more aggressive war policies than those of Abraham Lincoln.
Union officers often found themselves in an uncomfortable position before the Committee. Since this was a civil war, pitting neighbor against neighbor (and sometimes brother against brother), the loyalty of a soldier to the Union was simple to question. And since Union forces had very poor luck against their Confederate counterparts early in the war, particularly in the Eastern Theater battles that held the attention of the newspapers and Washington politicians, it was easy to accuse an officer of being a traitor after he lost a battle or was slow to engage or pursue the enemy. This politically charged atmosphere was very difficult and distracting for career military officers. Officers who were not known Republicans felt the most pressure before the Committee.
During the committee’s existence, it held 272 meetings and received testimony in Washington and at other locations, often from military officers. Though the committee met and held hearings in secrecy, the testimony and related exhibits were published at irregular intervals in the numerous committee reports of its investigations. The records include the original manuscripts of certain postwar reports that the committee received from general officers. There are also transcripts of testimony and accounting records regarding the military administration of Alexandria, Virginia.
One of the most colorful series of committee hearings followed the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, where Union Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, a former congressman, accused Maj. Gen. George G. Meade of mismanaging the battle, planning to retreat from Gettysburg prior to his victory there, and failing to pursue and defeat Robert E. Lee‘s army as it retreated. This was mostly a self-serving effort on Sickles’s part because he was trying to deflect criticism from his own disastrous role in the battle. Bill Hyde notes that the committee’s report on Gettysburg was edited by Wade in ways that were unfavorable to Meade, even when that required distorting the evidence. The report was “a powerful propaganda weapon” (p. 381), but the committee’s power had waned by the time the final testimony was taken of William T. Sherman on May 22, 1865.
The war it was investigating completed, the committee ceased to exist after this last testimony, and the final reports were published shortly thereafter. The later Joint Committee on Reconstruction represented a similar attempt to check executive power by the Radical Republicans.
730 – Battle of Marj Ardabil: the Khazars annihilate an Umayyad army and kill its commander, al-Djarrah ibn Abdullah
1425 – The Catholic University of Leuven is founded.
1531 – The Virgin of Guadalupe first appears to Juan Diego at Tepeyac, Mexico City.
1793 – New York City’s first daily newspaper, the American Minerva, is established by Noah Webster.
1824 – Patriot forces led by General Antonio Jose de Sucre defeat a Royalist army in the Battle of Ayacucho, putting an end to the Peruvian War of Independence.
1835 – The Republic of Texas captures San Antonio, Texas.
1851 – The first YMCA in North America is established in Montreal, Quebec.
1856 – The Iranian city of Bushehr surrenders to occupying British forces.
1861 – American Civil War: The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War is established by the U.S. Congress.
1872 – In Louisiana, P. B. S. Pinchback becomes the first serving African-American governor of a U.S. state.
1875 – The Massachusetts Rifle Association, “America’s Oldest Active Gun Club”, is founded.
1888 – Statistician Herman Hollerith installs his computing device at the United States War Department.
1897 – Activist Marguerite Durand founds the feminist daily newspaper, La Fronde, in Paris.
1905 – In France, the law separating church and state is passed.
1917 – In Palestine, Field Marshal Edmund Allenby captures Jerusalem.
1922 – Gabriel Narutowicz is announced the first president of Poland.
1931 – The Constituent Cortes approves the constitution which establishes the Second Spanish Republic.
1935 – Walter Liggett, American newspaper editor and muckraker, is killed in gangland murder.
1937 – Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Nanjing – Japanese troops under the command of Lt. Gen. Asaka Yasuhiko launch an assault on the Chinese city of Nanjing.
1940 – World War II: Operation Compass – British and Indian troops under the command of Major-General Richard O’Connor attack Italian forces near Sidi Barrani in Egypt.
1941 – World War II: The Republic of China, Cuba, Guatemala, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, and the Philippine Commonwealth, declare war on Germany and Japan.
1941 – World War II: The 19th Bombardment Group attacks Japanese ships off the coast of Vigan, Luzon.
1946 – The “Subsequent Nuremberg Trials” begin with the “Doctors’ Trial”, prosecuting doctors alleged to be involved in human experimentation.
1950 – Harry Gold is sentenced to thirty years in jail for helping Klaus Fuchs pass information about the Manhattan Project to the Soviet Union. His testimony is later instrumental in the prosecution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
1953 – Red Scare: General Electric announces that all communist employees will be discharged from the company.
1956 – Trans-Canada Air Lines Flight 810, a Canadair North Star, crashes near Hope, British Columbia, Canada, killing all 62 people on board.
1958 – The John Birch Society was founded in the United States.
1960 – The first episode of Britain’s longest running television soap opera Coronation Street is broadcast.
1961 – The trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Israel ends with verdicts of guilty on 15 criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people and membership of an outlawed organization.
1961 – Tanganyika becomes independent from Britain.
1962 – The Petrified Forest National Park is established in Arizona.
1965 – The Kecksburg UFO incident: a fireball is seen from Michigan to Pennsylvania; witnesses report something crashing in the woods near Pittsburgh. In 2005 NASA admits that it examined an object.
1966 – Barbados joins the United Nations.
1968 – NLS (a system for which hypertext and the computer mouse were developed) is publicly demonstrated for the first time in San Francisco.
1971 – The United Arab Emirates join the United Nations.
1979 – The eradication of the smallpox virus is certified, making smallpox the first and to date only human disease driven to extinction.
1987 – Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The First Intifada begins in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
2000 – The Supreme Court of the United States stays the sixth Florida recount.
2003 – A blast in the center of Moscow kills six people and wounds several more.
2006 – Moscow suffers its worst fire since 1977, killing 45 women in a drug rehabilitation center.
2008 – The Governor of Illinois, Rob Blagojevich, is arrested by federal officials for a number of alleged crimes including attempting to sell the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama’s election to the Presidency.
* Christian Feast Day
o Juan Diego
* [ Feast of the Conception of the Most Holy Theotokos by St. Anne] (Orthodox Church)
* Independence Day, celebrate the independence of Tanganyika from Britain in 1961. (Tanzania)
* International Anti-Corruption Day (International)
* National Heroes Day, formerly V.C. Bird Day. (Antigua and Barbuda)
* Yuri’s Day in the Autumn (Russian Orthodox Church)