United States History



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Battle of Fallen TimbersVictory of American forces over Native American ones in present-day Toledo, Ohio, in 1794. Under the command of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, the Americans sent a larger Native American force running in retreat. This battle was also significant because the Native Americans who fought there that day retreated to Fort Miami, where they thought they could find British reinforcements. But the British, unwilling to risk another war with the United States, did not help.
David FarragutUnion admiral ('Old Salamander') who secured control of the Mississippi River for the Union. He took New Orleans (the South's largest city and principal seaport) in April, 1862 and then, more famously, Mobile Bay (the largest remaining Southern seaport) in August, 1864. It was at Mobile that he uttered the famous, 'Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!' Also, he bombarded Vicksburg, making it easier for Grant to take the city.
Federalist PapersSeries of 85 letters to newspapers in New York designed to convince the people of New York ratify the Constitution. At the time of their writing, the ratification of the Constitution was in doubt. Most of the states had to approve the Constitution before it could become law. Also, many people didn't know the details of what was proposed by the Constitution. The Federalist Papers explained all that, and New York approved the Constitution. Once New York, a large and influential state was on board, other states that had been reluctant followed suit. Soon, the Constitution was the law of the land and our government.
Federalist PartyOne of the first two American political parties, together with the Democratic-Republican Party. Founded by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams. Met its demise soon after Hamilton was killed in a duel. Adams was the only Federalist President. Name came from the Federalist Papers and from the idea that the federal government should be supreme.
Millard Fillmore13th president. He was never inaugurated because he became president when Zachary Taylor died in office. He began his political career in the House of Representatives, representing New York. He later became Comptroller of New York. He was elected vice-president in 1848 and presided over the debates that shaped the Compromise of 1850. Taylor died in the middle of these debates, and Fillmore declared that he would support the Compromise. It was eventually passed by Congress and signed into law by Fillmore. His support of the Fugitive Slave Law cost him the nomination of his party, the Whigs, in 1852. He ran for president anyway, on the Know Nothing party, but lost out to Democrat Franklin Pierce. He retired from public life soon after, and he died in 1874.
Battle of Five ForksLast major battle of the Civil War (April 2, 1865). Union General Philip Sheridan repulsed a Southern assault by none other than General George Pickett. This victory cleared the way for Grant to push through at Petersburg.
Nathan Bedford ForrestConfederate cavalry commander who fought at the Battle of Shiloh and made a name for himself as a hit-and-run, stand-and-fight commander who could just as easily tear up a railroad line as repulse an infantry charge.
Fort Crown PointFort on Lake Champlain that was one of the most heavily fortified forts France owned. They called it Fort St. Frederic and used it to control operations on Lake Champlain and traffic to the St. Lawrence River. British forces under Jeffery Amherst captured the fort in summer 1759 and named it Fort Crown Point. The later capture of Fort Ticonderoga, another Lake Champlain fort, gave the British control of the lake and a vital entry point to the St. Lawrence River itself.
Fort DuquesneFort that changed hands several times during the two decades that made up the French and Indian War. It was originally a British fort that the French seized before it was finished. It was the destination of George Washington before he was forced to retreat to Fort Necessity in 1754. It was the site of a great French victory over England's General Edward Braddock in 1755. The British retook it for good in 1758 and named it Fort Pitt. The importance of this fort site was that its holder gained control of three rivers: the Ohio, the Allegheny, and the Monongahela. Yes, Fort Duquesne was where Pittsburgh is today.
Fort FrontenacFrench fort captured by British troops under James Bradstreet in August 1758. The fort was at the northeastern tip of Lake Ontario and at the western mouth of St. Lawrence River. The fort was also the main base of supplies for French forces in the Great Lakes area and along the Ohio River. Without this fort, the French could not reinforce any settlements to the west. By seizing this fort, the British gave themselves control of traffic up the St. Lawrence. This made the way clear for an attack on Montreal, the last battle of the war.
Fort MackinacAmerican fort on the island of Michilimackinac, a strategic outpost guarding the fur trade outlets for both America and Canada. During American General William Hull's failed Fort Detroit campaign, the British were able to capture Fort Mackinac and use it a base of operations for further attacks on American interests in the Northwest Territory.
Fort McHenryAmerican fort built in Baltimore harbor in 1799. The British bombed the fort on September 13-14 (during the War of 1812). This bombardment (and the survival of the fort) inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner, America's national anthem.
Fort NecessityHastily constructed fort (which really wasn't much of a fort at all) done so at the orders of George Washington, a young officer fighting for England, after his failure to take Fort Duquesne, an important French fort near present-day Pittsburgh. In the 1754 battle, the French easily overcame the small English force and demanded Washington's surrender. Washington was allowed to lead his men away after he agreed to leave two English officers behind as hostages.
Fort NiagaraFrench fort seized by the British in July 1759. The fort was ideally situated to control both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It was also a main supply center for western French forts in North America. By gaining control of the fort, the British gained control of all of these things. This was one of the last battles of the war.
Fort SumterFederal fort commanded by Major Robert Anderson and taken by Confederate forces under the command of General Pierre G.T. Beauregard on April 12, 1861. This action began the Civil War.
Fort TiconderogaNew York fort on the western shore of Lake Champlain that was originally a French fort, called Carillion, that was seized by the British in the French and Indian War. The fort was later captured by the Americans in their first "official" victory of the Revolutionary War. The fort wasn't garrisoned very well but still held a stock of British weapons. Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, along with Benedict Arnold, captured the fort on May 10, 1775. The capture stalled a planned British invasion from Canada and also enabled American troops to invade Canada themselves. The British recaptured the fort in 1777 but abandoned it in 1780.
Fort William HenryEnglish fort seized and destroyed by the French in July 1757. The fort was at the southern end of Lake Champlain, a battleground during the war. The fort was important because it gave the holder command of the Hudson River and northern New York. It also protected the two other Lake Champlain forts, St. Frederic and Ticonderoga. The French under the Marquis de Montcalm overwhelmed the British and forced a surrender. The terms of the surrender were that the British could leave peacefully. Native Americans who fought with the French killed many retreating British, including the sick and wounded, before they were stopped. Despite this victory, however, France had a difficult time gaining the upper hand in the war.
Benjamin FranklinStatesman, publisher, inventor, and patriot known for writing Poor Richard's Almanac, keeping France on the side of America during the Revolutionary War, and inventing all kinds of useful things, including bifocal glasses and the lightning rod. He was the American representative to England for a few years. He was also minister to France for many years and became a national hero there. His last great deed was serving as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.
Battle of FredericksburgExtreme folly committed by Army of the Potomac General Ambrose Burnside, who marched wave after wave of troops across open ground into the teeth of Confederate batteries ensconced on the high ground of Marye's Heights on Dec. 13, 1862. More than 12,000 Union soldiers died, compared to less than 6,000 Confederates.
John C. FremontExplorer and California Senator who was the first presidential candidate of the Republican Party (in 1856) and also served in the Union Army and Navy. He was commander of the Western Department before Henry Halleck.
French and Indian WarWar fought between Great Britain and its two enemies, the French and the Indians of North America. Most of the battles were in Canada. American colonists, including George Washington, fought with the British in this war, which lasted from 1754 to 1763. The British won the war and won the right to keep Canada and several other possessions in the New World.
Fugitive Slave Lawlaw passed as part of the Compromise of 1850. This law made it tougher on slaves who ran away and demanded stricter punishment for those helping slaves run away.
Robert FultonEngineer and inventor best known for developing the steamboat, in particular, the Clermont. Fulton was originally an artist and studied painting under the great Benjamin West. Fulton first designed a submarine, the Nautilus, which was operating for France in 1800. After testing a steamboat in France, Fulton returned to America and tested the Clermont in New York harbor in 1807. He later built a steamship that was a warship. Even though Robert Fulton didn't invent the steamship, he proved that it could be used for business and commerce.
Gadsden Purchase1853 agreement to buy a strip of land in what is now the southern United States so that a railroad line could be built to the Gulf of California. James Gadsden was the U.S. Minister to Mexico and the man responsible for the deal. This was only five years after the end of the Mexican War and the delivery of the Mexican Cession. He agreed to pay Mexico $10 million for 45,535 square miles of territory that was almost as big as Pennsylvania. (By contrast, the Louisiana Purchase 828,000 and cost $15 million.)
Thomas GageGovernor of Massachusetts who also was a general in the British army. As governor, he tried to enforce the Intolerable Acts. He ordered the arrests of Samuel Adams and John Hancock. It was his order to seize the colonists' weapons depot at Concord that brought about the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Gage was the commanding officer at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was called home shortly thereafter and returned to Britain, where he later resigned.
William Lloyd GarrisonJournalist who was a pioneering abolitionist. His newspaper The Liberator was very influential in gathering support for his cause. In 1832, he formed the first society for the immediate abolition of slavery. He distrusted the U.S. government because it permitted slavery but eventually approved of Lincoln's handling of the slavery question and of the Civil War.
Horatio GatesAmerican general who fought in the French and Indian War and then was, at different times, commander of both the Northern Army of the U.S. and the Southern Army of the U.S. He was the commanding officer of the American force that retreated from the recaptured Fort Ticonderoga, and he was in command at the pivotal Battle of Saratoga. This success, coupled with George Washington's recent failures, prompted a movement to replace Washington with Gates as commander-in-chief. Washington, however, stayed on. Gates retired to his farm in 1789 but was called back a year later and given the command of the Southern Army. The defeat at Camden proved disastrous, and Gates was replaced by Nathanael Greene.
King George IIIKing of Great Britain from 1760 to 1820. Under his guidance, Britain won the French and Indian War but lost the Revolutionary War. He was mentally unstable because of a disease called porphyria, and he was given to bouts of madness and unpredictability. He also didn't like his government officials very much.
GermantownSecond battle between British and Americans in and around Philadelphia. The British had won the Battle of Brandywine and had occupied Philadelphia. They then camped at Germantown, a city nearby. On October 4, 1777, American Generals George Washington and Nathanael Greene marched on Germantown from different directions. The resulting battle caused the British to fall back, but American attempts to finish off a bunch of Redcoats hiding in a house resulted in more American casualties than British. Still, the battle was an American victory of sorts.
GettysburgPennsylvania site of a tremendously important three-day battle famous for such things as Pickett's Charge, Cemetery Ridge, and Little Round Top. The great battle that killed more than 40,000 happened by accident. Lee had invaded the North in hopes of forcing attention from both Northern troops and European observers watching from afar. General George Gordon Meade caught up with Lee at the end of June, and July 1-3 the armies threw themselves at each other. The North held the high ground and made the advantage stick. Although Meade allowed Lee to escape back southward, he achieved his goal of weakening the Army of Northern Virginia so that it would never again have the strength to launch a major assault.
Gettysburg AddressDelivered by President Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of the cemetery containing the men killed at the battle of Gettysburg. Widely considered to be one of the best speeches given in American history.
GibbonsOne of the most important decisions of the early Supreme Court. Led by Chief Justice John Marshall, the Court said that the federal commerce clause, in effect, outranked a state law that had granted a monopoly to one group of people.
GoliadAnother place in which 342 American prisoners were executed by order of Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. (The Alamo was the other.) The Goliad Massacre took place on March 27, 1836. These two massacres made the American people very angry and resulted, in part, in the American victory at San Jacinto and, later, the Mexican War.
Gold RushHuge immigration west after the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in California in 1848. California's population grew from nearly 14,000 in 1848 to almost 100,000 in 1850. Ten years later, the population was 380,000. People from all walks of life came to California, seeking their fortune. The exhaustion of the supply of gold dust forced gold-seekers to dig deep mines in search of the precious metal. The Gold Rush is famous also for encouraging the construction of wagon roads and railroads west. Another development was the great success of farmers, merchants, and others who sold goods and services to the gold-seekers.
Ulysses S. GrantGeneral who finally won the Civil War for the Union. Grant began his career in the West. Victories at Shiloh, Chattanooga and Vicksburg proved that he could win the tough fight. His refusal to retreat after heavy losses in the Wilderness and at Cold Harbor proved that he could stomach the tough loss. He accepted General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Three years later, he was elected president. He was re-elected, then retired from politics.
Horace GreeleyPowerful newspaper editor who campaigned vigorously against slavery beginning in 1841. His New York Tribune reached thousands of people. He started The Log Cabin in 1840 to campaign for Whig Party presidential candidate William Henry Harrison. Greeley was one of the first editors to join the Republican Party and as a delegate to the 1860 national convention supported the nomination of Abraham Lincoln for president. After the war, he urged pardons for all members of Confederacy and even signed the bail bond of Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis.
Nathanael GreeneAmerican general who had a large hand in bringing about the final surrender of British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown. Greene was first an aide to General George Washington, serving at Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. After the Battle of Charleston, Greene replaced General Horatio Gates as commander of the Southern Army. He won a smashing victory at Cowpens. Although the Battle of Guilford Courthouse was technically a British victory, it weakened the British forces so much that Cornwallis decided to abandon the Carolinas and march to Virginia. Greene followed and trapped Cornwallis into surrendering at Yorktown.
George GrenvilleFirst Lord of the Treasury and later Prime Minister who was responsible for some of the most outlandish taxes on the American colonies, including the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act. These taxes were in part of a result of a strategy by Grenville to boost his popularity in Britain by lowering taxes there. In order to keep revenues coming in, he raised taxes on the colonies.
Guadalupe HidalgoTreaty that officially ended the Mexican-American War on February 2, 1848. Mexico agreed to give up about 55 percent of its territory in exchange for $15 million. This territory was called the Mexican Cession, and out of it came several American states.
Battle of Guildford CourthouseBritish victory near a courthouse in North Carolina in March, 1781. Together with the American victory at Cowpens, the engagement at Guilford Courthouse weakened the British forces in the South. General Charles Cornwallis, the commander of the southern British forces, decided to abandon North and South Carolina and march to Virginia.
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David White