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Historical Happenings in July 2023


Ahh, summer — a time for pool parties, cookouts, fireworks, and “Historical Happenings.” Summer may be halfway over, but that doesn’t mean the fun needs to end! Break out the sparklers because this month is full of victorious milestones in America's history worth celebrating. So sit back in your beach chair, grab an ice-cold beverage, and relax while we serve you a plate full of “Historical Happenings” with a side of activities to do with your kids!


History at a Glance:

  • July 1-3, 1863: Battle of Gettysburg

  • July 4, 1776: Signing of the Declaration of Independence

  • July 19-20, 1848: Seneca Falls Convention

  • July 20, 1969: First Man to Walk on the Moon


July 1-3, 1863: Battle of Gettysburg

Battle scene from the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.
Currier & Ives, "The Battle of Gettysburg, Pa, July 3rd, 1863," Print (MET, 63.550.512)

In the sweltering summer heat and under a blazing sun, the bloodiest battle[1] of the Civil War raged for three days, resulting in 3,100 deaths for the Union and 3,900 deaths for the Confederacy.[2] The conditions for the battle were intense, with a recorded temperature of 87 degrees on July 3, 1863, which historians and meteorologists estimated felt more like between 98 degrees and 105 degrees Fahrenheit given the probable heat index.[3] Nevertheless, Union troops pushed through the humidity and heat to win the battle, thereby turning the tide of the Civil War in the U.S.’s favor and ending Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s second attempt to invade the North.[4]


Before the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee's goal was to demoralize the Union by securing a victory for the Confederacy and continue pushing further north.[5] He advanced his troops, the Army of Northern Virginia, northward into Pennsylvania. Following orders to pursue Lee and create a buffer between Lee’s army and Washington, D.C., Union Major General Geroge Meade moved his troops (the Army of the Potomac) further north.[6]


Lee’s troops arrived at the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania on June 28. A spy reported to Lee that Meade and his soldiers were nearby. Using this intelligence to his advantage, Lee mobilized his troops to continue to Gettysburg.


On July 1, Confederate Major General Henry Heth’s division was sent to capture supplies from Gettysburg; on the way there, they were intercepted by a Union cavalry, and the battle began.[7] The first day of fighting took place at McPherson’s Ridge, Oak Hill, Oak Ridge, Seminary Ridge, and Barlow’s Knoll.[8]


On day two of the battle, Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, and Cemetry Ridge were the locations of intense combat to the Union’s left flank. Confederate troops waged assaults on East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill on the Union’s right side, but the Union held its position.


The final day of battle, July 3, culminated in a risky move that ultimately cost the Confederacy the battle. Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet commanded an infantry of 12,500 soldiers in an attack on Union-held Cemetery Ridge. This attack is known as Pickett’s Charge, named after General George E. Pickett. The troops crossed through open farmland, making themselves easy targets for gun and cannon shots.[9] The casualties reached 60 percent of their troops, forcing the Confederates to retreat and giving victory to the Union.


Meade didn’t pursue Lee’s army as they fled south, much to President Abraham Lincoln’s dismay. Lincoln remarked on July 12,


“We had only to stretch forth our hands and they were ours.” - President Abraham Lincoln [10]

The Civil War would continue for almost two more years.[11]


Parent Resources:



  • “Lee’s Headquarters: A Guided Tour” by the American Battlefield Trust: Next stop on your virtual trip to Gettysburg is General Lee’s headquarters, located on Seminary Ridge. This 3D model shows you the interior and exterior of Mary Thompson’s home, which Lee used as his base during the battle. The house was also used as a makeshift hospital for Union and Confederate soldiers alike, whom Thompson nursed.


For more resources on the Civil War, explore our collection of Civil War titles.

July 4, 1776: Signing of the Declaration of Independence

Declaration Committee discusses the Declaration of Independence.
Currier & Ives. (1876) The Declaration committee. United States, 1876. [New York: Published by Currier & Ives, 125 Nassau St., New York] [Photograph]. Library of Congress cph 3b50117

When you think about the Fourth of July, what comes to mind? Chances are it’s fireworks, backyard barbecues, and America’s independence, but America’s break from Britain actually came two days prior when independence was officially voted and approved by the U.S. Continental Congress on July 2, 1776.


The Continental Congress met on June 7, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the Pennsylvania State House (now called Independence Hall). Delegate Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution for the colonies to declare their independence from Great Britain, and his motion was seconded by Massachusetts delegate John Adams.[12]


This resolution wasn’t voted on immediately because delegates needed authorization from their respective colonies to cast a vote.[13] In the meantime, Congress created a committee to write a document explaining the colonies’ decision to declare independence, which Congress would then read and vote on. The committee was comprised of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert R. Livingston.[14]


On July 2, 12 of the 13 colonies voted in favor of splitting from Great Britain, with New York being the only colony not to vote at the time because the delegate hadn’t yet received permission to do so.[15] Then, on July 4, Congress voted, approved, and signed the Declaration of Independence. Thus, Independence Day is celebrated on July 4th to mark this momentous occasion!


A celebration was held on July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia to mark the anniversary of Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence. However, it wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that the Fourth of July was widely celebrated in the U.S. Then, on June 28, 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday.[16] While not technically the day that marks America’s independence (which would be July 2), the Fourth of July symbolizes freedom, which is eloquently represented in the Declaration of Independence.


With its immortal words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the Declaration of Independence inspired many revolutionaries from Frech revolutionists in 1789[17] to women’s rights activists in 1848.


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” - Declaration of Independence

Parent Resources:




Let your patriotic colors shine with our collection of Independence Day titles and our “Celebrate Independence Day” blog.

July 19-20, 1848: Seneca Falls Convention

"Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her daughter, Harriot--from a daguerreotype 1856." Library of Congress cph.3a49096

Speaking of the Declaration of Independence and its profound impact, it served as the foundation for a new declaration known as the Declaration of Sentiments. Penned by suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848, the Declaration of Sentiments emulated the Declaration of Independence and was read aloud at the Seneca Falls Convention.[18]


The Seneca Falls Convention was held at Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss women’s rights. The convention took place over two days with three-hundred men and women in attendance.[19] Suffragists and abolitionists Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright, and Jane Hunt organized the event.


The idea for a women’s rights convention was sparked in Stanton’s and Mott’s minds when they first met at the World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London in 1840. After being told they had to stand in the women-only area and couldn’t sit or speak because they were women, the two discussed hosting a convention of their own for other women.[20]


Their plans came to fruition on July 19, 1848, with a women’s-only meeting. On this day, Stanton gave a speech before reading the Declaration of Sentiments, which echoed the lines of the Declaration of Independence except with the addition of women: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”[21] Eleven resolutions were introduced and discussed.


The following day was open to men attendees.[22] Stanton reread the Declaration of Sentiments before putting it to a vote. All but one of the proposed resolutions passed unanimously; the ninth resolution, which called for women’s right to vote, was opposed. It wasn’t until after Stanton and Frederick Douglass gave speeches in defense of the resolution that it passed.[23]


The significance of the Seneca Falls Convention lies in the groundwork it set for the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the eventual passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, which granted women the right to vote.[24] It is also considered by historians to be the first American women’s rights convention![25]


Parent Resources:




To learn more about women’s rights in America, dive into our women’s history resources.

July 20, 1969: First Man to Walk on the Moon

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the Moon and salutes the American flag. Photo courtesy of NASA.

With bated breath, 600 million people around the world watched as American astronaut Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the Moon’s surface.[26] "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said, articulating the significance of the first man to ever walk on the Moon after years of scientists and politicians working to make it happen.


"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong

Eight years before the Moon landing, President John F. Kennedy declared before Congress that his administration planned to send a man to the Moon by the late 1960s. "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth,” he said on May 25, 1961.[27]


His goal was in response to the race against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was advancing in space expansions, and the U.S. didn’t want to get left in the “moon” dust. So, Kennedy challenged the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to send a man to the Moon within 10 years.[28] Unfortunately, Kennedy never saw the results of his administration’s labor as he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.[29]


Kennedy’s vision was continued as NASA diligently worked for years to go where no man had gone before. NASA launched the first (unmanned) Apollo mission into space in 1966. However, the following year was not a success; a fire at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, killed three astronauts during a launch-pad test on January 27, 1967.[30]


Despite the tragedy and the setback, NASA continued launching more Apollo missions to test their equipment before the Moon landing mission could proceed. In October 1968, the first successful manned Apollo mission orbited the Earth.[31] Each subsequent Apollo mission was built upon the success of its predecessor until Apollo 11 was ready.


On July 16, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins boarded Apollo 11 and were launched into space via the Saturn V rocket.[32] By July 19, Apollo 11 was in lunar orbit. Collins manned the command module Columbia while Armstrong and Aldrin boarded the lunar module Eagle on July 20, which they used to land on the moon at 4:17 p.m. EDT.


At 10:56 p.m. EDT, Armstrong began descending the Eagle’s ladder and stepping onto the Moon. Aldrin later joined him, and the two walked around, collecting samples and taking photographs. They returned to Columbia on July 21, and the astronauts began their trip home on July 22. On July 24, Apollo 11 landed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii.[33]


Parent Resources:


  • “Apollo 11 Moonwalk Montage” by NASA: Your kids will be over-the-moon when they watch the actual footage of Armstrong’s walk on the Moon. The video was recorded by a camera attached to the Eagle and was transmitted to T.V.s across the globe.



Explore our out-of-this-world space science titles for even more adventures in outer space!


For more historical tidbits, lesson plan ideas, and free activities, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, check out our other blogs for even more resources!

 

Sources:


[1] “Gettysburg.” American Battlefield Trust, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/gettysburg. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[2] “Gettysburg Address.” National Geographic, https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/gettysburg-address/. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[3] Richardson, Sarah. “Bullets Weren’t the Only Thing to Worry About at Gettysburg – The Heat Could be Just as Dangerous.” HistoryNet, 20 July 2022, https://www.historynet.com/gettysburg-heat/#:~:text=Soldiers%20recalled%20the%20sweltering%20heat,p.m.%20on%20July%203%2C%201863. Accessed 28 June 2023.

[4] “Gettysburg.” National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[5] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Battle of Gettysburg". Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 Jun. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Gettysburg. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[6] “Gettysburg.” American Battlefield Trust, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/gettysburg. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[7] “Gettysburg.” American Battlefield Trust, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/gettysburg. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[8] “10 Facts: Gettysburg.” American Battlefield Trust, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/10-facts-gettysburg. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[9]“Pickett’s Charge.” American Battlefield Trust, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/picketts-charge. Accessed 28 June 2023.

[10]“Gettysburg.” American Battlefield Trust, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/gettysburg. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[12]Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Declaration of Independence". Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 Jun. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Declaration-of-Independence. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[13] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Declaration of Independence". Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 Jun. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Declaration-of-Independence. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[14] History.com Editors. “The Fourth of July – Independence Day.” HISTORY, 14 June 2023, https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[15] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Declaration of Independence". Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 Jun. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Declaration-of-Independence. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[16] “Today in History – July 4.” Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/july-04/. Accessed 26 June 2023.

[17] Marks, Julie. “How Did the American Revolution Influence the French Revolution?” HISTORY, 13 June 2023, https://www.history.com/news/how-did-the-american-revolution-influence-the-french-revolution. Accessed 28 June 2023.

[18] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Seneca Falls Convention". Encyclopedia Britannica, 29 Mar. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/event/Seneca-Falls-Convention. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[19] “Today in History - July 19: The Seneca Falls Convention.” Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/july-19/. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[20] NCC Staff. “On this day, the Seneca Falls Convention begins.” National Constitution Center, 19 July 2022, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/on-this-day-the-seneca-falls-convention-begins. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[21] “Declaration of Sentiments.” National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/wori/learn/historyculture/declaration-of-sentiments.htm. Accessed 28 June 2023.

[22] “Today in History - July 19: The Seneca Falls Convention.” Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/july-19/. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[23] History.com Editors. “Seneca Falls Convention.” HISTORY, 9 March 2022, https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/seneca-falls-convention. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[24] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Seneca Falls Convention". Encyclopedia Britannica, 29 Mar. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/event/Seneca-Falls-Convention. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[25] NCC Staff. “On this day, the Seneca Falls Convention begins.” National Constitution Center, 19 July 2022, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/on-this-day-the-seneca-falls-convention-begins. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[26] Bustard, Bruce L. “20 July 1969.” Prologue Magazine. Summer 2003, Vol. 35, No. 2, https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2003/summer/20-july-1969.html. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[27] History.com Editors.”1969 Moon Landing.” 27 March 2023, https://www.history.com/topics/1960s/moon-landing-1969. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[28] “The Moon Landing.” National Geographic Kids, https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/moon-landing. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[29] “November 22, 1963: Death of the President.” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in-history/november-22-1963-death-of-the-president. Accessed 29 June 2023.

[30] History.com Editors.”1969 Moon Landing.” 27 March 2023, https://www.history.com/topics/1960s/moon-landing-1969. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[31] History.com Editors.”1969 Moon Landing.” 27 March 2023, https://www.history.com/topics/1960s/moon-landing-1969. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[32] Bustard, Bruce L. “20 July 1969.” Prologue Magazine. Summer 2003, Vol. 35, No. 2, https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2003/summer/20-july-1969.html. Accessed 27 June 2023.

[33] History.com Editors.”1969 Moon Landing.” 27 March 2023, https://www.history.com/topics/1960s/moon-landing-1969. Accessed 27 June 2023.


Image Sources:


Currier & Ives. (1876) "The Declaration committee." United States, 1876. [New York: Published by Currier & Ives, 125 Nassau St., New York] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/91795008/.


"Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her daughter, Harriot--from a daguerreotype 1856." Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/97500106/.


"The Battle of Gettysburg, Pa, July 3rd, 1863," Print (MET, 63.550.512) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Battle_of_Gettysburg,_Pa.,_July_3rd,_1863_MET_DP831356.jpg


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