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History's Happenings for October 17

Gates Victorious At Saratoga
1777

The heroic victory at Saratoga, NY in the fall of 1777 quashed a bold British plan to end the American Revolution in short order, and is considered the turning point in the War.

Earlier that year, after almost three years of fighting, British General John Burgoyne suggested moving troops south from Montreal to occupy the city of Albany, NY. By holding this strategic point on the Hudson River, they hoped to be able to control traffic on the river and cut off New England from reinforcement and resupply. With the seat of the Revolt isolated, they expected an end to the War.

His plan approved and arrangements made for additional reinforcements from the west to meet him in Albany, Burgoyne set out with his army of 9,000 in June.

After delays and a skirmish with Americans in Bennington, VT that cost him 800 troops, in late September Burgoyne found himself confronted by American Major General Horatio Gates, at the head of an army of 7,000, just north of the town of Saratoga, NY. Gates had been sent to intercept the advancing British column, and was prepared for a defensive battle in the hopes of wearing the British down. His army was being steadily reinforced, an advantage owing to Burgoyne's slow and harrassed advance from Montreal.

With Gates was the dashing figure of Major General Benedict Arnold, who instead recommended a bold strike at the British line. Unfortunately Arnold's charge was poorly reinforced and both sides fell back after a hard fight.

Not to be put off easily, Burgoyne regrouped and attacked again on October 7 with an army further reduced to about 5,000. The Americans, inspired by the relentless Arnold, drove the British back into the town of Saratoga. Now surrounded by an army approaching 17,000, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17, 1777.

The stunning victory at Saratoga convinced the French to come in on the American side. Saratoga having all but eliminated their offensive strength in the north, the British now turned their attention to the south for the final phase of the War.

Delaware And Chesapeake Canal Opened
1829

Fourteen miles long and built at a cost of $2.25 million in government and private funds, the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal opened on October 17, 1829, connecting the Delaware River with upper Chesapeake Bay.

It originally averaged ten feet deep, and contained four locks. Operated by a private concern, it provided access to the port of Philadelphia from the deep water of the Bay.

In 1918, the U.S. government bought the canal for $2.5 million with the goal of deepening and widening it for military use. By 1927, the canal was two feet deeper on average and 150 feet wide. It was reopened in May of that year, and is still in use today, covering a total of nineteen miles.

Al Capone Sent to Big House
1931

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Einstein Flees Nazis, Arrives In U.S.
1933

Albert Einstein

Physicist Albert Einstein, who had already been renowned for his theories for two decades, was an inveterate supporter of pacifism and Zionism. As such, he found his position in his native Germany to be precarious as the Nazis rose to power in the 1920's and early thirties.

When Hitler became Reich Chancellor in January, 1933, Einstein quickly made the decision to leave Germany.

Arriving in the United States on October 17, 1933, he went to work for the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he was to spend the rest of his life.

As he watched the ugly developments in his native country, Einstein chose to abandon his pacifism and recommend to President Roosevelt that America pursue the development of an atomic bomb, which Einstein feared the Nazis were already working on. In fact they were, but could not complete the project before losing the war.

The development Einstein urged led to America's developing the bomb years ahead of any other nation -- Russia had it in 1949 -- and in time to end the war with the Japanese without an all-out invasion of their homeland. Had he chosen to remain in Germany, the outcome of World War II could have been very different indeed.

Einstein continued to work on his theories and to advance the cause of pacifism and disarmament until his death in 1955.

USS Kearney Torpedoed By Germans
1941

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Arab Oil Embargo Begins
1973

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U.S. Population Tops 300 Million
2006

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