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U.S. Presidents

There have been 43 presidents. The youngest president was John F. Kennedy at age 43. The oldest was Ronald Reagan at age 69. Franklin D. Roosevelt served the longest, serving four terms (he died in his 4th term. The longest-serving president was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died shortly into his fourth term in office. (The 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1951, limited to two the number of presidential terms one person could serve.) The shortest serving president was William Henry Harrison, who died from pneumonia after a month in office.

List of the United States Presidents By Date

George Washington (1789-97): George Washington is a well-known historical figure and was the first president of the United States of America after leading the Continental army in a victory for independence. Read more about George Washington.

John Adams (1797-1801): John Adams served as the vice president to George Washington before going on to become the second president of the United States of America. Later his son, John Quincy Adams was also president. Read more about John Adams.

Thomas Jefferson (1801-09): Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States of America and was responsible for the purchase of Louisiana. He served as president for two terms. Read more about Thomas Jefferson.

James Madison (1809-17): James Madison was the 4th president of the United States of America. He is often touted as the father of the Constitution because of the work he did on the Constitution. . Read more about James Madison.

James Monroe (1817-25)

John Quincy Adams (1825-29): John Quincy Adams was the son of John Adams who served as Washington’s vice president and as President. He was the sixth president of the United States. Read more about John Quincy Adams.

Andrew Jackson (1829-37): He was known as Old Hickory for his strength of character. Despite modern criticisms over his handling of the North American Indians and his pro-slavery stance, he is otherwise regarded as a great defender of democracy who kept America united over as difficult period of time. Read more about Andrew Jackson.

Martin Van Buren (1837-41)

William Henry Harrison (1841)

John Tyler (1841-45)

James K. Polk (1845-49)

Zachary Taylor (1849-50)

Millard Fillmore (1850-53)

Franklin Pierce (1853-57)

James Buchanan (1857-61)

Abraham Lincoln (1861-65): Abraham Lincoln led the nation through its most trying time, the civil war. A notable statesman and orator, he is one of the most popular presidents in history. He was assassinated by John WIlkes Boothe. Read more about Abraham Lincoln.

Andrew Johnson (1865-69): Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the United States of America and born in 1808. He took over the presidency after Lincoln was shot and killed. Read more about Andrew Johnson.

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77)

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)

James Garfield (1881)

Chester Arthur (1881-85)

Grover Cleveland (1885-89)

Benjamin Harrison (1889-93)

Grover Cleveland (1893-97)

William McKinley (1897-1901)

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09): Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States of America. He is known for his work on the Square Deal, on Environmental projects and for leading the Progressive Movement. Read more about Theodore Roosevelt.

William Howard Taft (1909-13)

Woodrow Wilson (1913-21): Woodrow Wilson was a president that had a successful agenda larger than most. His years in officer were from 1913-1921 and an important part of World War I. Read more about Woodrow Wilson.

Warren Harding (1921-23)

Calvin Coolidge (1923-29)

Herbert Hoover (1929-33): Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the United States of America. Before becoming president he was head of the Food Administration. He was president during the Great Stock Market crash of 1929. Read more about Herbert Hoover.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45): After graduating from Harvard, Roosevelt went on to marry Eleanor and have 6 children. He served as Secretary of the Navy and Governor of New York before becoming President of the USA. Read more about Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Harry S. Truman (1945-53): Harry S. Truman became the President of the US after Roosevelt died in office and was re-elected for a second term. He made the decision to release the atomic bomb over Japan. Read more about Harry S. Truman.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61): Eisenhower became the Chief Military in aid to General MacArthur and was elevated by Roosevelt to Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He was successful with many strategies against Germany in WWII. Read more about Dwight D Eisenhower.

John F. Kennedy (1961-63): John F. Kennedy could perhaps be one of the most famous presidents the United States has had. On 11/22/1963 he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Read more about John F. Kennedy.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69): Lyndon Johnson or LBJ was the 36th president of the United States of America and started his term after JFK was assassinated in 1963. He helped with Medicare and Medicaid. Read more about Lyndon B. Johnson.

Richard Nixon (1969-74): Richard Nixon was the 37th president of the United States of America. Though he passed many important and necessary changes he is most known for the Watergate Scandal. Read more about Richard Nixon.

Gerald Ford (1974-77)

James Carter (1977-81)

Ronald Reagan (1981-89): Ronald Reagan was a fairly well-known actor before he ran and was elected for the President of the United States of America two terms in a row. Read more about Ronald Reagan.

George H.W. Bush (1989-93): George H. W. Bush was the 41st president of the Unite States and a Republican. During his presidency the Soviet Union dissolved, Suddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and Noriega lost dictatorship of Panama. Read more about George H.W. Bush.

William J. Clinton (1993-2001): Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States of America and then served two terms. His wife, Hilary Clinton also serves as very important political figure. Read more about Bill Clinton.

George W. Bush (2001-09)

Barack Obama (2009- )


Articles Featuring US Presidents From History Net Magazines

Featured Article

1796: The First Real Election

1796: The First Real Election
1796: The First Real Election



On the day in April 1789 that he took the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City as the first president of the United States, George Washington noted in his diary: "I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity, and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express."

Washington, who embodied the virtues exalted by his generation, had been given the unanimous vote of the new nation’s electors. He had done nothing to promote himself as a candidate for the presidency and had agreed to undertake the mammoth task with the utmost reluctance. Whatever his personal misgivings, Washington’s first term in office went smoothly. It was so successful, in fact, that in 1792 he once again received the electors’ unanimous endorsement.

Such smooth sailing of the ship of state could not be expected to last, however, and during President Washington’s second term, the United States–and thus its chief executive–began to experience the kinds of problems that plague any government. Relations with the former "mother country" deteriorated until it seemed that another war with Great Britain might be inevitable. And on the domestic front, groups of farmers, especially those in the westernmost counties of Pennsylvania, protested and rebelled against the Washington administration’s excise tax on the whiskey that they distilled from their grain, eventually rioting in the summer of 1794.

The hero of America’s revolution also suffered personal attacks on his character. Rumors had it that Washington was given to "gambling, reveling, horseracing and horse whipping" and that he had even taken British bribes while he was commanding American troops.

During the last weeks of 1795, reports spread through Philadelphia–then the national capital–that Washington planned to retire at the conclusion of his second term. It was true that similar rumors had circulated three years before, as the end of his first term drew near, but this time it appeared that he was determined to step down. Nearing his mid-sixties–a normal life span for a man in the eighteenth century–the president longed to retire to the tranquility of Mount Vernon, his beloved home in Virginia.

Although Washington said nothing to John Adams regarding his plans for retirement, his wife Martha hinted to the vice president near Christmas 1795 that her husband would be leaving office. Ten days later, Adams learned that the president had informed his cabinet that he would step down in March 1797.* "You know the Consequences of this, to me and to yourself," Adams, aware that he might become the second president of the United States, wrote to his wife Abigail that same evening.

Adams’s ascension to the presidency would be neither automatic nor unanimous. Before achieving that high office, he would have to emerge victorious from America’s first contested presidential election.

* The March 4 date for the beginning of new terms of office went back to tradition begun under the Articles of Confederation and codified by Congressional legislation in 1792. The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1933, specified that henceforth Congressional terms would begin on January 3 and that an incoming president and vice president would take their oaths of office at noon on January 20 of the year following their election.

Eight years earlier, in September 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had considered numerous plans for choosing a president. They had rejected direct election by qualified voters because, as Roger Sherman of Connecticut remarked, a scattered population could never "be informed of the characters of the leading candidates." The delegates also ruled out election by Congress. Such a procedure, Gouverneur Morris stated, would inevitably be "the work of intrigue, cabal and of faction."

Finally, the convention agreed to an electoral college scheme, whereby "Each state shall appoint in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress." Presidential selection, therefore, would be decided through a state-by-state, rather than a national, referendum.

Each elector chosen by the voters or the legislature of his state would cast votes for two candidates, one of whom had to come from outside his state. The electors’ ballots would be opened in the presence of both houses of Congress.

* Not since 1824 has the winner of a presidential contest been decided by the House of Representatives. In that year, John Quincy Adams gained the presidency when one more than half of the members of the House cast their ballots in his favor, giving him the necessary majority.

If no one received a majority of the votes, or if two or more individuals tied with a majority of the electoral college votes, the members of the House of Representatives would cast ballots to elect the president.* Once the president had been decided upon, the candidate from among those remaining who had received the second largest number of electoral votes became the vice president.
The framers of the Constitution believed that most electors would judiciously cast their two ballots for persons of "real merit," as Morris put it. Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist 68–one of a series of essays penned by Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to encourage ratification of the Constitution in New York State–that it was a "moral certainty" that the electoral college scheme would result in the election of the most qualified man. Someone skilled in the art of intrigue might win a high state office, he wrote, but only a man nationally known for his "ability and virtue" could gain the support of electors from throughout the United States.

Indeed, the "electoral college" plan worked well during the first two presidential elections in 1788 and 1792, when every elector had cast one of his ballots for Washington. But by 1796, something unforeseen by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had occurred; men of different points of view had begun to form themselves into political parties.

The first signs of such factionalism appeared early in Washington’s presidency. On one side were the Federalists who yearned for an American society and national government established on the British model. Skeptical of the growing democratization of the new nation, the Federalists desired a centralized national government that would have the strength both to aid merchants and manufacturers and to safeguard America’s traditional hierarchical society.

By 1792, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Congressman James Madison–both, like Washington, from Virginia–had taken steps to fashion an opposition party. Jefferson became the acknowledged leader of the new Anti-Federalists, a group soon known as the Democratic-Republican Party because of its empathy for the struggling republic that had emerged from the French Revolution of 1789. This party looked irreverently upon the past, was devoted to republican institutions, sought to give property-owning citizens greater control over their lives, and dreamt of an agrarian nation in which government would be small and weak.

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Members of both parties ran candidates in congressional and state races in 1792, but they did not challenge President Washington. Partisanship, however, did surface that year in the contest for the vice presidency. Some Republicans acted behind the scenes in "support . . . of removing Mr. A," as the clerk of the House noted, mainly because Adams’s writings on government included positive statements about the British monarchy. The movement came to naught because it did not have the support of Jefferson, who had known and liked Adams for nearly twenty years. Other Republicans rallied behind George Clinton, the newly elected governor of New York.

The activity of the Republicans threw a scare into the Federalists. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, the acknowledged leader of the Federalists, was so worried that he urged Adams to cut short a vacation and campaign openly against those who were–as he said–"ill disposed" toward him. Adams, who regarded electioneering with contempt, refused to do so and remained on his farm in Quincy, Massachusetts, until after the electors had cast their ballots.

By March 1796, when Washington finally told his vice president that he would not seek reelection, Adams had decided to run for the office of president. His decision was "no light thing," he said, since he knew that as president he would be subjected to "obloquy, contempt, and insult." He even told Abigail that he believed every chief executive was "almost sure of disgrace and ruin." While she had mixed emotions about his decision, she did not discourage him from running. In fact, she told him that the presidency would be a "flattering and Glorious Reward" for his long years of service. Ultimately, Adams decided to seek the office because, he asserted, "I love my country too well to shrink from danger in her service."

As he began his quest, Adams expected formidable opposition, especially from Jefferson. He foresaw three possible outcomes to the election: he might garner the most votes, with Jefferson running second; Jefferson might win and John Jay of New York, long a congressman and diplomat, could finish second; or Jefferson might be elected president, while he was himself reelected vice president. That last scenario was not one Adams was prepared to accept. He decided that he would not serve another term as vice president; if he finished second again, he declared, he would either retire or seek election to the House of Representatives.

Adams considered himself the "heir apparent" to President Washington, having languished in the vice presidency–which he described as "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived"–for eight years, awaiting his turn. Furthermore, he believed that no man had made greater sacrifices for the nation during the American Revolution than he. In addition to risking his legal career to protest British policies, he sat as a member of the First Continental Congress for three years and served abroad from 1778-88, making two perilous Atlantic crossings to carry out his diplomatic assignments. During that ten years, his public service had forced him to live apart from his wife and five children nearly ninety percent of the time.

Jefferson often proclaimed his disdain for politics, even though he held political office almost continuously for forty years. As 1796 unfolded, he neither made an effort to gain the presidency nor rebuffed the Republican maneuvers to elect him to that office. When he resigned as secretary of state in 1793, Jefferson had said that he did not plan to hold public office again and would happily remain at Monticello, his Virginia estate. But, while he did not seek office in 1796, neither did he say that he would not accept the presidential nomination. Adams –and most Republicans–interpreted Jefferson’s behavior as indicating that he wanted to be president.

The Constitution said nothing about how to select presidential nominees. In 1800, the Republican Party would choose its candidates in a congressional nominating caucus; in 1812, the first nominating conventions were held in several states; and the first national nominating convention took place in 1832. But in 1796, the nominees seemed to materialize out of thin air, as if by magic. In actuality, the party leaders decided on the candidates and attempted to herd their followers into line.

The Federalists’ support centered on Adams and Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina. Pinckney, who had recently negotiated a successful treaty with Spain that established territorial and traffic rights for the United States on the Mississippi River, was chosen for the second slot on the ticket by the party moguls–without consulting Adams–in part because as a Southerner, he might siphon Southern votes from Jefferson.

On the Republican side, Madison confided to James Monroe in February that "Jefferson alone can be started with hope of success, [and we] mean to push him." The Republicans also endorsed Senator Aaron Burr of New York.

All this transpired quietly, for Washington did not publicly announce his intention of retiring until the very end of the summer. Not that the parties’ plans were a mystery. Before Washington finally informed the nation of his decision on September 19, 1796, in his "Farewell Address"–which was not delivered orally but was printed in Philadelphia’s American Daily Advertiser–the keenly partisan Philadelphia Aurora declared that it "requires no talent at divination to decide who will be candidates. . . . Thomas Jefferson & John Adams will be the men."

But Washington’s address, said congressman Fisher Ames of Massachusetts, was "a signal, like dropping a hat, for the party racers to start." During the next ten weeks, the presidential campaign of 1796 was waged, as Federalists and Republicans–with the exception, for the most part, of the candidates themselves–worked feverishly for victory.

Adams, Jefferson, and Pinckney never left home. While their parties took stands on the major issues of the day, these men embraced the classical model of politics, refusing to campaign. They believed that a man should not pursue an office; rather, the office should seek out the man. They agreed that the most talented men–what some called an aristocracy of merit–should govern, but also that ultimate power rested with the people. The qualified voters, or the elected representatives of the people, were capable of selecting the best men from among the candidates on the basis of what Adams called the "pure Principles of Merit, Virtue, and public Spirit."

Burr alone actively campaigned. Although he did not make any speeches, he visited every New England state and spoke with several presidential electors. Many Federalist and Republican officeholders and supporters spoke at rallies, but most of the electioneering took place through handbills, pamphlets, and newspapers.

The campaign was a rough and tumble affair. The Republicans sought to convince the electorate that their opponents longed to establish a titled nobility in America and that Adams–whom they caricatured as "His Rotundity" because of his small, portly stature–was a pro-British monarchist. President Washington was assailed for supporting Hamilton’s aggressive economic program, as well as for the Jay Treaty of 1795, which had settled outstanding differences between the United States and Britain. The Philadelphia Aurora went so far as to insist that the president was the "source of all the misfortunes of our country."

The Federalists responded by portraying Jefferson as an atheist and French puppet who would plunge the United States into another war with Great Britain. They also charged that he was indecisive and a visionary. A "philosopher makes the worst politician," one Federalist advised, while another counseled that Jefferson was "fit to be a professor in a college . . . but certainly not the first magistrate of a great nation." Newspapers such as the Gazette of the United States and Porcupine’s Gazette asserted that Jefferson’s election would result in domestic disorder.

Behind-the-scenes maneuvering included a plan by Hamilton, who felt that Pinckney could be more easily manipulated than Adams, to have one or two Federalist electors withhold their votes for Adams. Hearing rumors of the ploy, several New England electors conferred and agreed not to cast a ballot for Pinckney.

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Even the French minister to the United States, Pierre Adet, became involved in the election by seeking to convey the impression that a victory for Jefferson would result in improved relations with France. As one historian has noted: "Never before or since has a foreign power acted so openly in an American election."

Sixteen states took part in the balloting. The 138 electors were chosen by popular vote in six states and by the state legislatures of the remaining ten. Seventy votes were required to win a majority.

Adams expected to receive all of New England’s 39 votes, but he also had to win all 12 of New York’s votes and 19 from the other middle and southern states to win. He concluded that was impossible, especially after learning of Hamilton’s machinations. On the eve of the electoral college vote, Adams remarked privately that Hamilton had "outgeneraled" all the other politicians and stolen the election for Pinckney.

The electors voted in their respective state capitals on the first Wednesday in December, but the law stipulated that the ballots could not be opened and counted until the second Wednesday in February. And so for nearly seventy days, every conceivable rumor circulated regarding the outcome of the election. By the third week in December, however, one thing was clear, Jefferson could not get seventy votes. Although 63 electors were Southerners, the South was a two-party region, and it was known that Jefferson had not received a vote from every Southern elector. In addition, because the Federalists controlled the legislatures in New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, it was presumed that Jefferson would be shut out in those states.

Beyond that, nothing was certain. Many believed that Pinckney would win, either because of Hamilton’s supposed chicanery or because all "the Jeffs," as Ames called the Southern Republican electors, supposedly had cast their second ballot for the South Carolinian in order to ensure that a Southerner succeed Washington. A good number of Americans fully expected that no candidate would get a majority of the votes, thus sending the election to the House of Representatives.

By the end of December, better information arrived in Philadelphia when Ames informed Adams that he had at least 71 electoral votes. On December 28, Jefferson wrote Adams a congratulatory letter and at Washington’s final levee in 1796, the First Lady told the vice president of her husband’s delight at his victory. Persuaded that he was indeed the victor, an ebullient Adams wrote his wife at year’s end that he had "never felt more serene" in his life.

Finally, on February 8, 1797, the sealed ballots were opened and counted before a joint session of Congress. Ironically, it was Vice President Adams, in his capacity as president of the Senate, who read aloud the results. The tabulation showed that Adams had indeed garnered 71 votes. Every New England and New York elector had voted for him. The tales about Hamilton’s treachery had been untrue; ultimately, the former treasury secretary found the prospect of a Jefferson administration too distasteful to risk the subterfuge necessary to defeat Adams, who also got, as expected, all ten votes from New Jersey and Delaware. And in a sense, Adams won the election in the South, having secured nine votes in Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Jefferson, who finished second with 68 votes, automatically became the new vice president.* One Federalist elector in Virginia, the representative of a western district that long had exhibited hostility toward the planter aristocracy, voted for Adams and Pinckney, as did four electors from commercial, Federalist enclaves in Maryland and North Carolina. Whereas Adams secured enough votes in the South to push him over the top, Jefferson did not receive a single electoral vote in New England or in New York, New Jersey, or Delaware.

Pinckney, not Adams, was the real victim of Hamilton’s rumored duplicity. To ensure that the South Carolinian did not obtain more votes than Adams, 18 Federalist electors in New England refused to give him their vote.
* This first contested presidential election demonstrated a flaw in the Constitution’s electoral college scheme since the country now had a Federalist president and a Republican vice president. Four years later, the two republican candidates, Jefferson and Burr, each received 73 electoral votes. Although it was clear during the election campaign that Jefferson was the presidential candidate and Burr the vice presidential, Burr refused to concede, forcing a vote in the House of Representatives that brought Jefferson into office. To correct these defects the Twelfth Amendment, which provided for separate balloting for president and vice president, was adopted in 1804.


Had Pinckney received 12 of those votes, the election would have been thrown into the House of Representatives. Instead, he finished third with 59 electoral votes.


Burr polled only thirty votes. Southern Republicans–perhaps sharing the sentiment of the Virginia elector who remarked that there were "traits of character" in Burr which "sooner or later will give us much trouble"–rejected him.

Even among the enfranchised citizens, few bothered to cast ballots in this election. In Pennsylvania, a state in which the electors were popularly chosen, only about one-quarter of the eligible voters went to the polls. But the contest in Pennsylvania was an augury of the political changes soon to come. The Republicans swept 14 of the state’s 15 electoral votes, winning in part because they "outpoliticked" their opponents by running better-known candidates for the electoral college and because Minister Adet’s intrusive comments helped Jefferson among Quakers and Philadelphia merchants who longed for peace. Many voters had rejected the Federalist Party because they thought of it as a pro-British, pro-aristocratic party committed to an economic program designed to benefit primarily the wealthiest citizens.

And what occurred in Pennsylvania was not unique. Jefferson won more than eighty percent of the electoral college votes in states outside New England that chose their electors by popular vote. In an increasingly democratic United States, the election of 1796 represented the last great hurrah for the Federalist Party.

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On March 4, 1797, America’s first orderly transferal of power occurred in Philadelphia when George Washington stepped down and John Adams took the oath as the second president of the United States. Many spectators were moved to tears during this emotional affair, not only because Washington’s departure brought an era to a close, but because the ceremony represented a triumph for the republic. Adams remarked that this peaceful event was "the sublimist thing ever exhibited in America." He also noted Washington’s joy at surrendering the burdens of the presidency. In fact, Adams believed that Washington’s countenance seemed to say: "Ay! I am fairly out and you fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest." *

Historian John Ferling is the author of the recently re-released John Adams: A Life (An Owl Book, Henry Holt and Company, 1996, $17.95 paper).

* * * * * * *

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Daily Quiz for January 28, 2010Like Franklin D. Roosevelt, who tried to hide from the public the fact that his polio-weakened legs often required him to use a wheelchair, this president also hid the fact that he frequently needed the aid of crutches.
The Cowboy Brigade’s Roosevelt Inaugural InvasionIn March 1905, Seth Bullock, onetime Deadwood sheriff, brought rough-and-ready Westerners to Washington, D.C., to ride in Teddy Roosevelt's inaugural parade.
Table of Contents – October 2009 American HistoryThe October 2009 issue of American History features articles on Supreme Court justices, Khrushchev, Abraham Lincoln and religion, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and the end of Pontiac.
The 9 Greatest Supreme Court JusticesThe 9 greatest Supreme Court justices of all time were bold thinkers who wouldn't survive today's confirmation process.
The Incredible JeepThe jeep was created in record time at the outbreak of World War II, the fruit of a U.S. Army–brokered “collaboration” between Ford and two smaller companies. The jeep has endured as the ubiquitous icon of American military might.
I like Monty—sort of.Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery was insufferable, but Rob Citino likes him anyway--sort of, as he tells us in his latest blog.
Table of Contents – August 2009 American HistoryThe August 2009 issue of American History features articles on Benjamin Franklin, Martha Washington, Edwin Hubble and gangsters.
Letters from Readers – August 2009 American HistoryAmerican History readers write about the Emancipation Proclamation, separation of church and state, and the Cherokee people.
Mr. Stewart Goes to VietnamBrig. Gen. Jimmy Stewart flew his last bombing mission in Vietnam on February 21, 1966, while on Air Force Reserve duty, and it almost ended in disaster. During WWII, Stewart had flown and directed hundreds of bombing missions against Nazi Germany.
A Sidelined Patton Shares His Philosophy on LeadershipPatton was relegated to an essentially minor role during the historic Normandy landings. Crushed that he was missing “the opening kick off,” a restless Patton whittled away the hours writing in his diary and sending off letters, including the following to his son, a cadet at West Point.
Letters From Readers – July 2009 Aviation HistoryIn the July 2009 Aviation History Mailbag readers discuss the R-2800 radial engine, Israeli pilot Yiftah Spector, and astronaut Jim Lovell.

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Interview with Laurence ReesAward-winning historian and producer Laurence Rees, creator of the BBC documentary series and book Auschwitz: The Nazis and the “Final Solution”, is no stranger to the war’s moral quandaries. But his latest dual-media project—a book, World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis, and the West, and a series of the same name now airing on PBS—places the 1940 Soviet massacre of Poles at Katyn into chilling contexts: how Stalin played Roosevelt and Churchill, how they tried to play him, and what happened to the Poles and their country.
Stand or Die – 1950 Defense of Korea’s Pusan PerimeterIn 1950 Lieutenant General Walton "Johnnie" Walker ran the brilliant defense of the Pusan Perimeter, which saved South Korea and invented a whole new doctrine for the U.S. Army
George Washington Pays Homage to YahwehSimon Schama describes President George Washington’s 1790 visit to Newport, RI, to promote support for the Bill of Rights. His visit provoked an exchange with a member of the Touro Synagogue about the young country’s commitment to religious freedom.
Letters from Readers – June 2009 American HistoryBanking Mess The idea that Thomas Jefferson is to blame for the United States’ his­tory of financial panics is truly absurd (“The Founding Father of American Financial Disaster,” April 2009). It’s been 200 years since Jefferson left office. That’s 200 years for government to apply effective regulation, and 200 years for the banking industry and …
Letter from American History – June 2009Despite more than two centuries of broken treaties and displacement by white settlers, Native American tribes have not only survived but they retain the legal status of sovereign nations accorded to them by the nation's founders. These issues are explored in an article by Paul VanDevelder.
What Do We Owe the Indians?Paul VanDevelder writes about the troubled history of the 562 Native American nations, their 371 treaties with the United States, and the emerging importance of natural resources found on Native American lands.
Interview with Andrew RobertsAndrew Roberts, author of Masters and Commanders, burrowed through archival documents for the inside scoop on the relationships between Winston Churchill, FDR, George C. Marshall, and Alan Brooke.
An American Pilot Encounters the Ghosts of BuchenwaldSoon after American soldiers liberated the Ohrdruf concentration camp on April 4, 1945, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower inspected the camp himself. “The things I saw beggar description,” he cabled to Gen. George C. Marshall. “I made the visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, …
Veteran of Countless Small Skirmishes Turns 45GI Joe is celebrating 45 uninterrupted years on the market this February. While the toy evolved to reflect different eras—Joe was an adventurer in the 1970s, fighting crocodiles and sharks, and in the 1990s, equipped to nip the terrorist threat in the bud—it never strayed far from its basic mission.
Daily Quiz for February 22, 2009The British knew this person by the secret code number 7.
Safety in Numbers – The “New World Order” [Point of View]Casualty and other war statistics suggest that despite terrorism’s terrible toll, the New World Order really has created a more secure world.
Letter From MHQ Spring 2009We know that history tends to repeat itself, that lessons learned by one generation are often unlearned by the next. Nonetheless, I choose to be hopeful that there is growing safety in Paschall’s numbers, that they are a harbinger of a better world. For that to transpire, though, we must lengthen our memories and beware the siren song and awful price of conflict—perhaps, I humbly submit, through the continued and close study of the world’s military history.
Table of Contents – April 2009 American HistoryClick to subscribe to American History magazine.FEATURES The Founding Father of American Financial Disaster Thomas Jefferson gave us life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and financial insecurity by John Steele Gordon What’s a Dollar Really Worth? Watch it shrink datagraphic by Nigel Holmes Lincoln Chronicles, Part 2: There Goes the South President-elect Abraham Lincoln keeps …
Letter from American HistoryDid Thomas Jefferson's deep distrust of banks wreck our American Dream?
Letters from Readers – April 2009 American HistoryThe Whole Truth I’m curious as to why Bruce Chadwick, in “The Mysterious Death of Judge George Wythe” (February 2009), didn’t mention the widespread rumor that Wythe’s protégé and fellow murder victim, Michael Brown, was his son with his maid and former slave, Lydia Broadnax. Michael Brown was a mulatto, which means that his father …
The Marksman Who Refused to Shoot George WashingtonGeorge Washington’s life may have been spared at the Battle of Brandywine by a British marksman who placed honor before glory.
Interview with Carlo D’EsteTo get the brilliant Churchill,” says Carlo D’Este, “you had to take the human, flawed Churchill, the man obsessed with making something of himself.” In Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874–1945, D’Este, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and acclaimed military historian (Bitter Victory: The Battle for Sicily, 1943) and biographer (Patton: A Genius for War and Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life), looks at Britain’s fabled leader through a revealing lens.
Wild West – April 2009 – Table of ContentsAbraham Lincoln, bandit Joaquin Murrieta, outlaw Bill Downing, the ingenious chuck wagon and the incident that inspired the film The Searchers are all featured in the April 2009 issue of Wild West magazine
Omar Bradley, the General’s GeneralOmar Bradley entered World War II as George Patton’s junior, but emerged as Patton’s commanding officer. Nevertheless, he found himself unable to emerge from the other man’s shadow. Bradley was inextricably bound to him.
Decision at The Battle of Five Forks – 1865The headstrong Gen. Philip Sheridan (left) had little patience for the careful battle tactics of Gen. Gouverneur Warren (right) and replaced him at Five Forks. But in 1880 Sheridan would be forced to justify his actions before a court of inquiry in New York. Photograph: Library of Congress Did Philip Sheridan forever tarnish a major …
The Mysterious Death of Judge George WytheThe murderer of Thomas Jefferson’s mentor, George Wythe, was acquitted because blacks were forbidden to testify against whites in Virginia’s courts.
Table of Contents – February 2009 American HistoryClick to subscribe to American History magazine.FEATURES THE LINCOLN CHRONICLES DANGEROUS AMBITION How a frustrated small-town lawyer jumpstarted his political career by threatening the Union by H.W. Brands THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF JUDGE GEORGE WYTHE Arsenic felled Jefferson’s fellow founder and friend, then justice was thwarted because of laws they wrote by Bruce Chadwick AMERICA …
Letter from Military History – Feb/Mar 2009Proper military training has been a key to victory from the time of Philip of Macedon through the World War II Louisiana Maneuvers into present-day warfare
Louisiana Maneuvers (1940-41)In 1940 and 1941, American soldiers participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers, a series of war games that forged a common experience, trained them for combat and identified their future commanders.
Letters from Readers – December 2008 American HistoryReaders write to American History magazine about James Madison; presidents on the radio; Alexander Hamilton's descendants; Ronald Reagan; Barrack Obama; and the real first Thanksgiving.

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Uneasy About Alcohol – America and the Booze QuestionThe Pilgrims drank. So did the Founding Fathers. Prohibition couldn’t curb Americans’ thirst for booze, and years of teetotaling tirades fell on deaf ears. So why did alcohol become the focus of one of this nation’s greatest moral crusades?
Battle Creek, Texas – Where Surveyors Fought Like SoldiersThe 1838 Battle of Battle Creek, Texas, also known as the Surveyors’ Fight, pitted a surveying party comprised of veterans of the Texas Revolution against a Kickapoo war band.
The End of the Good War – Germany, April 1945For the American GIs entering the heart of Germany, April 1945 was a month filled with some of the most brutal fighting of the war, when the horrors of the Nazi regime were finally revealed to the world. Members of XIX Corps, the 90th Division, the 11th Armored Division's Combat Command B, and the 45th Infantry Division, among others, witnessed atrocities committed against their own and against those held in the concentration camps they liberated.
Letter from Military History – October 2008Victory may turn on covert information—call them shadow facts—that one side knew or did not know at the time, that one side believed to be true or false. It is a hidden dimension of warfare that can prove decisive.
Table of Contents – October 2008 American HistorySubscribe to American History magazine today! FEATURES HOW THE WEST WAS SPUN by Stephen G. Hyslop Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show featured real-life cowboys and Indians and perpetuated a myth that still colors our understanding of the frontier. 15 MINUTES THAT SAVED AMERICA by H.W. Brands Franklin D. Roosevelt confronted a crisis of confidence in …
‘Don’t Give Up the Ship’"Don’t Give Up the Ship!" Despite his crew’s humiliating surrender to HMS Shannon, the exhortation of USS Chesapeake’s dying captain, James Lawrence, became a rallying cry of the War of 1812.
Spirit of New OrleansUnder Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, a force of volunteers and U.S. infantry won a great victory at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, solidifying American independence and awakening a strong sense of national identity in the young country.
War Letters: World War II Letters from the Legacy ProjectThis is a small sample of Andrew Carroll's World War II War Letters from his Legacy Project. A project which documents the experiences of veterans through their letters home. Also spans other conflicts such as Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, American Civil War, and so forth.
A Combat Nurse’s Exhausting Sorrows, Unexpected JoysFrom the October 2007 issue: A Combat Nurse’s Exhausting Sorrows, Unexpected Joys Army nurse June Wandrey stood five feet two inches tall with, in her words, “finely honed muscles that were dynamite ready.” That forceful spirit was evident in her wartime letters as well; Wandrey did not mince phrases when it came to her disdain …
An Immigrant’s Plea to a Powerful Man  From the March 2008 issue: An Immigrant’s Plea to a Powerful Man The plight of Japanese immigrants and Japanese American citizens interned in the 1940s is well known. But German and Italian immigrants in the United States also faced possible internment, relocation, travel restrictions, and property confiscation during World War II. On December 31, …
Peleliu: A Second-Generation PerspectiveA son’s journey to the Pacific battlefield at Peleliu helped him better understand his father’s role in one of World War II’s bloodiest encounters.
John Adams Miniseries on HBO (Review)Preview of HBO's John Adams miniseries based on the book by David McCullough.
Project Liberty ShipAt its berth in Baltimore, the hulking gray SS John W. Brown looks out of place alongside the more brightly colored civilian container ships docked around us. One of only two Liberty ships still operational out of the original fleet of 2,710 that the United States produced for the war effort, the John W. Brown has been fully restored and is now operated by an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, Project Liberty Ship.
Letters From Readers – April 2008 – Military HistoryCuban Nightmare In his account of the Bay of Pigs fiasco November Grayston Lynch may have allowed his loathing of the Kennedy administration to cloud his judgment and recollection. First, there was no official recognition of Castro’s “Soviet leanings” by the Eisenhower administration before he seized power New Year’s Day 1959. It wasn’t until Jan. …
Varian Fry: The American SchindlerA clandestine rescue mission by an American in France during the early days of World War II leads to his recognition by the government of Israel, placing him along icons such as Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg.
Letters From Readers – February 2008 – Military HistoryThe Irrepressible Chuck Yeager Re. “The Coldest Winter,” by David Halberstam, November: My dad, Harry B. Howell Jr., was a U.S. Air Force captain when he came home from Korea. He was with the 159th Fighter/Bomber Squadron in Seoul. My claim to fame is that he was one of the pilots flying an F-86 in …
Paths to Glory: Medal of Honor Ricipients Smedley Butler and Dan DalyFlamboyant, charismatic Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler and professional, self-effacing Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly were very different Marines with almost equal combat records who earned their second Medal of Honor awards within days of each other.
The Race to MaltaPlagued by the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica, Operation Harpoon is launched to resupply Malta during World War II. This major convoy must fight its way through Axis air and sea defenses. And the Germans and Italians are ready.
Letter From American History – February 2008Jerry’s P.S.: “Now, here’s what I really think.” It’s been nearly a year since his death at age 93, but Gerald Ford is still making news and rewriting some pages of history. In 1973 the affable Michigan congressman was center stage, playing a leading role in one of America’s greatest political and constitutional dramas. In …
Gerald Ford’s Near Miracle of 1976Gerald Ford withstood a challenge by Ronald Reagan within his own party and nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback against Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election.
Daily Quiz for November 27, 2007The Tower Commission exposed an elaborate network of official deception, private profiteering and White House cover-up in this president?s administration:
The First American Victory: Ethan Allen Takes Fort TiconderogaEthan Allen's capture of Fort Ticonderoga gave American colonists their first victory over British troops in the American War for Independence.
Aviators: Quentin Roosevelt – He died fightingLieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt's youngest son, died as a fighter pilot with the 95th “Kicking Mule” Aero Squadron in World War I.

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Daily Quiz for October 15, 2007His visit to Peru and Venezuela in 1958 spurred a precautionary movement of U.S. forces into Caribbean bases.
Levittown: The Archetype for Suburban DevelopmentLevittown, Long Island, became the most famous American postwar suburban development. A household name, it was “Exhibit A” of suburbia.
Hessians: The Best Armies Money Could BuyNo account of the American Revolution is complete without reference to the Hessians, but soldiers of the German mercenary state Hesse fought many wars under many flags.
The BentProp Project: Providing Families Of WWII Airmen With ClosureVolunteers from the BentProp project hunt for downed aircraft of World War II's Pacific Theater, to bring closure to the families of missing airmen on both sides.
Margaret Thatcher: Iron LadyBoth loved and hated, Europe's first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was something of a political outsider, but she reinvigorated national pride and achieved iconic status in the Conservative Party.
Operation Market Garden ReconsideredA look back at Operation Market Garden near the end of World War II. Was the plan doomed from the start, or could airborne and ground units have taken Arnhem, Nijmegen and Eindhoven from the Germans?
The Battle of ChippewaWinfield Scott's unlikely victory on the Canadian side of the Niagara River during the War of 1812 helped transform the motley U.S. Army into a professional fighting force.
Letter From MHQ – Autumn 2007A persistent claim made after the latest American difficulty in the Middle East is that Washington’s leaders are unable to foresee Arab reaction to U.S. policy initiatives. History sometimes tells a different story. Consider what happened when the United States first became deeply involved in the Jewish-Palestinian imbroglio. Prior to 1945, the United States had …
German POWs and the Art of SurvivalThe Western Allies and Soviets were forced to make some tough choices concerning German and Axis prisoners of war following World War II.
The Story of Two Japanese Americans Who Fought in World War IIDuring World War II many Japanese-Americans, called Nisei, served their nation with honor and distinction both in Europe and in the Pacific. This is the story of two of these soldiers and their fights in Italy, Leyte, Okinawa and elsewhere.
Daily Quiz for July 13, 2007This U.S. president was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton in January 2001:
George Bush: World War II Navy PilotFormer president George H. W. Bush recounts his time in World War II as a naval aviator. He served aboard the Finback and San Jacinto and flew Avengers over Chichi Jima, Saipan, Rota, Marcus Island, Guam, Manila Bay and Wake Island.
American Volunteer Group: Claire L. Chennault and the Flying TigersSecretly recruited, a group of American pilots led by a former stunt pilot gained hero status in two nations during World War II and won a permanent place in the annals of aviation history.
Gang Crackdown: When Stuart’s Stranglers Raided the RustlersBecause of his great contribution to the state’s early years, Granville Stuart is revered today as “Mr. Montana.” Among the first to prospect for gold in the vast wilderness that would one day become the state of Montana, he and his brother James are credited with igniting the great Montana gold rush of the early …
The Whole World Is Listening: WHAS Radio Coverage of the 1937 Ohio River FloodCoverage of the horrendous 1937 Ohio Valley floods by Louisville radio station WHAS was a seminal event in broadcasting history and established the modern tradition for reporting disasters.
General George S. Patton and the Battle of the BulgeDesperate to stem the Nazi onslaught during the Battle of the Bulge, Gen. George S. Patton emphasized in a prayer that he was there “to annihilate the Germans and the godless Hitler” and demanded God chose sides.
Allied Airborne Forces in World War II: Surviving the Devil’s CauldronOnly those hardened to adversity, resilient to the stress of the unknown, and capable of adapting to ever-changing circumstances could survive in the devil’s cauldron that was the airborne soldier's battlefield of World War II.
WWII Boat Rises From Sea Off Solomons2007-04-30 | Earthquake raises WWII torpedo boat from the underneath Pacific Ocean

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Letter From May 2007 World War II MagazineOn Wings of the American Spirit On April 12 the National World War II Museum in New Orleans paid tribute to former President George H.W. Bush by singling him out for their American Spirit Award. “The purpose of the award is to honor individuals who exemplify the core values that were critical to the success …
The Monuments Men: Rescuing Art Plundered by the NazisThe Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section was charged with finding precious art and other items looted by the Nazis during World War II. This is the story of one man who served with this elite unit.
Admiral Cunningham and HMS Illustrious in Malta During World War IIA brilliant British tactician, Andrew Cunningham almost lost an aircraft carrier, Malta and control of the Mediterranean in a single dive-bomb attack.

By Sam Moses

Daily Quiz for April 1, 2007He was the first U.S. president to visit a communist nation since the start of the Cold War:
Mitchell Red Cloud Jr.: Korean War HeroFollowing the Japanese surrender ending World War II on September 2, 1945, the U.S. Army was reduced to just 10 divisions, with four of them, the 7th, 24th and 25th Infantry divisions and the 1st Cavalry Division, stationed in Japan on occupation duty. With the war over, Americans generally thought there was no real need …
Operation Market Garden: Last Stand at an Arnhem SchoolhouseDuring Market-Garden, the last stand by 60 men at an Arnhem schoolhouse in September 1944, though largely forgotten, should be regarded as one of the British army's most heroic feats of World War II.
Daily Quiz for November 7, 2010This American president said, "Men make history and not the other way around."
Harold Sargent Recalls His Days of Combat on Cebu Island During World War IIOne young private emerged from a savage battle on this Philippine island with the tale of a lifetime -- and more.

By Harold R. Sargent

John Paul Vann: Man and LegendBy the time of his death in Vietnam in June 1972, Lt. Col. John Paul Vann had taken on the highest military authorities in Washington and had earned the respect and trust of a small group of newsmen.
Letter From April 2007 American History MagazineLetter From April 2007 American History Magazine What Would Roger Do? It was a first. When Keith Ellison won the votes of Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District last November, he became the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress. When Ellison announced his intent to lay his hand upon a Koran in his ceremonial swearing in, …
Blowup in Beirut: U.S. Marines Peacekeeping Mission Turns DeadlyThe BLT is gone!” The staff sergeant bellowed his message to the major as a billowing mushroom cloud rose hundreds of feet in the early morning air. On October 23, 1983, in Beirut, Lebanon, those words were as unfathomable as “The World Trade Center is gone” would be on September 11, 2001, in New York …
Battle of the Bulge: 687th Field Artillery Battalion’s Stand at the Crossroads CafeThe men of the 687th Field Artillery Battalion hadn’t had a warm meal in four days. Ever since the Germans launched an offensive in the Ardennes region of eastern Belgium and northern Luxembourg on December 16, 1944, the artillerymen — and all the makings of their Christmas dinner — had been on the move. The …
The Leatherneck Resistance: A Secret World War II OSS MissionAn elite group of Marine paratroopers joins French freedom fighters on a covert mission behind enemy lines.

By Dick Camp

The Adams FamilyLong before the Kennedys, another patrician Massachusetts clan, John and Abigail Adams and their descendants, scaled the heights of triumph and plumbed the depths of tragedy in full public view.
Ulysses S. Grant: The Myth of ‘Unconditional Surrender Begins at Fort DonelsonIn January 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met in secret near Casablanca, Morocco, for their second wartime summit meeting. At the final press conference on January 24, Roosevelt announced to the world that the Allies would not stop until they had the “unconditional surrender” of Germany, Italy and Japan. It was an impulsive …
Battle of Hürtgen Forest: The 9th Infantry Division Suffered in the Heavily Armed WoodsThe bitter and bloody experience of the 9th Infantry Division in the Hürtgen Forest in autumn 1944 should have been enough to warn Allied leaders that the German army wasn’t finished just yet.

By Mark J. Reardon

Vietnam War: The Individual Rotation PolicyThe individual rotation policy was, in hindsight, clearly one of the worst ideas of the Vietnam War. At the time, however, military planners had few options.
Onward Christian Soldiers: The Story of the Salvation ArmyLong recognized as one of the most efficient and effective private charitable organizations in the world, the Salvation Army works in 109 countries and 175 languages across the globe.
Zeppelin World Cruise: Globe Trotting LeviathanGraf Zeppelin's epic around-the-world flight was a mixed experience for passengers and crew alike -- but the airship would go on to log more than 1 million miles.

By Eric Niderost

1918 Spanish Influenza Outbreak: The Enemy WithinIn the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, can a government protect the welfare of its citizens at home while rushing millions of troops to battlefields half a world away? In 1918 America faced just such a challenge.
Letter from November 2006 Military HistoryCareer CrossroadsSome turns affect not only lives, but how posterity regards those lives. Military history abounds with heroes and villains who made larger-than-life names for themselves. It is also replete with fascinating also-rans who, either because of their own decisions or simply as a matter of circumstance, never quite achieved what they wanted. Looking back …
African American Platoons in World War IIIn March 1945, black volunteers forced the first breach in the U.S. Army's color barrier.

By David P. Colley

The James-Younger Gang and their Circle of FriendsDuring their outlaw careers, the James brothers and the Younger brothers dealt in fine-blooded stock, raced thoroughbreds and rode beautiful American Saddlebreds. All were expert horsemen, always paying careful attention to their animals, which were essential tools of their ‘business.’ Also essential to the West’s most famous outlaw brothers’ success was the support of a …
Does Pointe du Hoc Still MatterArmed with little more than grit, on the morning of June 6, 1944, some 200 men of Colonel James E. Rudder’s 2nd Ranger Battalion scaled the 100-foot cliff of Pointe du Hoc and passed into legend. Theirs was a remarkable achievement. At a cost of more than 135 casualties, Rudder’s men seized an objective that …
Letter from October 2006 World War II MagazineForty-seven years ago this month, on October 16, 1959, the man President Harry S. Truman called “the greatest living American” died in his bed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Renowned for his integrity, honesty, modesty and unwavering adherence to what he believed was right for his country, General George C. Marshall had risen over …

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