October 18: Burning of Falmouth, Alaska Is Transferred to the U.S., and Other Events of the Date
A number of important events took place on October 18 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
1775 – American Revolutionary War: Burning of Falmouth
This is a black page in the history of the War of Independence, as the Royal fleet retaliated their fellow soldiers besieged in Boston, Massachusetts with a heavy bombardment of the town of Falmouth, burning it to the ground. The exact number of people who were killed during this brutal raid is still unknown (the total population of Falmouth at that time was 2,500), yet, what has been revealed is that more than 400 buildings were destroyed by shelling that caused fire damage, and no less than 160 families were left homeless.
News of the raid caused true anger in the colonies, especially when the cruelty of it became known to society. American patriots fighting against the Brits used the Burning of Falmouth for propaganda purposes, stating how oppressive and ferocious the metropolitan power was.
1779 – American Revolutionary War: the Siege of Savannah is lifted
October 18 marks the end of the siege of the town of Savannah, Georgia that occurred in the Southern Theater of the American Revolutionary war.
The town had been captured by the Brits under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Campbell a year before, in 1778, since then, the Americans (with the support of French forces and Polish cavalry units, whose commander, nobleman count Casimir Pulaski, was mortally wounded several days before the end of the siege on October 9, 1779) had been trying to regain the control over Savannah.
In a series of brutal battles, 5,000 American soldiers were unable to get the town back, with 244 killed, 584 wounded, and 120 captured, and being forced to retreat. At the same time, of the 3,000 British soldiers, only 40 were killed, 63 wounded, and 52 went missing in action, and they managed to defend the town. Thus Savannah stayed British till July 1782, when the end of the war was already near.
1867 – Alaska transfer ceremony takes place
Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. on March 30, 1867 for $7.2 million, which was considered far too much for “the land of snow and bears,” since nobody knew gold and oil would be found there in the future. On October 18, 1867, the transfer ceremony took place in Sitka, which was the largest city there at that time.
A Russo-Finnish blacksmith present at the ceremony, T. Ahllund, described the event:
We had not spent many weeks at Sitka when two large steam ships arrived there, bringing things that belonged to the American crown, and a few days later the new governor also arrived in a ship together with his soldiers. The wooden two-story mansion of the Russian governor stood on a high hill, and in front of it in the yard at the end of a tall spar flew the Russian flag with the double-headed eagle in the middle of it. Of course, this flag now had to give way to the flag of the United States, which is full of stripes and stars. On a predetermined day in the afternoon a group of soldiers came from the American ships, led by one who carried the flag. Marching solemnly, but without accompaniment, they came to the governor's mansion, where the Russian troops were already lined up and waiting for the Americans. Now they started to pull the [Russian double-headed] eagle down, but—whatever had gone into its head—it only came down a little bit, and then entangled its claws around the spar so that it could not be pulled down any further. A Russian soldier was therefore ordered to climb up the spar and disentangle it, but it seems that the eagle cast a spell on his hands, too—for he was not able to arrive at where the flag was, but instead slipped down without it. The next one to try was not able to do any better; only the third soldier was able to bring the unwilling eagle down to the ground. While the flag was brought down, music was played and cannons were fired off from the shore; and then while the other flag was hoisted the Americans fired off their cannons from the ships equally many times. After that American soldiers replaced the Russian ones at the gates of the fence surrounding the Kolosh [i.e. Tlingit] village…
This event is now celebrated state-wide as Alaska Day.
Also on this date:
1898 – The U.S. takes possession of Puerto-Rico (previously belonging to Spain) in the aftermath of Spanish-American War fought earlier that year
1931 – Famous American inventor, engineer, and businessman Thomas Edison dies
1954 – The first transistor radio is announced by Texas Instruments Company
These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on October 18, at least in our view.