January 15: The Capture of the USS President, the Great Molasses Flood, and Other Events of the Date
A number of important events have taken place on January 15 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
1815 – The War of 1812: the Capture of the USS President
A shock! A sensation! The American President has been captured! Fortunately, it was only the title of a battleship captured by the Brits during the War of 1812.
The USS President was a prime target for the Royal Navy during the War of 1812 as it was seen to have insulted British honor after the Little Belt Affair. By 1815, Commodore Stephen Decatur commanded the President; he had captured the British frigate HMS Macedonian in a famous action in 1812, while in command of the frigate USS United States. It was a very effective battleship and the Brits did their best to capture it.
After the ship was detected and stalked, a short navy battle took place, after which the President ceased fire at 7:58 pm on January 15, 1815 and hoisted a light in her rigging, indicating that she had surrendered to the British ship Endymion. The President's rigging was in a crippled state and it was slowed to a point that it could not escape from the rest of the British squadron that would soon be in sight.
1919 - The Great Molasses Flood
The Great Molasses Flood, which is also known as the Boston Molasses Disaster or the Great Boston Molasses Flood, occurred on this date, January 15, 99 years ago in 1919 within the borders of the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. It turned out to be one of the worst disasters of this kind in U.S. history.
A large molasses storage tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph, killing at least 21 and injuring about 150 people. The event entered local folklore and for decades afterwards residents claimed that on hot summer days the area still smelled of molasses.
The disaster itself occurred at the Purity Distilling Company facility, where the temperature had suddenly risen above 40 °F, climbing rapidly from the frigid temperatures of the preceding days. From the physical point of view, molasses can be fermented to produce rum and ethanol, the active ingredient in other alcoholic beverages and a key component in the manufacturing of munitions. The stored molasses was awaiting transfer to the purity plant situated between Willow Street and what is now named Evereteze Way, in Cambridge.
At about 12:30 in the afternoon near Keany Square,at 529 Commercial Street, a molasses tank 50 ft tall, 90 ft in diameter, and containing as much as 2,300,000 US gal (8,700 m3), collapsed. Witnesses variously reported that as it collapsed they felt the ground shake and heard a roar, a long rumble similar to the passing of an elevated train (coincidentally, with a line of that type close by), a tremendous crashing, a deep growling, or "a thunderclap-like bang!", and as the rivets shot out of the tank, a machine gun-like sound.
1943 – The Pentagon building is dedicated
The headquarters of American aggression, and the place beloved by Washington war-hawks didn’t have its own building for a long time. The building of the Pentagon was designed by American architect George Bergstrom and built by contractor John McShain. Ground was broken on September 11, 1941, and the building was dedicated on January 15, 1943. General Brehon Somervell provided the major motivating power behind the project. Colonel Leslie Groves was responsible for overseeing the project for the U.S. Army.
The Pentagon building spans 28.7 acres and includes an additional 5.1 acres as a central courtyard. Starting with the north side and moving clockwise, its five façades are the Mall Terrace Entrance façade, the River Terrace Entrance façade, the Concourse Entrance (or Metro Station) façade, the South Parking Entrance façade, and the Heliport façade.
The north side of the building, the Mall Entrance, which also features a portico, leads out to a 600 ft long terrace that is used for ceremonies. The River Entrance, which features a portico projecting out 20 ft is on the northeast side, overlooking the lagoon and facing Washington. A number of decisions taken within this building have cost the lives of millions of people all over the world, making it a true image of the aggressive American foreign policy.
These are the most notable events in the U.S. history that occurred on January 15, at least in our view.