Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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October 12th
Columbus Day
Christopher Columbus had all kinds of trouble finding a crew to venture across the Atlantic. No one wanted to sail into that sea of darkness. Somehow he scraped together ninety men.

When the tiny Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria finally set out, they passed an erupting volcano. The terrified sailors took the billowing smoke and flames as an evil omen. Columbus calmed their fears and persuaded them to sail on.

After several days the compass began to vacillate away from the North Star. The confused men fell into a panic, but their admiral convinced them to keep going.

The winds blew day after day to the west, pushing them across the sea. The crew began muttering. What if the winds always blew west? How could their ships ever sail back to Spain against them? They met thick stretches of green seaweed, which the men feared would entangle their rudders. Who knew what monsters lurked in these ocean forests? They cast dark scowls at Columbus.

Every so often someone cried, “Land!” But it was only low clouds hugging the horizon, a mirage of the sea. The crew plunged into despair. Columbus sailed on.

They saw birds overhead, which gave them hope. They tried following their direction – but saw nothing. The sullen crew neared mutiny. There was talk of throwing the admiral into the sea and forcing the pilots to turn around. Columbus, refusing to flinch, willed his vessels on. Then came the dawn that raised an island from the swells. Columbus reached a New World. The day was October 12, 1492.

Christopher Columbus has been subjected to criticism in recent years, some deserved, some not. Regardless, today is a good day to honor the courage and perseverance that once conquered fear of the unknown.

American History Parade
1492
Christopher Columbus makes landfall at an island he calls San Salvador, a part of today’s Bahamas.

1892
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing, American schoolchildren first recite the newly written Pledge of Allegiance.

1973
President Nixon nominates House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford of Michigan to succeed Spiro T. Agnew, who had resigned as vice president.

1997
Singer John Denver dies when the small plane he is piloting crashes off the coast of California near Monterey.

2000
In Yemen, al-Qaeda suicide bombers in a small boat ram into the destroyer USS Cole, killing 17 sailors.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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