Come Forth In July

July was originally called Quintilis, but with the advent of the Gregorian Calendar, it was renamed in honor of Julius Caesar, whose birthday was in that month.

On July 1, 1898, the Battle of San Juan Hill was fought when American troops occupied it during the Spanish-American War. The war was being fought because Spain refused the demand of the United States that they resolve Cuba's fight for independence. The war lasted 109 days, with the Treaty of Paris, which gave the Spanish colonies of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the U.S.

The American troops were volunteers called the "Rough Riders." Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt was acting commander of the Rough Riders and the only American with a horse, led the troops in a charge on San Juan Hill. His actions in the Spanish-American War were largely responsible for his later presidency.

On July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was shot on his way to give a speech at Williams College, his alma mater. He was in the company of, among other people, Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, whose father, Abraham Lincoln, had also been assassinated.

One of the bullets which hit him could not be found, and Alexander Graham Bell invented a metal detector expressly for finding the bullet. It malfunctioned, and although at the time, Bell didn't know why it malfunctioned, it turns out that it was because the President's bed had a metal frame.

He clung to life until September. He had been President of the United States for four months when he was shot and for less than 7 months when he died. Modern medical experts now believe that what killed Garfield was not the bullet, but the probable introduction of streptococcus bacteria. He was the only sitting member of the House of Representatives to be elected to the highest office.

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in New Jersey. Burr was a Revolutionary War hero and the third Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton was a founding father, the first Secretary of the Treasury, and a coauthor of the Federalist Papers. He also helped to found the first national bank, the United States Mint, and what is now known as the Coast Guard.

During Burr's unsuccessful campaign for election to Governor of New York in 1804, Hamilton wrote several articles impugning the character of the former Vice President. Burr had finally had enough of the publications and Hamilton's refusal to account for them, and challenged Hamilton to a duel. In the most famous duel in the history of the country, Burr shot Hamilton dead. The duel resulted in Burr's indictment for murder, although the charges were later dismissed. Hamilton's death resulted in the end of the fledgling Federalist Party.

Scientists set off the first atomic bomb in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. The detonation took place at a site known as Trinity Site, which is part of the present-day White Sands Missile Range, approximately 60 miles from Alamogordo. The site is open to visitors twice a year, on the first Saturday in April and first Saturday in October. Atomic bombs were eventually used against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On July 20, 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Armstrong had been an astronaut onboard Gemini 8 in 1966 before being mission commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

His famous words from the moon, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," were heard on television and radio by an estimated 450 million people.

About 15 minutes after his first step, Armstrong was joined by Buzz Aldrin, who, along with Armstrong, planted a flag of the United States and unveiled a plaque commemorating their flight.

Spanish Civil War began on July 17, 1936, after an attempted coup d'état committed by the army against the government of the Second Spanish Republic. The beginning of the war was signaled when the phrase "Over all of Spain, the sky is clear" was broadcast on the radio. The war was covered by a number of famous journalists, including George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, and Robert Capa and lasted until April 1, 1939, when the rebels and the founding of a dictatorship led by Generalísimo Francisco Franco claimed final victory.

The United States celebrates Independence Day, otherwise known as 4th of July, to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which occurred on July 4, 1776. One of the founding documents of the country, it declared independence from King George and Britain. It declared that the thirteen colonies in North America were "Free and Independent States" and contained justification for the dissolution of the bond between England and the U.S., starting with the famous line "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Although it was adopted on July 4, John Hancock was the only person to sign it at that time. The second signatory signed the document on August 2, and the remaining 54 delegates, shortly thereafter.

Independence Day is traditionally celebrated with picnics, family reunions, and fireworks.

Famous people born in July include Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Stephen Foster, Calvin Coolidge, Henry Ford, and Ernest Hemingway.

Additional resources for the month of July:

  • The War Scholar - A military history timeline of war and conflict across the world from 3000 B.C. to present time.
  • Kaboose: Independence Day - Resources for celebrating Independence Day.  Find 4th of July crafts, trivia, and barbeque recipes.
  • PBS: The Duel - The rules of dueling in accordance to The Code Duello.  Covers the practice of dueling and points of honor.
  • About.com: History of the Atomic Bomb - Information on the initiation and development of the Manhattan Project.
  • Google Moon - Collection of lunar maps and charts enables users to explore the Apollo missions.