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April is probably best known for April Fools Day and, much more importantly, Easter and Passover.
The first of April is April Fools’ Day or April Fool’s Day; it is an annual custom on 1 April consisting of practical jokes and hoaxes. Jokesters often expose their actions by shouting “April Fools!” at the recipient. Mass media can be involved in these pranks, which may be revealed as such the following day. The day is not a public holiday in any country except Odessa, Ukraine, where the first of April is an official city holiday. The custom of setting aside a day for playing harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor has been relatively common in the world historically.
Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. In the Julian Calendar, as in the Hindu calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox around April 1.
People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April fools.” These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.
And, there were some very meaningful military events in early April
On 2 Apr 1917, the world must be made safe for democracy, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed, as he appeared before Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Germany.
We shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, Wilson famously intoned, for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. In this speech, Wilson displayed the idealism and moral fervor that characterized his view of the rightful role of the US in the world—a supremely self-righteous outlook that would earn him acclaim from many and criticism and derision from others during his lifetime and after his death (especially after his pet project at war’s end, the League of Nations, proved a failure). It was also an outlook that would, for better or worse, determine the direction of US foreign policy for decades to come. On April 4, the US Senate voted in favor of war by 82 votes to 6; two days later, the House delivered their own yes vote by 373 votes to 50, formally announcing our entrance into WWI.
On 9 April 1865, at Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert Lee surrendered his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses Grant, effectively ending our Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option.
10 April 2022 is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels. Palm Sunday marks the first day of Holy Week. For adherents of Nicene Christianity, it is the last week of the Christian solemn season of Lent that precedes the arrival of Eastertide.
On April 10, 1778, Commander John Paul Jones and his crew of 140 men aboard the USS Ranger set sail from the naval port at Brest, France, and headed toward the Irish Sea to begin raids on British warships. This was the first mission of its kind during the Revolutionary War.
After departing from Brest, Jones successfully executed raids on two forts in England’s Whitehaven Harbor. Jones then continued to his home territory of Kirkcudbright Bay, Scotland, where he intended to abduct the earl of Selkirk and then exchange him for American sailors held captive by Britain. Although he did not find the earl at home, Jones crew was able to steal all his silver, including his wife s teapot, still containing her breakfast tea. From Scotland, Jones sailed across the Irish Sea to Carrickfergus, where the Ranger captured the HMS Drake after delivering fatal wounds to the British ship s captain and lieutenant.
In September 1779, Jones fought one of the fiercest battles in naval history when he led the USS Bonhomme Richard frigate, named for Benjamin Franklin, in an engagement with the 50-gun British warship HMS Serapis. After the Bonhomme Richard was struck, it began taking on water and caught fire. When the British captain of the Serapis ordered Jones to surrender, he famously replied, “I have not yet begun to fight!” A few hours later, the captain and crew of the Serapis admitted defeat and Jones took command of the British ship.
One of the greatest naval commanders in history, Jones is remembered as a “Father of the American Navy,” along with fellow Revolutionary War hero Commodore John Barry.
On 12 April 1861, the bloodiest four years in American history began when Confederate shore batteries under General Beauregard opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched over 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, US Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”
As early as 1858, the ongoing conflict between North and South over the issue of slavery had led Southern leadership to discuss a unified separation from the US. By 1860, the majority of the slave states were publicly threatening secession if the Republicans, the anti-slavery party, won the presidency. Following Republican Abraham Lincoln’s victory over the divided Democratic Party in November 1860, South Carolina immediately initiated secession proceedings. On December 20, the South Carolina legislature passed the “Ordinance of Secession,” which declared that “the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved.” After the declaration, South Carolina set about seizing forts, arsenals, and other strategic locations within the state. Within six weeks, five more Southern states–Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana–had followed South Carolina’s lead.
In February 1861, delegates from those states convened to establish a unified government. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was subsequently elected the first president of the Confederate
States of America. When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, a total of seven states (Texas had joined the pack) had seceded from the Union, and federal troops held only Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Fort Pickens off the Florida coast, and a handful of minor outposts in the South. Four years after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Confederacy was defeated at the total cost of 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead.
On 14 April 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln at a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington. Lee had surrendered and the Civil War was nearly over, although there were still Confederate forces yet to surrender. The president had recently visited the captured Rebel capital of Richmond, and now Lincoln sought a relaxing evening by attending a production of Our American Cousin starring Laura Keene. Ford’s Theater, seven blocks from the White House, was crammed with people trying to catch a glimpse of Grant, who was rumored to be in attendance. The general and his wife had cancelled abruptly for an out-of-town trip.
Lincoln occupied a booth above the stage with his wife; with them were Henry Rathbone, a young army officer; and his fiance, Clara Harris, daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris. The Lincolns arrived late for the comedy, but the president was in a fine mood and laughed heartily during the production. At 10:15, Booth slipped into the box and fired his .44-caliber single-shot derringer into the back of Lincoln’s head. Rathbone rushed Booth, who stabbed the soldier in the shoulder. Booth then leapt from the president’s box to the stage below, breaking his leg as he landed. He shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” (“Thus ever to tyrants!”–the Virginia state motto) and ran from the stage. There was a pause, as the crowd initially thought the unfolding drama was part of the production, but a scream from Mrs. Lincoln told them otherwise. The stricken president was carried from the box to a house across the street, where he died the following morning.
Booth was one of the most famous actors of his day, and Lincoln had seen him perform. He was a Maryland native with southern sympathies who hoped to aid the Confederacy by taking out the Union’s political leadership in one night. With Confederate president Jefferson Davis still free and General Joseph Johnston’s army still alive in the Carolinas, Booth thought the Confederate cause was not yet lost. He sent George Atzerodt to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson and Lewis Paine to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward. Atzerodt could not muster the courage to carry out his assignment, but Paine burst into Seward’s home and stabbed him as lay sick in bed. Although seriously wounded, Seward eventually recovered.
15 April 2022 is Good Friday and Passover begins.
* Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, Great and Holy Friday, and Black Friday.
* Passover, also called Pesach, is a major Jewish holiday that celebrates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, which occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the first month of Aviv, or spring. The word Pesach or Passover can also refer to the Korban Pesach, the paschal lamb that was offered when the Temple in Jerusalem stood; to the Passover Seder, the ritual meal on Passover night; or to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. One of the biblically ordained Three Pilgrimage Festivals, Passover is traditionally celebrated in the Land of Israel for seven days and for eight days among many Jews in the Diaspora.
An Aphorism is a statement of truth or opinion expressed in a concise and witty manner. The term is often applied to philosophical, moral and literary principles. Here are a few:
*I read that 4,153,237 people got married last year. Not to cause any trouble, but shouldn’t that be an even number?
*I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom until they are flashing behind you.
*When wearing a bikini, women reveal 90% of their body. Men are so polite they only look at the covered parts.
*Relationships are a lot like algebra. Have you ever looked at your X and wondered Y?
*America is a country which produces citizens who will cross the ocean to fight for democracy but won’t cross the street to vote.
*You know that tingly little feeling you get when you love someone? That’s your common sense leaving your body.
The Frontlines of Freedom Newsletter is published twice monthly; the dates of publication each month depend on the events and history of that month.