March 20, 141 AD - The sixth recorded perihelion passage of Halley's Comet took place.
March 20, 1616 – Sir Walter Raleigh was freed from the Tower of London after 13 years of imprisonment.
March 20, 1773 – Scientist and author William Bartram departed Philadelphia for the botanical expedition he would later chronicle in his book, “Travels.”
March 20, 1777 – Edmund P. Gaines was born in Culpepper County, Va. In February 1807, he and a detachment of mounted riflemen would arrest former Vice President Aaron Burr on the road north of Fort Stoddert and escort him to Washington, D.C. for trial on charges of treason. Gaines would pass away on June 6, 1849 at the age of 76 in New Orleans, and he’s buried in the Church Street Graveyard in Mobile.
March 20, 1778 - Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee presented themselves to France's King Louis XVI as official representatives of the United States.
March 20, 1814 - Alabama author George Washington Harris was born near Pittsburgh, Pa.
March 20, 1818 – Capt. William Butler was killed near what is now Butler Springs Ala. when he and four others traveling from Fort Bibb to Fort Dale were attacked by Creek Indians led by Savannah Jack. Butler managed to kill one of the attackers, but was overpowered by their numbers. His body and those others killed were found horribly mutilated the next day and were buried in the woods.
March 20, 1823 – Dime novelist Ned Buntline was born Edward Zane Carroll Judson in Harpersfield, N.Y.
March 20, 1824 – German explorer and ornithologist Theodor von Heuglin was born in Hirschlanden (now part of Ditzingen) in Württemberg.
March 20, 1828 – Playwright Henrik Ibsen was born in Norway.
March 20, 1833 – Andrew Barclay Spurling was born in Cranberry Isles, Maine.
March 20, 1852 - Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," subtitled "Life Among the Lowly," was first published.
March 20, 1853 – Albert Gallatin Mackey communicated the Scottish Rite degrees to Albert Pike in Charleston, S.C.
March 20, 1854 – The Republican Party of the United States was organized in Ripon, Wisconsin.
March 20, 1861 - U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's sons, Willie and Tad, were diagnosed with the measles, adding to the president’s many troubles. The boys recovered from the measles; however, in 1862, Willie contracted typhoid fever. He lay sick for weeks before dying on February 20. Tad Lincoln died from illness at age 18 in 1871. The Lincoln’s second son, Eddie, died shortly before his fourth birthday, in 1850. Only the Lincoln’s first child, Robert, lived to an advanced age; he passed away at age 82 in 1926.
March 20, 1861 – During the Civil War, Fort Brown and Fort Duncan, both in Texas, were abandoned by Federal forces.
March 20, 1862 – During the Civil War, Union Major General Benjamin Butler assumed command of the Department of Gulf, at Ship Island, Miss., in preparation for the Federal assault of the mouth of the Mississippi River and, subsequently, New Orleans, La. A Federal operation was also conducted between Washington and New Berne, N.C. Skirmishes were fought in the vicinity of Bluffton, Buckingham Island and Hunting Island, S.C.; and at Philippi, West Virginia.
March 20, 1862 – During the Civil War, Federal reconnaissance was conducted to Dumfries, Va. Drewry’s Bluff was the name of a high cliff on the James River as you came upstream from the Atlantic Ocean to Richmond, Va. Jefferson Davis had ordered the construction of a fort there. He wrote today: “The position of Drewry’s Bluff, seven or eight miles below Richmond, was chosen to obstruct the river against such vessels as the ’Monitor." It worked, too--the fort was still in use until the Confederate government fled Richmond.
March 20, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Saint Andrew’s Bay, Fla.; and at Vaught’s Hill, in the vicinity of Milton, Tenn.
March 20, 1863 – During the Civil War, Admiral David Farragut had gotten past Port Hudson, but lost most of his ships in the process and was now in the middle of a river with Confederate forces on both sides. He was also low on fuel. He got ashore to a telegraph line and sent a message to General Grant upstream. Grant managed to float a coal barge under the guns of Vicksburg, and Farragut had his fuel.
March 20, 1864 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Arkadelphia and Roseville Creek, Ark. and along the Red River at Bayou Rapides, La. A 10-day Federal operation in Jackson and La Fayette Counties, Mo. began.
March 20, 1865 - A plan by John Wilkes Booth to abduct U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was ruined when Lincoln changed his plans and did not appear at the Soldier’s Home near Washington, D.C.
March 20, 1865 - Union troops continued to arrive at Bentonville, N.C. to give Union General William T. Sherman a nearly three to one advantage over the Confederate army led by General Joseph Johnston.
March 20, 1865 - Federal forces departed Pensacola, Fla. for Mobile, Ala.
March 20, 1865 - Pvt. John W. Black, a member of Co. H of the 17th Alabama Regiment (The Scotland Invincibles), died. He enlisted on Oct. 25, 1861 in Shorter, Ala. and was discharged due to disability on May 26, 1862. He re-enlisted at Camp Davis on Oct. 25, 1862, and on July 2, 1864, he was wounded in the right shoulder at Kennesaw Mountain. He was wounded at the Battle of Poor House (also known as the Battle of Ezra Church) on July 28, 1864 and was forwarded to the general hospital on July 31, 1864. He was later injured in the right foot and thigh at Franklin, Tenn. and became unable to keep up with his unit. He was taken prisoner at Nashville on Nov. 30, 1864 and was forwarded to the Louisville Military Prison in Kentucky. He was forwarded to Camp Chase Prison in Ohio on March 10, 1865 and he died there on March 20, 1865. He is buried in Row No. 36, Plot No. 14, Grave No. 1721 in the Camp Chase Prison Cemetery.
March 20, 1865 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought in the vicinity of Talbot’s Ferry, Ark.; at Ringgold Gap, Ga.; along Bayou Teche, La.; at Lexington, Mo.; in the vicinity of Falling Creek, N.C.; and at Fisher’s Hill, Va. A Federal operation was conducted from Harper’s Ferry into Loudoun County, Va., and a Federal reconnaissance was conducted between Kabletown and Myer’s Ford, West Virginia.
March 20, 1865 – During the Civil War, Federal troops continued to arrive at Bentonville, N.C. to give Federal General William T. Sherman a nearly a three to one advantage over the Confederate army led by General Joseph Johnston. Johnston did on this day what few other Confederate commanders could claim - he stopped Sherman’s army. He had stopped Slocum’s left wing the day before, and the entire army made no progress as the right under Howard was obliged to come around as backup. The fight was on horrid terrain that was quicksand in wet weather. Even in dry times it was lacking covering vegetation, and too sandy to hold any sort of artillery. No pitched battle developed, but skirmishing occurred somewhere almost all day long.
March 20, 1872 - Because of financial problems, the Methodist church transferred the grounds, buildings, and legal control of East Alabama Male College in Auburn to the State of Alabama. The institution was re-chartered as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, the first land-grant college in the South to be established separate from the state university. The school became Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1899 and Auburn University in 1960.
March 20, 1888 - The Sherlock Holmes Adventure, "A Scandal in Bohemia," began.
March 20, 1892 - A logging railroad first reached Elba, Ala. on this date with the first permanent rail line arriving over six years later in October 1898.
March 20, 1895 – Lillie Irene Gibbons, the “mystery tombstone” lady of Evergreen, Ala, was born.
March 20, 1904 – Psychologist B.F. Skinner was born in Susquehanna, Pa.
March 20, 1905 – A number of hunters shot a “dozen or more” ducks inside the Monroeville, Ala. corporate limits on this Monday morning. “The birds were attracted by the ponds of water collected after the rains” on March 19.
March 20, 1915 – A “flurry of snow, lasting about 20 minutes” occurred in Evergreen, Ala. on this Saturday morning. The temperature dropped to 28 degrees on this day and the next.
March 20, 1915 – A “light fall of snow” fell in Monroeville, Ala.
March 20, 1915 – According to the final report of cotton ginned in Alabama in 1914, issued by the census bureau, showed a total of 1,730,670 bales as against 1,483,669 for 1913. Of this number, Monroe County furnished 24,362 as compared with 22,530 as in 1913.
March 20, 1915 - Just two days after its navy suffered a demoralizing defeat against Turkish forces at the Dardanelles, the British government signed a secret agreement with Russia regarding the hypothetical post-World War I division of the former Ottoman Empire.
March 20, 1916 – Monroe County Circuit Court convened in Monroeville, Ala. on this Monday with Judge Ben D. Turner presiding and Solicitor McDuffie representing the state. L.W. Locklin was made foreman of the grand jury. Only one week of court was to be held because of a light docket.
March 20, 1916 – Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity, which proposed that massive objects, like planets, create a distortion in space-time that is felt as gravity.
March 20, 1917 – Hugh Hunter Allen, who is buried in the Belleville (Ala.) Baptist Church cemetery, was born. He served in World War II and Korea after enlisting in 1936. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese on April 15, 1942, and survived the Bataan Death March and prisoner of war camps in the Philippines and Japan. He was a POW for three years and seven months and later received the Purple Heart. He retired in 1960 as a Master Sergeant in the Air Force and passed away on Nov. 9, 1995.
March 20, 1922 - U.S. President Warren G. Harding ordered U.S. troops back from the Rhineland.
March 20, 1928 – Beloved children’s television host Fred Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pa.
March 20, 1933 – Giuseppe Zangara was executed in Florida's electric chair for fatally shooting Anton Cermak in an assassination attempt against President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt.
March 20, 1933 – Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler ordered the creation of Dachau concentration camp as Chief of Police of Munich and appointed Theodor Eicke as the camp commandant.
March 20, 1934 - Mildrid “Babe” Didrikson pitched one inning of exhibition baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics in a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. She started the first inning, and allowed just one walk and no hits. Though Didrickson was not the first woman to play baseball with major league ballplayers, she had attained national-hero status with an unprecedented performance at the 1932 Olympics.
March 20, 1942 - The USS Birmingham (CL-62), a light cruiser commissioned by the U.S. Navy and named for the largest city in Alabama, was launched. It was constructed by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Virginia and saw action in the Mediterranean in 1943 and later in the Pacific Theater of Operations, where the ship participated in numerous battles and was heavily damaged on three occasions. In January 1946, the Navy decommissioned the Birmingham and it was sold for scrap in December 1959.
March 20, 1947 – The Evergreen Courant reported that due to the illness of the newspaper’s Linotype operator, E.B. James, The Courant was coming to its readers a day later than usual. James had taken ill that Monday and was not able to return to work until Thursday afternoon. The newspaper was also forced to omit numerous news items and quite a number of ads. Those were to appear in the next issue, though later than intended.
March 20, 1947 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Staff Sgt. William H. Alexander of Brooklyn, Ala. was now serving with the 8th Engineer Squadron, which was attached to the famous 1st Cavalry Division in the occupation of the Japanese capital of Tokyo. Alexander, communications chief for the 8th Engineers, had served in the army since June 26, 1941. Alexander was an instructor in the states until June 7, 1944, when he sailed to the Pacific Theatre of Operations and took part in the Philippine and Okinawa campaigns. Alexander, the son of A.L. Alexander of Brooklyn, arrived with the 8th Engineers on Feb. 18, 1947.
March 20, 1947 – Turkey season opened in Alabama. Only one gobbler a day could be killed and a bag limit of five for the season, to include those killed in both the fall and spring seasons, were allowed. The season ended on April 15.
March 20, 1954 - After a force of 60,000 Viet Minh with heavy artillery had surrounded 16,000 French troops, news of Dien Bien Phu’s impending fall reached Washington.
March 20, 1958 – Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson was born in Pahokee, Fla. He went on to play for the University of Pittsburgh, the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
March 20, 1965 - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered 4,000 troops to protect the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marchers.
March 20, 1967 – U.S. Marine Luther Upton of Uriah, Ala. arrived in Vietnam. He would survive the Seige of Khe Sahn and would go on to become a radio personality in Southwest Alabama. He would also serve as an Evergreen city councilman.
March 20, 1968 - Retired U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Shoup estimated that up to 800,000 men would be required just to defend South Vietnamese population centers.
March 20, 1971 - Ewing Baxter McRady, 80, of Evergreen, Ala. died in a Montgomery hospital after a long illness. A native of Tennessee, McRady worked for Wild Bros. Hardware in Evergreen for 40 years before retiring in 1956. He was “generally recognized as one of the most knowledgeable men in his field in this area.”
March 20, 1974 - Alvis Griffin killed a fine gobbler on the opening day of the spring turkey hunting season on this Wednesday, according to The Evergreen Courant. The bird weighed 18-3/4 pounds and had an 8-3/4 inch beard.
March 20, 1976 – Singer-songwriter, producer and actor Chester Bennington was born in Phoenix, Az.
March 20, 1980 – The Fort Dale Street Historic District in Greenville, Ala. was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
March 20, 1981 - NFL owners adopted a disaster plan for re-stocking a team should a club be involved in a fatal accident.
March 20, 1989 - It was announced that Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose was under investigation.
March 20, 1995 - Tim Covin, brother of the late Tracy Covin, presented the first Tracy Covin Memorial Showmanship Award to Shannon Ballard, the top senior showman at the Conecuh County (Ala.) 4-H and FFA Steer Show.
March 20, 2000 – According to a survey released on this day by television station GMTV in London, 42 percent believe in ghosts and almost half of this number said that they had seen or felt the presence of a ghost.
March 20, 2001 – The Globald Underwater Search Team, led by Swedish journalist and lake monster hunter Jan Sundberg, began “Operation Clean Sweep” in which they planned to place a large funnel-shaped net in Loch Ness and use it to trap any “Nessies” swimming in the shallows.
March 20, 2003 - In the early hours of the morning, the United States and three other countries (the UK, Australia and Poland) begin military operations in Iraq, invading Iraq from Kuwait.
March 20, 2005 - Major League Baseball players and owners agreed to remove fines as a possible discipline for positive testing of steroids. This left suspensions as the only punishment.
March 20, 2009 - Dave Holloway flew a search dog to Aruba to search a small reservoir in northern Aruba, previously identified by a supposed witness as a possible location of Natalee Holloway's remains. Aruban authorities indicated that they had no new information in the case, but that Holloway had been given permission to conduct the search.
March 20, 2010 – Alabama Appeals Court Judge Sam Welch issued the Oath of Office to Evergreen (Ala.) Mayor Pete Wolff at 3:45 p.m. on the steps of Evergreen City Hall, ending a 1-1/2 year long dispute over Evergreen’s mayoral election.
March 20, 2012 – At least 52 people were killed and more than 250 injured in a wave of terror attacks across ten cities in Iraq.
March 20, 2013 – New Zealand-born mountaineer, explorer, film director and educator Wallace George Lowe passed away at the age of 89 at a nursing home in Ripley, Derbyshire, England, after an illness. He was the last surviving member of the 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition, during which his friend Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first known people to summit the world's highest peak.