October 12. 1492
Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer, sighted Watling Island in the Bahamas. He believed that he had found Asia while attempting to find a Western ocean route to India. The same day he claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain.
October 12. 1692
The Salem witch trials are ended by a letter from Massachusetts Governor William Phips.
October 12. 1773
America’s first insane asylum opens for ‘Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds’ in Virginia.
October 12. 1775
The Irish Parliament finalizes an address to King George III, pledging their “unfeigned zeal and unshaken loyalty” for the King and the British government.
October 12. 1776
Thomas Jefferson: “obtained leave to bring in a bill declaring tenants in tail to hold their lands in fee simple.” He won the battle to repeal the laws of entail which allowed transfer of land to an heir of body, not wives or adopted child and led to large land holding interests. He wrote “The repeal of the laws of entail would prevent the accumulation and perpetuation of wealth, in select families, and preserve the soil of the country from being daily more and more absorbed in mortmain. The abolition of primogeniture, and equal partition of inheritances, removed the feudal and unnatural distinctions which made one member of every family rich, and all the rest poor, substituting equal partition, the best of all Agrarian laws.”
October 12. 1776
British General Henry Clinton led a force of 4000 men up the East River at Throg’s Neck. Washington sent a force, not to oppose but to remove the bridge that connected the neck with the mainland.
General Howe, on the 12th, leaving Percy in command before Harlem Heights, moved the greater part of his army nine miles up the East River to Throg’s Neck, a peninsula in the Sound, separated from the mainland by a narrow creek and a marsh that was overflowed at high tide. By landing here suddenly, Howe hoped to get in Washington’s rear and cut him off from his base of supply in Connecticut. But Washington had foreseen the move and forestalled it. When Howe arrived a Throg’s Neck, he found the bridge over the creek destroyed, and the main shore occupied by a force which it would be dangerous to try to dislodge by wading across the marsh. While Howe was thus detained six days on the peninsula, Washington moved his base to White Plains, and concentrated his whole army at that point, abandoning everything on Manhattan Island except Fort Washington. Sullivan, Stirling, and Morgan, who had just been exchanged, now rejoined the army, and Lee also arrived from South Carolina.
By this movement to White Plains, Washington had foiled Howe’s attempt to get in his rear, and the British general decided to try the effect of an attack in front. On the 28th of October he succeeded in storming an outpost at Chatterton Hill, losing 229 lives, while the Americans lost 140. But this affair, which is sometimes known as the battle of white Plains, seems to have discouraged Howe. Before renewing the attack he waited three days, thinking perhaps of Bunker Hill; and on the last night of October, Washington fell back upon North Castle, where he took a position so strong that it was useless to think of assailing him. Howe then changed his plans entirely, and moved down the east bank of the Hudson to Dobb’s Ferry, whence he could either attack Fort Washington, or cross into New Jersey and advance upon Philadelphia, the “rebel capital.” The purpose of this change was to entice Washington from his unassailable position.
October 12, 1792
First celebration of Columbus Day in the USA held in New York.
October 12, 1792
The first monument honoring Christopher Columbus was dedicated in Baltimore, Maryland.
October 12, 1793
The cornerstone of Old East, the oldest state university building in the United States, is laid on the campus of the University of North Carolina
October 12, 1892
The Pledge of Allegiance is first recited by students in many US public schools, as part of a celebration marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage.