Monday, June 5, 2017

June 5, 1893 -- Fort Dearborn Begins, Recollections

June 5, 1893 – The Chicago Daily Tribune features a short article that summarizes the recollections of James Whistler Wood of Marshall, Michigan regarding the first sailing vessel to reach what would become the Port of Chicago.  According to Wood the first vessel to drop anchor at the mouth of the Chicago River was the schooner Tracy in the year 1803.  The ship was either “owned or chartered by the government, and conveyed Capt. John Whistler, U. S. A., and his command, together with supplies and material for the construction of a fort at the mouth of the Chicago River.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 5, 1893] The first steamships to arrive in Chicago, according to Wood, were the Sheldon Thompson and the William Penn that “stirred the waters of Chicago harbor and arrived there together on July 8, 1831, having on board Gen. Winfield Scott and soldiers for the Black Hawk war.” When these two ships arrived, the small hamlet could still “boast of only five houses, and three of those were built of logs.”  The portrait above is of Captain John Whistler, who was born in Ulster in 1756, ran away from home and fought with the British Army in the Revolutionary War, then settled in Hagerstown, Maryland before joining the United States Army.  Severely wounded in 1791 in the Indian Wars, he commanded the military settlement at Fort Dearborn when it was established in 1803.

June 5, 1942 – The United States Naval Training station at Great Lakes opens its doors for the first time to African-American recruits bound for active duty as apprentice seamen and firemen aboard warships. The first of the recruits, Doreston Luke Carmen, Jr., a 19-year-old, one of nine children from a Galveston, Texas family, is sworn in on this day after his first train trip. “I like the Navy fine already,” he says. “Last night I slept in a hammock for the first time and didn’t fall out.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 6, 1942] The commandant of the station, Lieutenant Commander Daniel W. Armstrong, says that he will wait until all 50 recruits have arrived before issuing them regulation uniforms and sending them through the classification office. The Navy opened all ratings to African-American sailors from the time of the Civil War until 1922, but from that date until 1936 the Navy ended the policy. In 1936 that policy was reversed, but African-American sailors were only posted as mess attendants.

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