• On April 12, 1861, the Civil War begins when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay in South Carolina. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort.
• On April 7, 1891, American showman P.T. Barnum dies in Bridgeport, Conn. The 81-year-old Barnum’s sense of humor never deserted him. He requested that a New York paper run his obituary before he died so he could enjoy reading it, and the paper obliged.
• On April 6, 1909, American explorer Robert Peary accomplishes a long elusive dream when he and Matthew Henson reach what they determine to be the North Pole. Decades after Peary’s death, however, navigational errors in his travel log surfaced, placing the expedition in all probability a few miles short of its goal.
• On April 8, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorizes almost $5 million to implement work-relief programs. Hoping to lift the country out of the Great Depression, Congress allowed the president to use the funds at his discretion. The act was unprecedented and remains the largest system of public-assistance relief programs in the nation’s history.
• On April 11, 1945, the American Third Army liberates the Buchenwald concentration camp, near Weimar, Germany, a camp that will be judged second only to Auschwitz in the horrors it imposed on its prisoners. Among those saved by the Americans was Elie Wiesel, who would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
• On April 10, 1953, “House of Wax,” starring Vincent Price, opens at New York’s Paramount Theater. The first color three-dimensional picture, the movie had to be viewed through special glasses.
• On April 9, 1969, the Chicago Eight, indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, plead not guilty. The trial turned into a circus as the defendants and their attorneys used the court as a platform to attack President Nixon, the Vietnam War, racism and oppression.
(c) 2009 King Features Synd.,