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On This Day: December 12

1804 - Michael Frank Born

On this date Michael Frank, noted education leader in Wisconsin, was born in New York. Michael moved to the Wisconsin Territory in 1839, settling in Kenosha. He was inspired by Horace Mann's fight for free schooling in Massachusetts. Frank's cause attracted many followers in Wisconsin and in April, 1845 he celebrated the approval of free schooling legislation. By the summer of 1845, Wisconsin had five free schools in operation. Wisconsin became one of the first of three states west of New England to offer free education. [Source: Badgers Saints and Sinners by Fred L. Holmes,  p. 78-92]

1862 - (Civil War) Battle of Fredericksburg Unfolds in Virginia

In one of the war's most lopsided battles, Confederate troops with superior field position slaughtered Union forces trying to pass through Fredericksburg. The 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin Infantry regiments and Company G of the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters were present but their losses were small. The Wisconsin 5th Infantry was under fire for most of the three days but miraculously escaped major harm. Berdan's Sharpshooters were deployed at multiple locations during the battle to pick off Confederate artillerymen and cover the Union retreat.

1953 - Eaton Chapel at Beloit College Burns

On this date Eaton Chapel at Beloit College was devastated by fire. The fire was detected by a passing student shortly after six o'clock. By 7:30 p.m., the entire roof was engulfed in flames reaching far into the sky. By 10 o'clock, the flames were extinguished. A student later confessed to setting the fire. [Source: Beliot Archives]