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On This Day: July 21

1832 - Battle of Wisconsin Heights

On July 21, 1832, soldiers led by Colonel Henry Dodge caught up with Black Hawk near the Wisconsin River, outside present-day Sauk City. Black Hawk commanded only a small group of warriors from atop a hill, while Dodge pursued with a much stronger force of militia. Although greatly outnumbered, Sauk warriors turned the attack on American troops, allowing the Indian women and children to flee across the Wisconsin River. Black Hawk and his men were forced to retreat to the river, but night was falling so Dodge decided to continue the battle in the morning. But when the American troops went after the Sauk Indians the next day, the Sauk had crossed the river and disappeared. One American was killed and eight wounded while at least 50 Indians were killed and another 80 wounded. You can read accounts of this battle by both Black Hawk and Henry Dodge at our site for teachers and students. [Source: Along the Black Hawk Trial by William F. Stark, p. 124-128]

1861 - (Civil War) First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia

Bull Run was the first major engagement of the war. This embarrassing Union defeat convinced many observers that the conflict would be longer and more brutal than they had anticipated. The 2nd Wisconsin Infantry was the only Wisconsin regiment engaged at Bull Run. It made several unsuccessful assaults on the enemy position, losing 19 men with 114 wounded. Thirty-eight Wisconsin soldiers were taken prisoner and confined at Richmond. They were released early in 1862.

1921 - General Billy Mitchell Proves Theory of Air Power

On this date Milwaukee's General William "Billy" Mitchell proved to the world that development of military air power was not outlandish. He flew his De Havilland DH-4B fighter, leading a bombing demonstration that proved a naval ship could be sunk by air bombardment. Mitchell's ideas for developing military air power were innovative but largely ignored by those who favored development of military sea power. Mitchell zealously advocated his views and was eventually court martialed for speaking out against the United States' organization of its forces. [Source: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Division of Archives & Special Collections]

1972 - George Carlin Arrested at Summerfest

On this date comedian George Carlin was arrested at Summerfest in Milwaukee after performing his "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" skit. At this same festival, Plasmatics vocalist Wendy O. Williams was also arrested for obscenity. [Source: Oddball Wisconsin by Jerome Pohlen, p.187]