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On This Day: July 3

1816 - Fort Crawford Construction Begins

On this date contruction began on Fort Crawford. When the War of 1812 ended, the British burned the fort at Prairie du Chien. The Americans began construction of a new fort and named it Fort Crawford. [Source: History Just Ahead: A Guide to Wisconsin's Historical Markers, edited by Sarah Davis McBride]

1863 - (Civil War) Final Day of Fighting at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

July 3, 1863, is famous for Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, when 12,500 Confederate soldiers attacked the Union line. When Union generals were carried from the field wounded, their troops faltered and their line began to break. Lieutenant Frank Haskell of Madison rode into their midst, rallied them back to the fight, and then brought reinforcements that stopped the enemy attack. Iron Brigade General John Gibbon commented afterward, "I have always thought that to him, more than to any one man, are we indebted for the repulse of Lee's assault." It turned not only the tide of the battle but, through the Confederate defeat, the momentum of the war.

1863 - Lt. Alonzo Cushing Killed at Gettysburg

Cushing (1841-1863) was raised in Delafield, Wis., graduated from West Point on June 24, 1861, and was immediately appointed 1st lieutenant of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery. Two years later, on the final day at Gettysburg, Cushing commanded 110 men and six cannons positioned on Cemetery Ridge. They received the full force of Pickett’s Charge of 13,000 infantry. Within just a few hours, all of his officers had been killed, and all but two of his guns had been silenced. He was shot through both thighs but refused to withdraw from the field. He was then shot in the shoulder and abdomen but continued to fight. As Cushing loaded his cannon for the last time, he was shot in the head and instantly killed. On May 20, 2010, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery. [Source: WHS Civil War page about Cushing]

1919 - Milwaukee County's First Airport Established

On this date one of the earliest publicly owned airports in the United States was established. Use of the airport ceased when the need for more space resulted in the purchase or Hamilton airport, now Mitchell Field. [Source: History Just Ahead: A Guide to Wisconsin's Historical Markers edited by Sarah Davis McBride, p.39]

2005 - Gaylord Nelson dies

On this day in 2005, Wisconsin Governor and Senator Gaylord M. Nelson passed away. He is best-remembered as an environmental reformer and the creator of Earth Day. Borrowing a tactic of the anti-Vietnam war protests, the teach-in, Sen. Nelson suggested a full day be dedicated to teaching and learning about the environment. Nelson believed that if citizens knew more about the environment, they would demand better protection. His efforts led to the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.