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On This Day: April 30

1845 - Wisconsin Approves Free Schools

On this date, under the leadership of Michael Frank, Wisconsin adopted "free" education for its residents. Frank's plan narrowly passed the legislature by a vote of 90 to 79. Frank's motivation for free education in Wisconsin was partially inspired by a similar campaign, promoted by Horace Mann in Massachusetts. On June 16, 1845 the first free school opened in Wisconsin. It was one of only three free schools in the country, outside the New England states. By August 1845, Wisconsin had five free schools in operation. [Source: Badger Saints and Sinners, Fred L. Holmes, pg 78-92]

1864 - (Civil War) Battle of Jenkin's Ferry, Arkansas

This was the final battle of the abortive Camden Expedition; a part of the Union's disastrous Red River Campaign. Union forces managed to hold off their adversaries long enough to escape to Little Rock. The 9th and 27th Wisconsin Infantry regiments took part in this battle.

1864 - Joseph Bailey Saves Union Fleet

On this date Joseph Bailey began to direct the men of six regiments, including the 23rd Wisconsin, in a dramatic attempt to save the heart of the Union fleet during the Civil War. Bailey, who was from Wisconsin Dells and an experienced lumberjack, served as an engineer in the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry. In a doomed campaign against the Confederates on the Red River in Louisiana, Union warships found themselves trapped by low water and the rocky river bed. As Confederate soldiers approached, Bailey employed water control techniques used by loggers to construct a series of dams that successfully narrowed the river, raised the water level by six feet, and provided enough surge to free the trapped fleet of gunboats. For his role in this rescue, Bailey was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. He also received a Tiffany punch bowl from his fellow officers. [Wisconsin Lore and Legend, pg. 18.]

1942 - Manitowoc Company Launches First Submarine

On this date the submarine Peto was launched sideways into the Manitowoc River. This was the first submarine built by the Wisconsin company and, equally important, the first time a submarine was launched sideways instead of nose first. At 11:45 a.m. the wife of the 9th Naval district's chief of staff christened the vessel with champagne. The 1,500 ton sub shot down the launch skids and hit the river. The Peto was 311 feet long and built to carry 85 men and 24 torpedoes. Prior to WWII, the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company manufactured car ferries, tankers, and river boats. The Peto was one of 28 submarines they produced during wartime. [Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]