Today in History

AP News
Posted: Dec 13, 2009 12:00 AM

Today is Sunday, Dec. 13, the 347th day of 2009. There are 18 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 13, 1862, Union forces suffered a major defeat to the Confederates in the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg.

On this date:

In 1642, Dutch navigator Abel Tasman sighted present-day New Zealand.

In 1769, Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., received its charter.

In 1835, Phillips Brooks, the American Episcopal bishop who wrote the words to "O Little Town of Bethlehem," was born in Boston.

In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson arrived in France, becoming the first chief executive to visit Europe while in office.

In 1928, George Gershwin's musical work "An American in Paris" had its premiere, at Carnegie Hall in New York.

In 1944, during World War II, the U.S. cruiser Nashville was badly damaged in a Japanese kamikaze attack that claimed more than 130 lives.

In 1978, the Philadelphia Mint began stamping the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which went into circulation in July 1979.

In 1981, authorities in Poland imposed martial law in a crackdown on the Solidarity labor movement. (Martial law formally ended in 1983.)

In 1994, an American Eagle commuter plane crashed short of Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina, killing 15 of the 20 people on board.

In 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces while hiding in a hole at a farmhouse in Adwar, Iraq, near his hometown of Tikrit.

Ten years ago: In a spirited presidential campaign debate, Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain fought over tax policy and farm subsidies, while McCain was pushed to defend his centerpiece campaign finance proposals. A group of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service detainees, mostly Cubans, took the warden of the St. Martin Parish Jail in Louisiana and three guards hostage, demanding freedom. (Two hostages were released as two detainees surrendered on Dec. 15; the remaining hostage-takers surrendered Dec. 18.)

Five years ago: A jury in Redwood City, Calif., recommended the death penalty for Scott Peterson for the murders of his wife and unborn child. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe resigned. A Chilean judge indicted former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet on charges of kidnapping nine political dissidents and killing one of them during his 17-year military regime. (However, Pinochet never faced trial, and died in 2006 at age 91.)

One year ago: The White House weighed its options for preventing a collapse of the troubled U.S. auto industry. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy after guiding the highest-scoring team in major college football history to the national championship game.

Today's Birthdays: Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz is 89. Actor-comedian Dick Van Dyke is 84. Actor Christopher Plummer is 80. Country singer Buck White is 79. Music/film producer Lou Adler is 76. Movie producer Richard Zanuck is 75. Singer John Davidson is 68. Actress Kathy Garver ("Family Affair") is 64. Rock musician Ted Nugent is 61. Rock musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter is 61. Country musician Ron Getman is 61. Actor Robert Lindsay is 60. Country singer-musician Randy Owen is 60. Actress Wendie Malick is 59. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is 59. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is 56. Country singer John Anderson is 55. Singer-songwriter Steve Forbert is 55. Singer-actor Morris Day is 53. Actor Steve Buscemiis 52. Actor Johnny Whitaker is 50. Actor-comedian Jamie Foxx is 42. Actor Bart Johnson is 39. TV personality Debbie Matenopoulos is 35. Rock singer-musician Thomas Delonge is 34. Actor James Kyson Lee is 34. Actress Chelsea Hertford is 28. Rock singer Amy Lee (Evanescence) is 28. Country singer Taylor Swift is 20.

Thought for Today: "A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few." _ Judge Learned Hand, American jurist (1872-1961).