1939 Hitler survives assassination attempt On this day in 1939, on the 16th anniversary of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch, a bomb explodes just after Hitler has finished giving a speech. He was unharmed. Hitler had made an annual ritual on the anniversary of his infamous 1923 coup attempt, (Hitler’s first grab at power that ended in his arrest and the virtual annihilation of his National Socialist party), of regaling his followers with his vision of the Fatherland’s future. On this day, he had been addressing the Old Guard party members, those disciples and soldiers who had been loyal to Hitler and his fascist party since the earliest days of its inception. Just 12 minutes after Hitler had left the hall, along with important Nazi leaders who had accompanied him, a bomb exploded, which had been secreted in a pillar behind the speaker’s platform. Seven people were killed and 63 were wounded. The next day, the Nazi Party official paper, the Voelkischer Beobachter,squarely placed the blame on British secret agents, even implicating Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain himself. This work of propaganda was an attempt to stir up hatred for the British and whip the German people into a frenzy for war. But the inner-Nazi Party members knew better—they knew the assassination attempt was most probably the work of a German anti-Nazi military conspiracy. In an ingenious scheme to shift blame, while getting closer to the actual conspirators, Heinrich Himmler, the Gestapo chief, sent a subordinate, Walter Schellenberg, to Holland to make contact with British intelligence agents. The pretext of the meeting was to secure assurances from the British that in the event of an anti-Nazi coup, the British would support the new regime. The British agents were eager to gain whatever inside information they could about the rumored anti-Hitler movement within the German military; Schellenberg, posing as “Major Schaemmel,” was after whatever information British intelligence may have had on such a conspiracy within the German military ranks. But Himmler wanted more than talk—he wanted the British agents themselves. So on November 9, SS soldiers in Holland kidnapped, with Schellenberg’s help, two British agents, Payne Best and R.H. Stevens, stuffing them into a Buick and driving them across the border into Germany. Himmler now proudly announced to the German public that he had captured the British conspirators. The man who actually planted the bomb at their behest was declared to be Georg Elser, a German communist who made his living as a carpenter. While it seems certain that Elser did plant the bomb, who the instigators were—German military or British intelligence—remains unclear. All three “official” conspirators spent the war in Sachsenhausen concentration camp (Elser was murdered by the Gestapo on April 16, 1945—so he could never tell his story). Hitler dared not risk a public trial, as there were just too many holes in the “official” story. 1864 Lincoln reelected Abraham Lincoln when they elect him to a second term. With his re-election, any hope for a negotiated settlement with the Confederacy vanished. In 1864, Lincoln faced many challenges to his presidency. The war was now in its fourth year, and many were questioning if the South could ever be fully conquered militarily. Union General Ulysses S. Grant mounted a massive campaign in the spring of that year to finally defeat the Confederate army of General Robert E. Lee, but after sustaining significant losses at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, the Yankees bogged down around Petersburg, Virginia. As the fall approached, Grant seemed no closer to defeating Lee than his predecessors. Additionally, Union General William T. Sherman was planted outside of Atlanta, but he could not take that city. Some of the Radical Republicans were unhappy with Lincoln’s conciliatory plan for reconstruction of the South. And many Northerners had never been happy with Lincoln’s 1862 Emancipation Proclamation, which converted the war from one of reunion to a crusade to destroy slavery. Weariness with the war fueled calls for a compromise with the seceded states. The Democrats nominated George B. McClellan, the former commander of the Union Army of the Potomac. McClellan was widely regarded as brilliant in organizing and training the army, but he had failed to defeat Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia.McClellan and Lincoln quarreled constantly during his tenure as general in chief of the army, and Lincoln replaced him when McClellan failed to pursue Lee into Virginia after the Battle of Antietamin Maryland inSeptember 1862. In the months leading up to the 1864 election, the military situation changed dramatically. While Grant remained stalled at Petersburg, Mobile Bay fell to the Federal navy in August, Sherman captured Atlanta in September, and General Philip Sheridan secured Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in October. On election day, Lincoln carried all but three states (Kentucky, New Jersey, and Delaware), and won 55 percent of the vote. He won 212 electoral votes to McCellan’s 21. Most significantly, a majority of the Union troops voted for their commander in chief, including a large percentage of McClellan’s old command, the Army of the Potomac. Perhaps most important was the fact that the election was held at all. Before this, no country had ever held elections during a military emergency. Lincoln himself said, “We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.” Five months after Lincoln’s re-election, the collapse of the Confederacy was complete.