The Boston Tea Party In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians board three British tea ships and dump 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the “Boston Tea Party,” was in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny. When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at some $18,000. Parliament, outraged by the blatant destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. The colonists subsequently called the first Continental Congress to consider a united American resistance to the British. 1811 Earthquake rocks the American wilderness In the Mississippi River Valley near New Madrid, Missouri, the greatest series of earthquakes in U.S. history begins when a quake of an estimated 8.6 magnitude on the Richter scale slams the region. Although the earthquake greatly altered the topography of the region, the area was only sparsely inhabited at the time, and there were no known human fatalities. The earthquake raised and lowered parts of the Mississippi Valley by as much as 15 feet and changed the course of the Mississippi River. At one point, the Mississippi momentarily reversed its direction, giving rise to Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee. A 30,000-square-mile area was affected, and tremors were felt as far away as the eastern coast of the United States, where the shock was reported to have rung church bells. Additional earthquakes and aftershocks continued throughout the winter and into the spring, and of the approximately 2,000 seismic vibrations felt during the period, five were estimated to be at an 8.0 or greater magnitude. The New Madrid Fault system extends 120 miles southward from the area of Charleston, Missouri, to Marked Tree, Arkansas, and crosses through five states–Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. An earthquake of about 6.0 magnitude or greater occurs about every 80 years, and the catastrophic upheavals of the type reported in the winter of 1811 to 1812 occur about every 500 or 600 years. 1944 Battle of the Bulge begins With the Anglo-Americans closing in on Germany from the west and the Soviets approaching from the east, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler orders a massive attack against the western Allies by three German armies. The German counterattack out of the densely wooded Ardennes region of Belgium took the Allies entirely by surprise, and the experienced German troops wrought havoc on the American line, creating a triangular “bulge” 60 miles deep and 50 miles wide along the Allied front. Conditions of fog and mist prevented the unleashing of Allied air superiority, and for several days Hitler’s desperate gamble seemed to be paying off. However, unlike the French in 1940, the embattled Americans kept up a fierce resistance even after their lines of communication had been broken, buying time for a three-point counteroffensive led by British General Bernard Montgomery and American generals Omar Bradley and George Patton. Fighting was particularly fierce at the town of Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne Division and part of the 10th Armored Division were encircled by German forces within the bulge. On December 22, the German commander besieging the town demanded that the Americans surrender or face annihilation. U.S. Major General Anthony McAuliffe prepared a typed reply that read simply: To the German Commander: Nuts! From the American Commander The Americans who delivered the message explained to the perplexed Germans that the one-word reply was translatable as “Go to hell!” Heavy fighting continued at Bastogne, but the 101st held on. On December 23, the skies finally cleared over the battle areas, and the Allied air forces inflicted heavy damage on German tanks and transport, which were jammed solidly along the main roads. On December 26, Bastogne was relieved by elements of General Patton’s 3rd Army. A major Allied counteroffensive began at the end of December, and by January 21 the Germans had been pushed back to their original line. Germany’s last major offensive of the war had cost them 120,000 men, 1,600 planes, and 700 tanks. The Allies suffered some 80,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action, with all but 5,000 of these casualties being American. It was the heaviest single battle toll in U.S. history.