1891 Dalton Gang commits its first train robbery The members of the Dalton Gang stage an unsuccessful train robbery near Alila, California–an inauspicious beginning to their careers as serious criminals. Bob, Emmett, and Grat Dalton were only three of Lewis and Adeleine Dalton’s 10 sons. The brothers grew up on a succession of Oklahoma and Kansas homesteads during the post-Civil War period, when the region was awash in violence lingering from the war and notorious outlaw bands like the James-Younger Gang. Still, the majority of the Dalton boys became law-abiding citizens, and one of the older brothers, Frank, served as a deputy U.S. marshal. Ironically, Frank’s position in law enforcement brought his younger brothers into lives of crime. When Oklahoma whiskey runners murdered Frank in 1887, Grat took Frank’s place as a deputy marshal and recruited Emmett and Bob as assistants. Disillusioned by the fate of their older law-abiding brother, the three Dalton boys showed little respect for the law and began rustling cattle and horses to supplement their income. The brothers soon began to use their official law enforcement powers for their own ends, and in 1888, they killed a man for pursuing Bob’s girlfriend. Such gross abuses of authority did not escape attention for long. By 1890, all three men were discredited as lawmen, though they managed to escape imprisonment. Taking up with some of the same hardcore criminals they had previously sworn to bring to justice, the Daltons decided to expand their criminal operations. Bob and Grat headed to California, leaving Emmett behind in Oklahoma because they felt he was still too young for a life of serious crime. In California, they planned to link up with their brother Bill and become bank and train robbers. The Dalton Gang’s first attempt at train robbery was a fiasco. On February 6, 1891, Bob, Grat, and Bill tried to rob a Southern Pacific train near Alila, California. While Bill kept any passengers from interfering by shooting over their heads, Bob and Grat forced the engineer to show them the location of the cash-carrying express car. When the engineer tried to slip away, one of the brothers shot him in the stomach. Finding the express car on their own, Bob and Grat demanded that the guard inside open the heavy door. The guard refused and began firing down on them from a small spy hole. Thwarted, the brothers finally gave up and rode away. The Daltons would have done well to heed the ominous signs of that first failed robbery and seek safer pursuits. Instead, they returned to Oklahoma, reunited with young Emmett, and began robbing in earnest. A year later, the gang botched another robbery, boldly attempting to hit two Coffeyville, Kansas, banks at the same time. Townspeople caught them in the act and killed Bob, Grat, and two of their gang members. Emmett was seriously wounded and served 14 years in prison. Of all the criminal Dalton brothers, only Emmett lived into old age. Freed from prison in 1907, he married and settled in Los Angeles, where he built a successful career in real estate and contracting. 1820 Freed U.S. slaves depart on journey to Africa The first organized immigration of freed slaves to Africa from the United States departs New York harbor on a journey to Freetown, Sierra Leone, in West Africa. The immigration was largely the work of the American Colonization Society, a U.S. organization founded in 1816 by Robert Finley to return freed American slaves to Africa. However, the expedition was also partially funded by the U.S. Congress, which in 1819 had appropriated $100,000 to be used in returning displaced Africans, illegally brought to the United States after the abolishment of the slave trade in 1808, to Africa. The program was modeled after British’s efforts to resettle freed slaves in Africa following England’s abolishment of the slave trade in 1772. In 1787, the British government settled 300 former slaves and 70 white prostitutes on the Sierra Leone peninsula in West Africa. Within two years, most members of this settlement had died from disease or warfare with the local Temne people. However, in 1792, a second attempt was made when 1,100 freed slaves, mostly individuals who had supported Britain during the American Revolution and were unhappy with their postwar resettlement in Canada, established Freetown under the leadership of British abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. During the next few decades, thousands of freed slaves came from Canada, the West Indies, and other parts of West Africa to the Sierra Leone Colony, and in 1820 the first freed slaves from the United States arrived at Sierra Leone. In 1821, the American Colonization Society founded the colony of Liberia south of Sierra Leone as a homeland for freed U.S. slaves outside of British jurisdiction. Most Americans of African descent were not enthusiastic to abandon their homes in the United States for the West African coast. The American Colonization Society also came under attack from American abolitionists, who charged that the removal of freed slaves from the United States strengthened the institution of slavery. However, between 1822 and the American Civil War, some 15,000 African Americans settled in Liberia, which was granted independence by the United States in 1847 under pressure from Great Britain. Liberia was granted official U.S. diplomatic recognition in 1862. It was the first independent democratic republic in African history. 1778 Franco-American alliances signed During the American War for Independence, representatives from the United States and France sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce recognized the United States as an independent nation and encouraged trade between France and the America, while the Treaty of Alliance provided for a military alliance against Great Britain, stipulating that the absolute independence of the United States be recognized as a condition for peace and that France would be permitted to conquer the British West Indies. With the treaties, the first entered into by the U.S. government, the Bourbon monarchy of France formalized its commitment to assist the American colonies in their struggle against France’s old rival, Great Britain. The eagerness of the French to help the United States was motivated both by an appreciation of the American revolutionaries’ democratic ideals and by bitterness at having lost most of their American empire to the British at the conclusion of the French and Indian Wars in 1763. In 1776, the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee to a diplomatic commission to secure a formal alliance with France. Covert French aid began filtering into the colonies soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, but it was not until the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that the French became convinced that the Americans were worth backing in a formal treaty. On February 6, 1778, the treaties of Amity and Commerce and Alliance were signed, and in May 1778 the Continental Congress ratified them. One month later, war between Britain and France formally began when a British squadron fired on two French ships. During the American Revolution, French naval fleets proved critical in the defeat of the British, which culminated in the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.