This Week in History: Nov. 13 - Nov. 17

On Nov. 14, 1851, Herman Melville’s masterpiece “Moby Dick” was published for the first time.   (Flickr Creative Commons/Christopher Michel)

On Nov. 14, 1851, Herman Melville’s masterpiece “Moby Dick” was published for the first time.   (Flickr Creative Commons/Christopher Michel)

Over the coming days we will celebrate several important anniversaries in American history, as well as the reign of one of the greatest English queens. Here is a quick rundown of this week in history.

On Nov. 14, 1851, Herman Melville’s masterpiece “Moby Dick” was published for the first time. Based on the story of the whaling ship “Essex” that had been reportedly attacked and destroyed by a massive white whale, Melville crafted a story hailed as one of the best American books to ever be written. The book originally failed both commercially and critically, and it would be years after Melville’s death in 1891 before his work was recognized. “Moby Dick” produced famous characters like Ishmael, Captain Ahab, the White Whale and the first mate, Starbuck, who lends his name to Starbuck’s Coffee.

On Nov. 15, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, the first official form of government to preside over The United States. It would take months of deliberation before all 13 states accepted and ratified the document. Wary of an abusive central power like the British Monarchy under George III at the time, The Articles of Confederation protected against a strong central government and awarded nearly all powers and rights to the individual states. It had several disadvantages, including the inability to regulate interstate commerce and allowing each state to print their own money, but the biggest issue was the federal government being incapable of banding together and keeping control of the land. Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts from  1786 to 1787 demonstrated the weakness of the Articles and eventually lead to the framing of the United States Constitution.

On the same day in 1864, William Tecumseh Sherman began his Savannah Campaign, better known as his March to the Sea. Upon leaving the captured city of Atlanta, he sent his army towards the port city of Savannah. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant, the general of the Union Army at the time, believed that the only way to bring the Civil War to a decisive end was to annihilate the Confederacy’s will to fight. Thus, Sherman engaged in his now famous total-war tactics. He ordered his men to destroy telegraph lines, railroad tracks and any other pieces of infrastructure. He also ordered the burning of fields and homes that they came across to cut down on Confederate supply lines and cripple their morale. He reached Savannah on Dec. 21, and his campaign is considered one of the most effective of the war. His strategy, however, earned him the absolute hatred of the Southern states.

And lastly, on Nov. 17, 1558, Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England and Ireland. Daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she ruled for 44 consecutive years. Her time on the throne is marked by the advancements of English drama and literature, as well as the expansion of British naval might with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. She never married, and upon her death she was the last ruling member of the house of Tudor. The next ruler was James VI of Scotland, better known as James I of England.


Seamus McKeever is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at seamus.mckeever@uconn.edu.