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Historical Glossary

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V-E Day

(8 May 1945)    This abbreviation stands for Victory in Europe Day, the date when German authorities signed preliminary, unconditional terms of surrender to the Allies at Reims. The Berlin government formally ratified the surrender the next day. On 5 June, Germany was divided into US, British, French, and Soviet occupation zones.

V-J Day

(15 August 1945)    This abbreviation stands for Victory over Japan Day, the date when Japan unconditionally surrendered and World War II ended. On 2 September, Japan's government signed the formal document of surrender on the USS Missouri in front of Douglas MacArthur.

Valcour Island, battle of

On 11 October 1776, Brigadier General Benedict Arnold's 15 gunboats (750 crewmen) held their own against Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Carleton's more heavily armed 20 gunships (900 crewmen) on Lake Champlain. Carleton then pursued Arnold for two days, during which almost every US vessel was lost. US losses: 87 killed and wounded, 110 captured, 11 vessels sunk or scuttled to avoid capture. British losses: minor. Although defeated, Arnold's fleet had blocked Carleton from invading N.Y. with 13,000 troops until it was too late for him to capture Fort Ticonderoga and Albany as intended. Had Carleton taken Albany, Burgoyne's campaign of 1777 might have reestablished royal control over N.Y.

Valley Forge

After defeat at Germantown, 10,000 Continental soldiers entered winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pa., on 19 December 1777. Perhaps 25 percent died of disease or malnutrition that winter. On 18 June 1778, the Continentals—augmented with new recruits—left the encampment highly skilled in battle drill due to Baron von Steuben's training; the army emerged roughly equal in fighting ability to the British Army, which it fought to a draw at their next major encounter at Monmouth Courthouse, N.J.

Van Buren, Martin

(b. Kinderhook, N.Y., 5 December 1782; d. Kinderhook, N.Y., 24 July 1862)    In 1803 Van Buren opened a law office. After rising through N.Y. government, he assumed leadership of the Albany Regency. While US senator (1821–8), he supported William Crawford for president in 1824 and Andrew Jackson in 1828. Named secretary of state in 1829, he replaced John Calhoun as Jackson's heir-apparent, in some part due to the Peggy Eaton Affair and Calhoun's vindictive blocking of his appointment as ambassador to Britain. He was vice-president (1833–7). Running as Democratic candidate for president in 1836 with Richard M. Johnson, he won with 50.9 percent of the ballots. The panic of 1837 cost him reelection in 1840, when he polled 46.9 percent of the ballots. He lost the 1844 Democratic nomination for president to James Polk. He led the barnburners ' revolt against the Albany Regency's anti-reform leaders, vigorously opposed extending slavery to the territories, and was the Free-Soil party's nominee for president in 1848, when he received 10.1 percent of the votes, but carried no states.

Venezuela boundary dispute

When gold was discovered along the ill-defined boundary between Venezuela and Britain's Guiana colony, each country rejected the other's territorial claims. The US accepted a Venezuelan plea to arbitrate the dispute in 1887, but Britain rejected the offer. In 1894 Grover Cleveland declared that British pressure upon Venezuela to surrender territory would violate the Monroe Doctrine and—after Britain declined a US proposal to mediate a solution—hinted on 17 December that the US would assist Venezuela militarily if Britain did not submit the controversy to arbitration under US supervision. To avoid an armed confrontation, in January 1895 Britain agreed to let a US commission establish the true boundary. When the arbitration board issued its report on 3 October 1899, it upheld Britain's claim to most of the disputed lands. The controversy raised US diplomatic prestige and reinforced its pretensions as the dominant power in Latin-American affairs.

Vera Cruz, battle of

On 9 March 1847, Commodore Matthew C. Perry's fleet landed Major General Winfield Scott's 13,600 soldiers (without opposition) in the US Army's first major amphibious operation. Scott besieged Vera Cruz (22–7 March), then occupied the city. US losses: 19 killed, 63 wounded. Mexican losses: 80 troops killed, wounded, 200 civilians killed, wounded. On 8 April, Scott began his advance upon Mexico City.

Vermont

In February 1724, the first Anglo-American settlement was founded at Fort Dummer, near modern Brattleboro. In 1749 N.H. began issuing land grants west of the Connecticut River, an area that was New York's legal jurisdiction. In 1767, after the Privy Council ordered N.H. to cease this practice, almost half the modern state—4,500 square miles—had been patented to speculators. By then, 727 families (mostly from Conn.) had founded 97 towns in Vt.
After 1764, N.Y. issued its own land grants to speculators, who were expected to evict trespassers with N.H. titles in court. Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys countered this threat with intimidation and violence. In the Revolution, Green Mountain Boys took Fort Ticonderoga (1775), Vt. militia fought the battle of Bennington, and the state was the site of ten other military actions. In 1777 a convention at Windsor declared Vt. an independent state and wrote a constitution, which was the first to abolish slavery and allow universal manhood suffrage. Congress refused to admit Vt. without approval from N.Y., and N.Y. did not agree to do so until 1789, subject to payment of a $30,000 claims settlement by Vt. It became the 14th state on 4 March 1791.
In 1800 Vt. was the fourth smallest state and had 154,465 residents, of whom less than 1 percent were black and 85 percent were of English-Welsh stock. The second Battle of Lake Champlain saved the state from British invasion in the War of 1812. Its limited potential for agriculture inhibited population growth and the number of residents only doubled between 1800 and 1860. In 1860 it had 315,098 inhabitants, of whom just 709 were black and 10 percent were foreign-born; it ranked 29th among states in population, 23rd in the value of its farmland and livestock, and 23rd in manufactures. In the Civil War, it furnished 33,288 USA troops (including 120 blacks) and was raided from Canada by CSA guerrillas who robbed the St Albans bank. Its population stagnated after 1865.
In 1900 Vt. was 73 percent rural and had 343,641 residents, of whom nearly all were white and 13 percent were foreign-born; it ranked 40th among the states in population, 35th in the value of its agricultural products and 33rd in manufactures. It experienced a net out-migration of population every decade from 1900 through the 1950s and ranked as the 3rd smallest state in 1990. In 1990 Vt. had 562,758 inhabitants (98 percent white, 1 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian), of whom 23 percent were urban and 3.1 percent foreign-born. Manufacturing and mining employed 24 percent of workers.

Verrazano, Giovanni de

(b. near Florence, Italy, ca. 1480; d. France, ca. 1527)    Commissioned by Francis I of France to find a westward route to Asia, Verrazano left Dieppe in December 1523 and sighted the Carolina coast about 19 March 1524. He explored the mainland northward and made the first verified sighting of New York harbor about 17 April and then sailed as far as Nova Scotia. French territorial claims in North America derived from this voyage.

Versailles, treaty of

Negotiated during the the Paris peace conference of 18 January to 28 June 1919, this agreement concluded World War I. Woodrow Wilson represented the US and was frustrated that his Fourteen Points had little influence on the settlement. The Big Four included many provisions implementing “secret treaties,” which themselves violated Wilson's call for a peace based on open covenants openly conceived; they also ignored his calls to protect freedom of the seas and free trade. The treaty branded Germany as the war's aggressor, forced it to surrender territories and pay reparations to the victors, broke the Hapsburg empire up into nation states, arranged to reduce all armed forces, founded a Permanent Court of International Justice, and created the League of Nations.
The treaty failed Senate ratification because of opposition to US membership in the League, which was seen as infringing national sovereignty, especially by Article X. When Wilson refused to compromise with Henry Cabot Lodge on terms for US participation in the League, Lodge threw his influence toward those senators most opposed to it: Robert La Follette, William Borah, and Hiram Johnson. While trying to rally public support for the treaty's unconditional acceptance during a 9,500-mile stumping campaign, Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on 25 September 1919. His continued refusal to accommodate Lodge's objections left the treaty with insufficient support for ratification, and the last significant attempt to find common ground failed on 19 March 1920. With the Versailles treaty dead, the US made peace with Germany by the treaty of Berlin.

Vesey's Conspiracy

On 30 May 1822, a black informer revealed a conspiracy headed by Denmark Vesey, an ex-slave who had bought his freedom after winning a lottery in 1800, to incite a slave revolt at Charleston, S.C. The authorities arrested 139 blacks and 4 whites. From 18 June to 9 August, judges condemned 47 blacks to death, of whom 37 were executed.

Veterans Affairs, Department of (VA)

This department originated as the Veterans Administration, an independent agency created on 21 July 1930 to consolidate all federal programs for veterans in a single agency. Congress renamed and elevated it to cabinet status on 15 March 1989. The VA's largest program is the Veterans Health Administration, which was the largest US health care system in 1993; it operated 172 medical centers with 80,000 beds, 362 outpatient and community clinics averaging 23,000,000 patient visits annually, 128 nursing homes with 71,000 patients, and 35 domiciliaries caring for 26,000 persons; it had 243,038 employees, and a $16 billion budget.

Veto

After Congress passes a bill, the President may veto, or reject it, sending the reasons for the objection back to Congress, which may amend the bill to meet the President's objections or override the veto by a two-thirds vote of each house. If a President does not sign a bill within ten days, and the Congress adjourns during that period, it is known as a "pocket veto," which Congress cannot override.

Vice-Admiralty Courts

The English government established these courts in its North American colonies to deal with issues of maritime law, including smuggling. If judges condemned vessels for smuggling, they would share in profits from the sale of such craft and their cargoes. Judges made all rulings without juries and thus could clearly benefit from their own decisions, which caused many colonists to view these courts as centers of despotic imperial power. The Stamp Act of 1765 stated that colonists who did not pay stamp duties could be tried in vice-admiralty courts, which became another colonial grievance about the prospect of being convicted and sent to jail without a jury trial, a violation of fundamental English liberties.

Vicksburg, siege of

On 19 and 22 May 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant's 35,000 Federals lost 3,200 casualties assaulting John Pemberton's 30,000 Confederates. Grant besieged the city and his army grew to 71,000 by 4 July, when the garrison of 29,396 surrendered. The victory freed Grant's troops for the Chickamauga campaign and gave USA warships control of the Mississippi River south to Port Hudson, whose fall five days later split the Confederacy and allowed midwesterners to export goods through New Orleans.

Vietnam antiwar movement

Soon after the first bombing of North Vietnam on 2 March 1965, college teach-ins began denouncing the Vietnam War. Most antiwar protests were nonviolent, but draft board files were vandalized, college Reserve Officers' Training Corps buildings burned, and a bomb killed a University of Wisconsin graduate student at a computer lab on 24 August 1971. In March 1968, Lyndon Johnson withdrew from the Democratic primary after public dismay over the Tet offensive's casualties led to unexpected support for his antiwar opponent, Eugene McCarthy. The Chicago Democratic convention Riot occurred as Democrats nominated Johnson's choice for president, Hubert Humphrey, over McCarthy. In November 1969, 300,000 war protesters marched in Washington, D.C. In April 1970, the invasion of Cambodia sparked militant campus demonstrations nationwide that climaxed in the Kent State University shootings on 4 May and the death of two Mississippi State University students on 15 May. Classes closed on over 400 campuses as students boycotted lectures to protest the invasion and killings. The Pentagon papers appeared in 1971, but by mid-year, antiwar activism had waned due to the draft's suspension and US troop withdrawals.

Vietnam War

US civilian and military advisors had served in South Vietnam since 1954 and they numbered 900 when John F. Kennedy's presidency began. On 1 October 1960, South Vietnamese Communists (Vietcong) formed the National Liberation Front to reunite the South with Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnam by political unrest and guerrilla warfare, which Ho Chi Minh actively supported. Kennedy approved a counterinsurgency program on 28 January 1961. South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem requested more advisors on 9 June and a bilateral defense treaty on 1 October. Kennedy reaffirmed the US commitment to South Vietnamese independence on 15 December 1961.
The Vietcong made rapid gains in rural areas and exploited widespread, often violent, protests against Diem in the cities. A military coup (planned with Kennedy's knowledge) assassinated Diem on 2 November 1963. South Vietnam's political instability, corruption, and growing war-weariness frustrated US efforts to build effective local resistance to the Vietcong, who showed remarkable discipline, self-sacrifice, and single-mindedness.
US involvement deepened after Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1964). On 2 March 1965, the US began bombing North Vietnam; on 7 May, the first major US combat unit (173rd Airborne Brigade) landed in South Vietnam; on 6 April, Lyndon Johnson directed US troops to conduct offensive operations. During 1965, US forces in Vietnam rose from 23,300 to 184,000 (reaching a peak strength of 543,400 by April 1969). The Vietnam antiwar movement began expanding significantly in 1965.
Ho Chi Minh poured North Vietnamese regulars south via Laos. Except for the Ia Drang Valley and Khe Sanh, the Communists avoided major battles until the Tet offensive of January 1968. Tet was a major military defeat for Ho Chi Minh, but became the conflict's turning point because Americans were shocked by a sharp rise in US deaths and the ferocity of enemy attacks. Anticipating endless streams of US casualties sustained to prop up a corrupt, incompetent military government, US opinion steadily shifted against the war. When faced with skyrocketing demands to increase US troops in Vietnam, Clark Clifford and other senior officials advised Johnson on 25 March to cease escalating the war and seek a negotiated peace.
Formal peace talks began in Paris on 12 May 1968. The bombing of North Vietnam stopped on 31 October. On 14 May 1970, shortly after massive US protests against his invasion of Cambodia, Richard Nixon proposed mutual force withdrawals by North Vietnam and the US. Nixon pursued a “Vietnamization” policy designed to withdraw US troops as quickly as the poorly trained, poorly armed, and poorly led South Vietnamese forces could be strengthened to face the highly professional North Vietnamese regulars. Bombing of North Vietnam resumed on 26 December 1971, when US strength in the south was 156,800 troops. The Paris peace accords ended hostilities on 27 January 1973, when just 24,000 Americans remained in South Vietnam. Except for US embassy personnel, all US forces were withdrawn in 1973. North Vietnamese forces invaded South Vietnam in 1975 and took Saigon. The last 50 Americans were evacuated on 30 April.
In all, 8,762,000 Americans performed Vietnam-era military service: 4,386,000 army, 794,000 marines, 1,740,000 air force, 1,842,000 navy. About 2,000,000 servicemen served in or offshore Vietnam. US losses: 47,244 battle deaths (30,868 army, 13,065 marines, 1,737 air force, 1,574 navy); 10,751 noncombat deaths (7,270 army, 1,750 marines, 815 air force, 916 navy); 153,329 hospitalized wounded (96,811 army, 51,399 marines, 939 air force, 4,180 navy); 150,375 lightly wounded (104,725 army, 37,234 marines, 2,518 air force, 5,898 navy); 2,483 missing (767 army, 941 air force, 733 navy, 42 civilians). South Vietnamese forces lost 223,748 killed and 570,600 wounded. Communist forces lost up to 660,000 killed. About 300,000 civilians died in South Vietnam and 65,000 in North Vietnam.
The war's direct expenses amounted to about $106,800,000,000. The US Navy and Air Force flew about 527,000 bombing missions carrying 6,162,000 tons of explosives (three times the tonnage dropped by US bombers in World War II).

Vincennes, battle of

On 17 December 1778, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Hamilton's 35 redcoats, 140 Tories, and 500 Indians captured a small garrison placed at Vincennes on 20 July by Colonel George Rogers Clark. On 23 February 1778, Clark and 175 Ky. militia besieged Fort Sackville, which Hamilton surrendered on 24 February. US losses: 1 wounded. British losses: 5 Indians killed, 79 redcoats captured (7 wounded). Clark's victory ended British military power south of Fort Detroit and enabled the US to keep possession of all lands below the Great Lakes by the treaty of Paris (1783).

Vinland

This region was named “Land of Vines” by its discoverer, Leif Ericson, about 1000. Norse Vikings planted brief settlements there about 1004–05, 1009–10, and 1014, but abandoned them after conflict with native peoples. One of these sites has been excavated at L'Anse-aux-Meadows in Newfoundland.

Virginia

In 1607 the Virginia Company of London planted the first permanent English colony at Jamestown. The company's charter was revoked by James I on 24 May 1624 and it was formally declared a royal colony on 13 May 1625. The Powhatan Confederacy ceased to be a major threat after the two Opechan-canough wars. The headright system encouraged the importation of large numbers of indentured servants to work on plantations. Tobacco dominated the economy after 1619, but falling prices (due to overproduction) resulted in a long agricultural depression from 1660 to 1715. Civil war briefly erupted in Bacon's Rebellion in 1676.
The number of slaves expanded greatly after 1680 and by 1720 they accounted for most unfree field workers. Settlement rapidly spread over the Piedmont after 1720. Always the most numerous colony, Va. contained 504,000 persons, or a fifth of the thirteen colonies ' population about 1775. Va. produced few Tories, but furnished 15 of the 80 Continental regiments at the height of the war; it was the site of 69 military actions on land and 11 at sea, including the decisive victory of Yorktown. It was the 10th state to ratify the Constitution, on 25 June 1788.
By 1792, having ceded its claims to the Northwest Territory and Kentucky, Va. had been reduced to its modern boundaries plus West Virginia. In 1800 it had 886,149 residents, still more than any other state, of whom 39 percent were slaves and 2 percent were free blacks. It lay too far north to grow cotton and its main staple remained tobacco. Va. was replaced as the most populous state by N.Y. in 1820, and by 1840 it was only the fourth-largest; in 1860 it ranked fifth in population among states, fifth in the value of farmland and livestock, and ninth in manufactures. By 1860 slaves made up 39 percent of the 1,219,630 persons within modern Va., but just 5 percent of the 376,688 in modern W.Va., while 2 percent of all inhabitants were foreign-born.
Va. became the eighth CSA state on 17 April 1861. In the Civil War, W.Va. seceded and became a separate state. Va. sent the CSA army 160,000 troops, more than any other state. Since the CSA capital was at Richmond, it witnessed 2,154 military engagements, more than any other state. In May 1862, the Union established a provisional civilian government for areas within US lines. By 1866, this government had ended slavery, but refused to let freedmen vote, passed a black code (see black codes), and rejected the Fourteenth Amendment. Washington imposed military rule in March 1867, but restored self-government and congressional representation on 26 January 1870, three months after Republican control ended on 5 October 1869. Va. disfranchised most blacks in 1902 and then enacted segregation.
From 1870 to 1900, 223,500 out-migrants left Va. In 1900 it was the 17th state in size and had 1,854,184 inhabitants, of whom 82 percent were rural, 36 percent were black, and 6 percent were foreign-born: it ranked 21st among states in the value of its agricultural goods and 20th in manufactures (including cigarettes). Since the 1940s, a major factor in its growth has been the expansion of Washington's suburbs and of military bases. During the civil rights movement, its government resisted school integration for almost 20 years before Republican Governor Linwood Holton took office with a promise to make Va. “a model of race relations.” Va. ranked as the 12th state in size in 1990, when its population was 6,187,358 (76 percent white, 19 percent black, 3 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian), of whom 73 percent were urban and 5 percent were foreign-born. Manufacturing and mining employed 23 percent of workers.

Virginia Company of London

On 20 April 1606, James I granted a patent to the Virginia Company (headquartered in London) to colonize North America's southern mainland. After founding Jamestown, Va., it obtained a new charter extending its borders 200 miles north and south of Point Comfort (Chesapeake Bay), and west to the Pacific. On 22 March 1612, its third charter gave it jurisdiction over Bermuda. Despite the development of tobacco as a profitable export, the company consistently lost money on the colony because of mismanagement and corruption by its officers, and had to resort to lotteries after 1612 to raise investment capital. Opechancanough's first war and the suspension of its lottery privileges forced the company into bankruptcy in 1622. The Privy Council assumed control of company affairs in July 1623 and James I revoked its charter on 24 May 1624.

Virginia dynasty

This term refers to election of Virginians as four of the five first presidents ( Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe). No resident of Va. has been elected president since 1820, but William H. Harrison was elected from Ohio in 1840, vice-president John Tyler assumed the office in 1841, Zachary Taylor was elected from La. in 1848, and Woodrow Wilson was elected from N.J. in 1912.

Virginia Plan

On 29 May 1787, at the Constitutional Convention, Edmund Randolph proposed 15 resolutions (drafted by James Madison) as the basis for a national government. The Virginia Plan called for a bicameral legislature—in which representation would be based on population in both houses—a chief executive, and judiciary. The legislature's lower house would elect both the upper house (from nominees submitted by the states) and the chief executive. Congress would have authority to veto state laws. The plan served as the main basis for discussion at the convention, but was modified after discussion of the New Jersey Plan and Connecticut Compromise.

Virginia Resolutions

James Madison framed this document, which was adopted by the Va. legislature on 24 December 1798. The resolutions declared that states reserved the right to judge federal laws when they ratified the Constitution—which was characterized as a compact among the states—denounced the Alien and Sedition acts as unconstitutional, and declared that states may use interposition to stop the federal government from violating their citizens' rights. It was supported by both Kentucky Resolutions.

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

(16 January 1786)    Although the Anglican Church had already been disestablished in 1776, this measure provided additional protection for freedom of religion by vigorously denouncing and outlawing any form of state interference with private religious opinions. This statute, largely the product of Thomas Jefferson's efforts, was the Revolutionary era's most liberal expression of religious freedom.

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