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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.