Today is Thursday, April 12, the 103rd day of 2012. There are 263 days left in the year.
On April 12, 1862, during the Civil War, Union volunteers led by James Andrews stole a Confederate locomotive near Marietta, Ga., and headed toward Chattanooga, Tenn., on a mission to sabotage as much of the rail line as they could; the raiders were caught, and eight of them, Andrews included, were executed as spies. (The raid inspired the 1926 Buster Keaton silent comedy “The General.”)
On this date:
In 1606, England’s King James I decreed the design of the original Union Flag, which combined the flags of England and Scotland.
In 1811, fur traders employed by John Jacob Astor began building Fort Astoria in present-day Oregon.
In 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. (The Union troops holding the fort surrendered the following day.)
In 1877, the catcher’s mask was first used in a baseball game by James Tyng of Harvard in a game against the Lynn Live Oaks.
In 1912, Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, died in Glen Echo, Md., at age 90.
In 1934, “Tender Is the Night,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was first published in book form after being serialized in Scribner’s Magazine.
In 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Ga., at age 63; he was succeeded by Vice President Harry Truman.
In 1955, the Salk vaccine against polio was declared safe and effective.
In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly in space, orbiting the earth once before making a safe landing.
In 1981, the space shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral on its first test flight. Former world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis died in Las Vegas, Nev., at age 66.
In 1985, Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, became the first sitting member of Congress to fly in space as the shuttle Discovery lifted off.
In 1992, after five years in the making, Euro Disneyland opened in Marne-La-Vallee, France, amid controversy as French intellectuals bemoaned the invasion of American pop culture.