Special Report

The Most Important Event in Every State's History

Source: Charles Marion Russell / Wikimedia Commons

26. Montana
> Event: Battle of the Little Bighorn
> Year: 1876
> Location: Little Big Horn

In 1876, General George Armstrong Custer led U.S. Army soldiers to forcibly relocate members of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes after gold was discovered on their lands. Thousands of Native Americans, led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, rallied to the Little Bighorn River.

Custer was ordered to wait for reinforcements, but he attacked the main encampment of the tribes. Custer and his soldiers were overwhelmed and all killed within an hour. That would be the last decisive victory of indigenous tribes against the Army, as the government increased the use of force to quell any rebellions.

Source: J. H. Colton / Wikimedia Commons

27. Nebraska
> Event: Kansas-Nebraska Act
> Year: 1854
> Location: Statewide

The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide if the state would be a slave state or a free state. The legislation prompted settlers on each side of the slavery issue to pour into Kansas to affect the outcome of the first election after the law had passed. The election results produced violence, earning the state the name “Bleeding Kansas.” A pro-slavery legislature was chosen amid charges of fraud, and because of this Congress refused to admit Kansas as a state. Anti-slavery settlers eventually outnumbered pro-slavery supporters and Kansas was admitted as a free state just before the Civil War.

Source: f11photo / iStock

28. Nevada
> Event: Gambling legalized
> Year: 1931
> Location: Statewide

With the nation in the throes of the Great Depression, Nevada, looking for more revenue, became the first state to legalize gambling in 1931. The decision would have profound consequences for the state and the nation. Gambling and casinos, run by organized crime, turned Las Vegas, which was a desert stopover for soldiers during World War II, into an entertainment colossus. With the gambling taboo removed, other states eventually legalized gambling.

Source: Ken Lund / Flickr

29. New Hampshire
> Event: First government independent from England
> Year: 1776
> Location: Statewide

New Hampshire’s state motto is “Live Free or Die,” so it should come as no surprise that the state was the first to declare itself independent from England. The state set up its own government away from colonial rule in January 1776, months before the Continental Congress. In 1778, it was also the first state to hold a constitutional convention.

Source: Hohum / Wikimedia Commons

30. New Jersey
> Event: Battle of Trenton
> Year: 1776
> Location: Trenton

By the end of 1776, the Continental Army was a spent force. It had been beaten in New York and was chased across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania by the British Army. General George Washington needed a victory to lift the hopes of the nascent nation. He took a risk by crossing the Delaware River that was choked with floating ice the day after Christmas and surprised the Hessian troops billeted in barracks in Trenton. The Army killed or captured the entire force of 1,400 Hessians. The victory boosted Americans’ belief in the cause of fighting to liberate themselves from British rule.

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