- 1577 – Sir Francis Drake sets sail from Plymouth, England on his round-the-world voyage.
- 1636 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony organizes three militia regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This is recognized as the founding of the National Guard.
- 1816 – The first savings bank in the U.S., the Provident Institution for Savings, opened in Boston.
- 1862 – Union troops suffered a major defeat in the Civil War battle of Fredricksburg. An estimated 12,000 northern soldiers were killed or injured, about three times the toll suffered by Confederate forces.
- 1971 – Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, Dallas County attorney, in the Roe v. Wade case.
- 1981 – Martial law was imposed in Poland.
- 2003 – Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi president, was captured by U.S. troops in a small underground hideout southeast of his hometown of Tikrit, ending an eight-month manhunt.