July 4 (UPI) -- On this date in history:
In 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming U.S. independence from Britain.
In 1863, Union troops defeated Confederate forces in a battle at Vicksburg, Miss.
In 1895, the poem "America the Beautiful," by Wellesley College Professor Katherine Lee Bates, was published. The poem with music by Samuel A. Ward was published as a song in 1910.
In 1910, African-American boxer Jack Johnson took on former undefeated heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries, beating him in 15 rounds, to stake his claim as the as the greatest heavyweight in the world.
In 1914, D.W. Griffith began filming his controversial film The Birth of a Nation, which introduced filmmaking techniques that influenced many other directors.
In 1939, Lou Gehrig gave his "luckiest man on the face of the Earth" speech in announcing his retirement from the New York Yankees. Gehrig had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deliberating motor neuron disease.
In 1976, Israeli commandos raided the airport at Entebbe, Uganda, rescuing 103 hostages held by Arab militants.
In 1995, the British Parliament reconfirmed John Majors as prime minister.
In 1997, NASA's Pathfinder reached Mars to become the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the planet in more than two decades. Pathfinder returned more than 16,000 images and some 8.5 million measurements back to Earth before its final transmission on September, 27, 1997.
In 2010, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus took command of the Afghan war, acknowledging the "tough fight" ahead for NATO forces while pledging "We are in this to win."
In 2013, the Statue of Liberty reopened to the public nine months after it was closed because of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.