164 B.C. The Jewish general Judas Maccabeus restores proper worship to the Temple in Jerusalem. The event is celebrated annually during Hanukkah. The Maccabean Revolt (167-60 B.C) was one of the signal events of Jewish history, and represents one of the last periods of Jewish independence prior to Roman subjugation of the region.
1095: The First Crusade: In response to a request from the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I, Pope Urban II convenes the Council of Clermont, in the French city of that name. For the next week, over 300 prelates and nobles from across France review the state of play within the Catholic Church, and more importantly, the request from Alexius for military assistance to help eject the Seljuk Turks from Byzantine Anatolia.
Byzantine Empire was explicitly Christian and was, in fact, the last surviving remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire. During the Council, the arguments in favor of assisting against the Turks quickly evolved into what was seen as a God-directed desire to re-capture the Holy City of Jerusalem from the Muslims who had controlled it for the previous 350 years. The council will end on the 27th with Urban II’s famous speech calling for a Crusade.
1343: An underwater earthquake in the Tyrrhenian Sea initiates a tsunami that devastates Naples and much of the low-lying Amalfi coast.
1491: Opening guns in the Siege of Granada, where the combined forces of Aragon and Castile begin their final push against the stronghold of the Emirate of Granada, last remaining vestige of the 780 years of the Moslem empire of Al-Andalus.
1594: Death of Martin Frobisher (b.1539), an English sea-dog contemporary of Francis Drake. Frobisher made three trips to the New World, landing principally in Canada, where he explored for both the fabled Northwest Passage, and for the elusive mother lode of gold that was always just one more day away. He was one of the key English leaders during the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
1694: Birth of the French intellectual and writer Francois-Marie Arouet, better known by his nom de plume, Voltaire (d.1778). He was an outspoken advocate of civil liberties, free trade, freedom of religion, all of which were prominent among the core values of the Scottish Enlightenment. He moved in the highest circles of intellect and politics, spending over two years in the court and the private table of Prussian King Fredrick the Great, among others. His work greatly influenced the thinking of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson and other leading lights of the American Revolution.
1703: Death of The Man in the Iron Mask, held in a variety of French prisons under the supervision of Cardinal Richelieu during the reign of Louis XIV. His identity has never been confirmed, and the conditions of his 34 years in somewhat stately captivity created a cottage industry of novels, plays and monographs attempting to deduce his identity and his supposed crimes.
1718: Death of Edward Teach (b.1680), better known as the fabled pirate Blackbeard, who terrorized the southern seaboard of the English colonies, at one point blockading Charleston, South Carolina for ransom. He spent the majority of his pirating career based out of Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina, using its strategic location to survey the shipping moving up and down the coast and dashing out in his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge to plunder and kill. Teach is finally brought down by the Royal Navy’s Lieutenant Robert Maynard, who crafted an attack which played on Teach’s propensity to attack weak-looking vessels. The surprise appearance of Maynard’s men from below decks fractured the integrity of the pirates’ attack, and Teach himself was mortally wounded with five gunshots and no fewer than 25 severe cuts from swords and cutlasses. Maynard decapitated the corpse and hung the head from a yardarm on his return to Hampton, Virginia to prove to citizens ashore that Blackbeard was indeed dead.
1739: Ships of the Royal Navy descend on and capture the Spanish fortress city of Porto Bello in Panama. The lopsided battle was hailed as a great victory in England, and served as the first step of revenge in the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739-1748) between Spain and Great Britain. The war was eventually subsumed by the larger War of Austrian Succession.
1748: Death of the great British hymnist Isaac Watts (b.1674): When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; Joy to the World; Jesus Shall Reign Where ‘ere the Sun; Alas and Did My Savior Bleed; I Sing the Mighty Power of God, and over 700 more songs, to say nothing about his scholarly writings on logic and its relationship to faith.
1789: New Jersey becomes the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
1820: The Nantucket whaling ship Essex, on station in the South Pacific, is repeatedly rammed by an enraged sperm whale and sinks. The story of the sinking and the subsequent survival of members of the crew was part of Melville’s inspiration for Moby-Dick.
1835: Birth in Scotland of American industrialist, steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (d.1919), often considered the second-richest man in history behind J.D. Rockefeller. Carnegie’s philanthropy exists today in the form of the magnificent Carnegie Hall in New York, and hundreds of libraries across the country.
1835: The Provincial Government of Texas authorizes the establishment of a core of mounted state law enforcement officers, known as the Texas Rangers.
1859: Publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.
1863: President Abraham Lincoln, presiding over the dedication of a new national cemetery where are buried the Union dead from the great battle of four months prior, delivers his Gettysburg Address. Its providing the intellectual underpinnings for not only the post-Civil War reconstruction, but for the very nature of the United States as it went forward.
1863: At the Battle of Lookout Mountain, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a Union force of 10,000 under General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker fights an uphill battle through fog and rocky defiles to defeat one of Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s brigades defending the heights. The battle is often called the “Battle Above the Clouds” from the way the two sides blindly fired towards each other during the course of the day. Confederate Brigadier John C. Brown, positioned atop the mountain, was himself unable to see or direct the defenses due to both the fog and the steep geography that blocked sight lines to the fighting below. That night, the Confederate force withdrew to establish a better defensive position on nearby Missionary Ridge.
1863: After the Union victory at Lookout Mountain, the forces meet again for a vicious and decisive day of battle on Missionary Ridge, just a short distance away from yesterday’s fight. Both sides suffer major casualties, but the Confederate position could not hold against Grant’s and Sherman’s relentless attacks, and Confederate General Bragg withdraws his army to Dalton, Georgia. The Union victory in the Chattanooga campaign allows them to consolidate their forces and supplies in this critical railroad junction city, which becomes the base for Sherman’s drive toward Atlanta the following year.
1869: Launch of the clipper ship Cutty Sark in Dumbarton, Scotland. The ship participated in several great races between the tea markets in China and the London docks, with speeds under sail averaging over 15 knots. The ship’s preservation was for years the center of a bitter and perpetual argument between two historic camps, the first being those who wanted to preserve as much as possible of the original “fabric” of the vessel, believing that once the original material is gone, the history of the design and construction go with it. The other camp believes in maintaining the ship to an operational standard, which would of necessity mean the replacement of materials whose structural integrity is suspect. As a point of reference, USS Constitution up in Boston retains its status as the “original” frigate of 1796, even though only about 10% of its current materials remain from the original construction. Its provenance is secure because every repair and replacement was part of continuous maintenance, not fundamental changes and upgrades.
The foundation that owns Cutty Sark was in the height of the preservation argument as the ship went into a major re-fit in 2005. In May of 2007 a suspicious fire broke out on board and burned for two hours before the fire brigades were able to get in and contain it. As damage assessments came in, the curator announced that most of the “fabric” had already been removed and stored, and that damage from the fire was repairable. Part of the fire’s aftermath was the ascendency of the fabric-preservationist camp, which finished up work on the re-build with a completely new display concept for public viewing, referred to by one kind soul as, “…plonking it into a fishbowl.” The ship re-opened for visitors in the Spring of 2012.
1876: The head of New York’s Tammany Hall, the notorious William M. “Boss” Tweed, is returned from Europe via extradition to NYC by Spanish authorities, who recognized him from the series of famous Thomas Nash cartoons lambasting his egregious corruption. Tweed escaped from prison a year earlier, where he was serving a sentence after conviction on a number of corruption and money laundering charges. After today, he remained locked up, and died in custody in 1878.
1888: Birth of Dale Carnegie (d.1955), one of the original lights of training in business improvement methods. His original work, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (1936) remains a staple in business circles.
1914: Birth of Joe “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio (d.1999), who spent 13 years as center fielder for the New York Yankees (1936-42 and 1946-51), providing the team and the country with a record of baseball superlatives: 3-time AL MVP, 13 consecutive All Star games; a 56 game hitting streak*- unsurpassed to this day, #5 in career home runs (361), #6 slugging percentage (.571), 10 AL Pennants, 9 victorious World Series. The Yankees got their money’s worth when they hired the “Yankee Clipper” from his original ball club, the San Francisco Seals. His post-baseball career saw him very successful in business, but less successful in a string of dramatic but short-lived marriages and love affairs with beautiful actresses, including Marilyn Monroe.
1920: In Dublin, the Irish Republican Army assassinates 12 British informants who worked with the Royal Irish Constabulary to help put down rebellion that was raging throughout Ireland. In response, a vigilante militia group of “Black & Tans” from the RIC burst into a stadium during a football match and fired several hundred rounds into the crowd, killing 14 and wounding upwards of 80 civilians. The event became known as Bloody Sunday, and served to harden against the Crown those souls whose earlier sympathies during the revolt had been ambivalent.
1921: Birth of the most respected comedian, Rodney Dangerfield (d.2004).
1928: First performance of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero.
1947: Great Britain’s Princess Elizabeth weds Phillip Mountbatten.
1955: First publication of William F. Buckley’s National Review magazine, in which the erudite conservative Yale graduate declaimed that his (and his magazine’s) purpose was to “Stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’” You know why, of course: the institutional Left- which constituted most of post-WWII academia and media- almost always framed their arguments on the basis of the inevitability of history showing they were right. Buckley initiated the “not so fast” movement that continues to this day.
1959: French President Charles de Gaulle gives a speech in Strasbourg, France, where he forcefully outlines the ultimate vision of the recently established European Coal and Steel Community and European Economic Community (a.k.a., the Common Market (precursor to today’s European Union)): “Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, it is the whole of Europe, that will decide the destiny of the world.” At the time of this pronouncement, France was embroiled in war in Algeria, had recently been forcibly ejected from its colony in Indo-China, and along with the British, failed to prevent Egypt from nationalizing the Suez Canal.
1960: Birth of John F. Kennedy, Jr. (d.1999).
1963: John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated on Friday, November 22 at 12:30 p.m. CST in Dallas, Texas, while riding in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza.
1963: Dallas police move to transfer Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald from the basement of the Dallas police headquarters to the county jail, when, from out of the crowd of reporters at the door, nightclub owner Jack Ruby* lunges forward and shoots Oswald in the abdomen. He died 90 minutes later in Parkland hospital, the same place where President Kennedy was declared dead two days earlier. All the national networks were broadcasting Oswald’s transfer, providing the country with a live broadcast of the murder that Sunday morning.
1963: After three days of a State funeral, President John F. Kennedy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The unprecedented live television coverage of the assassination and events leading to the funeral created a riveting cultural touchstone for a generation.
1969: Apollo 12 -The lightning strike from last week’s launch so scrambled up the telemetry from the rocket and onboard systems that the crew had to perform an obscure procedure, practiced only once in the year before the mission, that provided alternate power to the telemetry encoder. The quick thinking of the flight director at KSC and Alan Bean’s memory on the procedure allowed the flight not to abort. They continued into a parking orbit and performed a thorough systems checkout before igniting the Saturn Upper Stage for the trans-lunar injection (TLI) burn. The lunar landing occurred on this day. When the diminutive Pete Conrad climbed out of the LEM on to the surface of the moon, he exclaimed those immortal words: “Whoopie! Man- that may have been a small step for Neil, but that’s a long one for me!” The landing site was chosen to be close to a Surveyor III probe that touched down on the surface two years earlier. Automated systems guided the LEM with near-perfect precision, but Conrad chose to move their touchdown point about 600 feet short because the intended touchdown point looked too rough. Conrad and Bean spent over 31 hours on the surface and made two excursions outside the LEM.
1975: Death of General Francisco Franco (b.1892). Franco declared himself Caudillo of Spain at the close of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. His close ties with Nazi Germany during the civil war, his studious neutrality during WWII, and his strident anti-communism made him a particular object of left-wing loathing. In his later years he re-established a representative parliament and set the conditions for a restoration of the Bourbons under a constitutional monarchy.
1977: Egyptian President Anwar Sadat becomes the first Arab leader to visit the State of Israel, making an unprecedented speech to the Israeli Knesset, calling for peace between Israel and its neighbors. For this act of grace and strength, he was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
1990: Death of British writer and WWII fighter pilot Roald Dahl (b.1916). He is best known for his children’s stories, including Matilda, The BFG, The Twits, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and his stories from his time in the RAF: Going Solo, Over to You, and Shot Down Over Libya.