799: Charlemagne, grandson of the great Charles Martel, holds an audience in the north-central German city of Paderborn with the embattled Pope Leo III, who fled Rome under persecution by the nobility of that city. Leo requested the protection of the powerful French king, and Charlemagne reciprocated with a vow of fealty to the papacy, which included a promise to forcibly re-install Leo in Rome. The meeting began a chain of events that culminated in Leo’s re-installation as Pope, and him, in turn, proclaiming Charlemagne as the Protector of the Roman Empire. He thus became the first Holy Roman Emperor, a title that remained essentially intact through multiple dynasties over the course of 1,120 years, finally ending with the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which stripped the Austrian Royal family of any lingering claim to the throne.
1095: Following upon yesterday’s call for a Crusade, Pope Urban II formally appointed Count Raymond IV of Toulouse and Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy to lead the First Crusade, providing the papal imprimatur on the operation.
1343: An underwater earthquake in the Tyrrhenian Sea initiates a tsunami that devastates Naples and much of the low-lying Amalfi coast.
1466: Birth of Genovese Admiral Andrea Doria (d.1560), remembered for his exploits at sea against the Ottomans and Barbary pirates, but as the leading politician of the independent Genovese Republic.
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, the last remaining vestige of the 780 years of the Moslem empire of Al-Andalus. You’ve probably heard some of our Islamist adversaries quacking about the current fight to restore Al-Andalus; we’ll talk about it some more at the end of the siege in early January.
1667: Birth of Irish novelist, Jonathan Swift (d.1745). He is best-known work is “Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships!”
1729: On the western fringes of colonial settlement, in this case, the French territories along the Mississippi River basin, Natchez Indians massacre 138 Frenchmen, 35 French women, and 56 children at Fort Rosalie. The fort was the seat of French authority and trade along the river. Relations between the French and the Indians were never entirely peaceful, and the 1720s saw periodic uprisings of increasing violence, culminating in the massacre today. Present-day Natchez, Mississippi, developed from the trade routes that converged on the fort.
1748: Death of the great British hymnist Isaac Watts (b.1674), much of whose music you probably know by heart. How about these: 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.
1778: On his third Pacific voyage of exploration, Captain James Cook becomes the first European to land on Maui, in the Sandwich Islands chain.
1803: France and Spain execute a secret clause of the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, transferring title of the Louisiana territory from Spain back to France.
1824: Four men ran for the office of President: General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee; former Senator John Quincy Adams, son of President John Adams and long-serving envoy of the United States; former Senator William H. Crawford of Georgia; and Kentucky Representative Henry Clay, “The Great Compromiser” and Speaker of the House of Representatives. None of the men achieved a majority of Electoral votes, although Jackson received a plurality, with Adams a close second. When the vote finally came on February 9th, Adams won on the first ballot.
1833: Birth of gunman, lawman, and newspaperman, Bat Masterson (d. 1921). He achieved particular notoriety in 1881-83 as one of the good guys during the height of the lawlessness in Dodge City, and after cementing a reputation as a no-nonsense enforcer in the decreasingly Wild West, he began a career as a newspaper writer in Kansas, Denver, and eventually New York City, where President Theodore Roosevelt recruited him to be Deputy US Marshall for federal grand jury sessions.
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.
1859: Death of American author Washington Irving (b.1783), best known for his depictions of colonial New York in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip van Winkle.
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 suffered major casualties, but the Confederate position could not hold against Grant’s and Sherman’s relentless attacks, and Confederate General Bragg withdrew his army to Dalton, Georgia. The Union victory in the Chattanooga campaign allowed them to consolidate their forces and supplies in this critical railroad junction city, which became the base for Sherman’s drive toward Atlanta the following year.
1864: A few miles south of Nashville, Confederate General John Bell Hood orders his troops into a Burnside-like frontal assault against entrenched Union positions on the high ground just outside the town of Franklin. Both sides began the fighting with 27,000 troops. The Battle of Franklin became an unmitigated disaster for Hood, with over 6,200 casualties, 1750 of whom were killed. Union losses numbered 189 dead of their 2,300 total casualties. As night fell, the Union forces immediately withdrew into the next layer of Nashville’s defensive works, completely foiling Hood’s strategy of breaking the Union lines. You can today visit the center of the Union line in Franklin. Several of the original farm buildings remain riddled with holes from the furious gunfire of the battle.
1874: Birth of Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston S. Churchill (d.1965).
1877: Inventor Thomas Edison demonstrates his gramophone for the first time.
1883: Death of abolitionist Sojouner Truth (b.1797), who achieved nationwide fame for her outspoken advocacy of abolition and women’s rights, particularly her 1851 speech at a woman’s rights convention, where she peppered her extemporaneous review of basic human rights with the phrase, “Ain’t I a woman??” She was a major force in the recruitment of black soldiers for the Union Army, and met President Lincoln while working at the Freedman’s Hospital in Washington.
1866: Death of Colonel Sir George Everest (b.1790), Surveyor-General of India 1830-43. The mountain was named after him.
1885: The U.S. Patent Offices recognizes Dr Pepper as a commercial drink. It beat Coca-Cola by a year.
1895: Completion of the first American automobile race, 54 miles between Jackson Park in Chicago and Evanston, Illinois at an average speed of just over 7 mph. The victor, Charles Duryea won in a motorized wagon of his own design. Second place went to a German car built by Karl Benz, who used it to win the Paris-Rouen race the year prior. Duryea, ever the entrepreneur, recognized the potential of automobile racing on future sales of his machine, and immediately began marketing it on the basis of its proven speed and endurance.
1913: The nation’s first drive-in gasoline station- designed, owned and operated by the Gulf Refining Company- opens in Pittsburgh. Prior to its opening, gasoline was usually purchased at pharmacies or hardware stores. The price at the time was $0.27/gal, or about $6.25/gal in current prices.
1929: Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd becomes the first to fly over the South Pole. After learning to fly during the World War, the Virginia native pursued solutions to increasingly difficult flying problems, most notably long-range navigation. He developed a number of navigation instruments, including the bubble sextant, with which he proved that planes could be safely flown across great distances with reasonable accuracy. Byrd played a key role in developing the routing for the Navy’s first trans-Atlantic flight in 1919. In May, 1926, he planned- and took credit for a flight from Spitsbergen Norway to the North Pole and back, a feat for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. In 1928 he led a two-year Antarctic expedition of two ships and three airplanes which surveyed and photographed vast areas of that frozen continent. The South Polar flight today was well-documented and earned Byrd a gold medal from the American Geographical Society.
1934: A British steam locomotive nicknamed The Flying Scotsman becomes the first steam locomotive to be clocked at a speed over 100 mph officially. The machine is maintained in operational condition at Britain’s National Railway Museum in Yorkshire.
1955: Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus, and is subsequently arrested. Her run-in with white authorities was not the first of its kind, but it was carefully designed* to force a confrontation and to present the problem of segregation to a national stage. It succeeded, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the months that followed.
1959: The Antarctic Treaty is signed by the 12 nations participating in the International Geophysical Year (IGY), opening it for ratification by member states and others who will abide by its provisions. Antarctica remains the only land mass on the planet that is considered non-sovereign, and thus is part and parcel of the Global Commons– the regions of earth and space that, by belonging to no one, are free to be used and exploited by everyone. The other Commons are the high seas (including the airspace over the high seas), exo-atmospheric space, and increasingly, the realm of cyber-space).
1960: Birth of John F. Kennedy, Jr. (d.1999).
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 today’s funeral created a riveting cultural touchstone for the generation who saw it unfolding before their eyes.
1990: The “Chunnel” drilling machines from France and England meet 120 feet under the seabed of the English Channel.
2001: Death of George Harrison (b.1943), youngest of The Beatles.