1097: Opening moves of the First Crusade’s Siege of Antioch, the ancient Greek and Roman metropolis that dominated the trade routes of the upper Levant, and which was distinguished in the New Testament as being the city where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.” Although the city was in commercial decline during the Crusader period, it remained a singular strategic prize during the centuries of warfare between the Latin Crusaders, the Byzantine and Seljuk Turks, the Saracens of Syria and the Mongols of the Asian Steppes.
1295: A treaty of alliance is signed between the crowns of Scotland and France, pledging that if one of them is attacked by England, the other will attack England in return. The treaty, known informally as the Auld Alliance, was formally renewed by every sovereign of the two countries through 1560, when Scotland became officially Protestant, and after which the accession of Scotland’s James VI (as England’s James I) formally joined the two antagonists.
1415: An English army under the command of King Henry V decisively defeats a larger and better-equipped French army at the Battle of Agincourt. The battle is notable for the effective use of English longbows and the high number of casualties among the French nobles who fought there. It was also the central scene in William Shakespeare’s play Henry V.
1456: Death of John of Capistrano (b.1386), Italian priest, Franciscan monk, theologian, and at age 70- a warrior accompanying the Hungarian army on a Crusade to Constantinople, before which he personally led a military contingent that raised the siege of Belgrade. The Spanish Mission San Juan Capistrano, situated just north of San Diego, is the only one of the missions on El Camino Real that retains its original adobe construction on site. It is famous for the annual return of a huge flock of migrating swallows, the harbingers of Spring.
1642: The first battle of the English Civil War(s) is fought to a conclusion at Edgehill. It is a victory for King Charles I, but does little to change the course of the deep conflict between Royalist and Parliamentarian armies.
1648: Final ratification of the Peace of Westphalia, which brought to an end the Thirty Years’ War. This may have been the first “world war” in history, as it wracked the entire continent of Europe. The fighting centered in what is now Germany, but what was then the Holy Roman Empire, which was actually 255 fiercely independent city-states and territories, nominally confederated under the Holy Roman Emperor, of the Austrian House of Hapsburg. The initial fighting was itself a spillover from earlier Catholic-Lutheran conflicts, made more complicated by the growth of Calvinism in many Protestant districts. All this unrest in the East held the attention of the Bourbon dynasty in both Spain (with its not-quite adjacent holdings in the Netherlands and northern Italy), and France, with its long Rhineland border with the fractious Germanic states. Because of the huge political undertones of the religious fighting, the emphasis shifted during the course of the war from the rights of Protestants and Catholics, to the general balance of power on the continent, especially as it played out between the Bourbons and Hapsburgs. Even Sweden- who held extensive lands on the northern tier- and England, whose mercantile economy was intimately tied in with Continental trade, were pulled into the conflict.
1707: The Royal Navy loses four ships that run aground off the Isles of Scilly in bad weather, with the loss of nearly 2,000 sailors in addition to the ships themselves. Ongoing investigations confirm that one of the crucial factors in the disaster was the inability of navigators to accurately plot their longitude. Parliament eventually passed the Longitude Act in 1714, offering an increasing level of prize money to anyone who could devise a practical way of determining longitude at sea.
1721: Tsar Peter I (The Great), after defeating the Kingdom of Sweden over four Baltic provinces, declares a Russian Empire with the new city of St Petersburg as its capital. The empire eventually became the Russian Republic at the start of the 1917 revolution.
1746: The College of New Jersey receives its founding charter. It became Princeton University in 1896.
1797: In Boston, the Joshua Humphrey-designed 44-gun frigate USS Constitution is launched. She remains afloat to this day, having just completed a major overhaul and renovation at the old Navy Yard graving dock.
1805: Just off the SW coast of Spain, the 27-ship strong Mediterranean Fleet of the Royal Navy, under the command of the Viscount Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, engages the larger 33-ship Allied combined French & Spanish fleets under the command of French Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve in the pivotal naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars. The Battle of Trafalgar was the culmination of months of British blockades, French breakouts, a trans-Atlantic sea chase to the Caribbean and back, and an ultimately futile attempt by the Allied fleet to break free from their blockaded anchorage at Cadiz in order to make a run back into the Mediterranean for re-arming and replenishment. Having finally weighed anchor and cleared his fleet for sea, Villeneuve realized almost immediately that Nelson’s fleet lay in wait below the horizon. He formed up his ships into the conventional and powerful line of battle, significantly outnumbering and out-gunning his British foes. Nelson, for his part, correctly anticipated Villeneuve’s move, and at dinner with his captains the night before, laid out an audacious plan to split his fleet into two lines of battle set up to run perpendicular to the Allied line in order to crash through it and break the powerful battle line into a general melee of individual ship actions, of which Nelson was confident that the morale, discipline, seamanship, and marksmanship of the British would carry the day. He was explicit with his captains that night: “No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.” The next morning Nelson, aboard his flagship HMS Victory, ordered a flag hoist message to all ships: “England expects that every man will do his duty,” and led his line straight into the middle of the Allied line just ahead of Villeneuve’s flagship. Nelson’s second commander, Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, crashed his line about halfway back between Villenueve’s ship and the rear of the line, separating the Allied fleet into three parts and creating havoc as the British gunners pummeled the French and Spanish ships into charnel houses while the vanguard of the Allied line worked vainly for over 90 minutes in the light winds to bring their lumbering ships back into the fray. The scope of the stunning British victory: Allied losses: 21 ships captured, one sunk; 4,393 sailors dead, 3,800 sailors wounded, over 8,000 sailors captured. British losses: no ships lost; 488 sailors killed, 1,208 wounded. Prominent among the dead was Lord Nelson himself, killed by sniper fire from a French fighting top.
1824: Briton Joseph Aspdin obtains a patent for Portland cement. It derives its name not from the city in Oregon, but from its similarity to stone quarried in the Isle of Portland in Dorset, England.
1833: Birth of Albert Nobel (d.1896), Swedish chemist and physicist, inventor of dynamite, whose bequest funds the ongoing Nobel Prize competitions.
1836: Six months after his victory over the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto, Virginia native Sam Houston is inaugurated as the first president of the Republic of Texas.
1854: In a crucial decision during the Crimean War, FizRoy Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan, orders an unnecessary attack on Russian positions of unknown strength. It led to the debacle of the Charge of the Light Brigade, who rode under the direct leadership of Lord Cardigan, who survived the battle but remained furious at the original order. The battle is best remembered by the Alfred Lord Tennyson poem Charge of the Light Brigade.
1861: President Abraham Lincoln, under the provisions of Article I, section 9 of the Constitution, suspends the writ of habeus corpus, giving the federal government the ability to hold suspected rebels indefinitely without trial. Here’s the pertinent Constitutional clause, because I know you’re curious: “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”
1861: Completion of the United States’ first transcontinental telegraph line.
1869: Birth of Ohio sportsman John Heisman (d.1936), a great player in his own right, and a better football, basketball, and baseball coach for ten universities and colleges between 1892 and 1927, retiring with a football record of 186-70-18 and a baseball record of 219-119-7.
1881: Birth of avant grade, post-impressionist artist Pablo Picasso (d.1973)
1884: The International Meridian Conference formally designates the Prime Meridian as running through the Naval Observatory in Greenwich, just outside of London.
1891: Birth of radio host Father Charles Coughlin (d.1979), whose populism originally supported, but later turned on the New Deal and the Roosevelt administration. His on-air and public speeches descended anti-Semitism, which eventually led to an increasingly bitter battle between himself and broadcast regulators, finally causing him to be silenced from radio ministry in 1939.
1892: Opening ceremony for the World’s Columbia Exposition, the world’s fair built on the south side of Chicago in Jackson Park. Construction of the neo-classical display buildings was driven as much by schedule as by engineering, but with the exception of a fire in one of them, all were completed in time for the public opening the following May. The exteriors were painted white with dark trim accents, and the entire park was illuminated at night by electric light, earning it the moniker of “White City” for its perpetual gleam.
1911: Orville Wright returns to Kill Devil Hill, NC with a newly designed glider that incorporates many of the lessons they learned during their Huffman Prairie flights back in Dayton. The new machine uses a now-conventional elevator and rudder combination at the rear of the plane, and the pilot sits upright with hand controls, as opposed to lying prone in a hip cradle. On this day, with 40-knot winds blowing up the hill, Wright and his team got the machine airborne and remained aloft, under complete control, for 9 minutes 45 seconds, a record for a non-powered flight that will stand for ten years.
1912: Birth of Grande Old Opry superstar, Minnie Pearl (d.1996)
1917: Birth of American trumpeter and Big Band leader Dizzy Gillespie (d.1993).
1917: Under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, Bolsheviks storm and capture Tsar Nicholas II’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, creating the opening battle of the “October Revolution” phase of the larger Russian Revolution.
1940: Birth of Brazilian soccer superstar Pele (d.2022).
1944: Opening guns of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which over the course of three days became the largest naval battle in history. The battle’s first shots were actually a highly successful torpedo attack by two American submarines yesterday against a Japanese cruiser force getting underway from Brunei. Two cruisers of the force went to the bottom, forcing a Japanese reversal overnight. The primary battles took place on the 24th & 25th.
1944: Battle of Leyte Gulf, Day 2– The torpedo shot in Brunei yesterday should have given the Imperial Japanese Navy pause as they sortied toward the central Philippines, but it didn’t. As the American invasion fleet continued its offload in Leyte Gulf, two of the six carriers of the US Third Fleet intercepted Admiral Kurita’s Japanese Center Force of battleships and cruisers in the Subuyian Sea east of Leyte, making a furious and continuing attack on the Japanese super-battleship Musahsi in particular, which eventually sank after taking direct hits from at least 17 bombs and 18 torpedoes. The IJN Yamato and Nagato also took several hits but remained operational as the Japanese fleet turned around for several hours to get out from under the American attackers. Late in the afternoon, they reestablished their course for San Bernardino Strait. During the ensuing melee, land-based Japanese fighters swarmed toward the American striking aircraft but were completely overpowered by the supporting American fighter aircraft. Commander David McCampbell distinguished himself this day with 9 confirmed kills. As the day wound down, the Third Fleet Commander, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, acting on intelligence about the discovery of the Japanese Northern Force, withdrew the two carriers to join with his other four carriers and their associated battleship forces to dash northeast to intercept and destroy Japan’s remaining carriers. The American surface fleet that was expected to be guarding the San Bernardino Strait was included in the run north, leaving the entire northern approaches of Leyte Gulf un-monitored and un-protected by the US Navy.
1944: Battle of Leyte Gulf, Day 3. Battle of Suriago Strait, the world’s final all-gun naval battle. Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf positioned himself at the northern end of the passage with a massive blocking formation of 6 battleships (five of which were Pearl Harbor survivors), 4 heavy cruisers, 4 light cruisers, 28 destroyers, and 39 PT boats, creating a gauntlet of fire that would, for six hours on this night, destroy the Japanese Southern Force in detail, sinking both of its battleships, two heavy cruisers and at least three destroyers outright, with several more surviving Japanese ships sunk by aircraft later in the morning as they tried to escape back south through the strait. Battle off Samar. Admiral Kurita’s still-potent Central Force slipped through San Bernardino Strait unopposed overnight, making its way down the eastern coastline of Samar Island with what appeared to be a clear run to General MacArthur’s invasion fleet. Kurita’s four battleships, including the massive Yamato, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and eleven destroyers carried enough firepower to systematically obliterate the American landing force, which would be ranged by their guns in mere hours. Nothing now stood between Kurita and his targets except a handful of startled escort carriers (CVE) carrying only ~30 planes each, and another handful of destroyers, armed with 5″ guns and torpedoes. Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague ordered all of his planes- about 90 total- to launch as the CVEs scuttled toward rain squalls to the east. The old Wildcats and Avengers attacked with such fury that Kurita believed he had roused the large carriers of Third Fleet rather than nearly hopeless escorts of the Seventh Fleet. When the planes ran out of ammunition, they kept making dry runs to try to force the Japanese out of ammo. The destroyer squadrons also ran at flank speed into the Japanese formation, firing their little 5-inchers into the huge armored targets before them. The CVEs themselves came under direct Japanese gunfire, with USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73) the particular object of IJN Yamato’s 18″ artillery, which crippled and sank the thin-skinned carrier, the only carrier in the war to be sunk by naval gunfire. When the American position looked doomed, Admiral Kurita fired one last salvo at the American ships and turned around to the north to retire from the fight, a stroke of luck in the famous “fog of war” that no one anticipated. Battle of Cape Engano. The Japanese Northern Force of four aircraft carriers and old battleships, the decoy fleet designed to draw off Halsey’s Third Fleet from the main event, actually did decoy Halsey and his five fleet carriers, five light carriers, six battleships, eight cruisers, and forty destroyers to chase them several hundred miles away from the main fight at Leyte. But they paid for it, as they expected. Admiral Ozawa’s 108 aircraft were no match for Halsey’s 7-800, and after his planes were swept from the skies, the virtually undefended ships came under withering attack from the Americans, who sank three carriers and a destroyer and heavily damaged the two light carriers. Despite these important victories, the main story of this battle was the fact that it happened at all, epitomized by the message to Halsey from Fleet Admiral Nimitz at the height of the crisis off Samar: “Where is Third Fleet? The World Wonders.”
1956 : British colonial forces capture rebel Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi, effectively collapsing the brutal Mau Mau Rebellion that terrorized Kenya from 1952. The insurgency was completely crushed by the end of the year. Kimathi was tried and executed for war crimes in February 1957.
1962: One week after obtaining conclusive proof of Soviet nuclear missile deployments to Cuba, President John F. Kennedy gives a speech to the nation, publicly revealing the Soviet deployments, and declaring a naval quarantine around the island to prevent further Soviet military supplies from landing there. The public announcement upped the ante for the high-stakes diplomacy between Washington and Moscow, buying time for both the diplomatic and military planning for a potential invasion and occupation of the island. JFK made the point explicitly: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”
1972: Death of Los Angeles Dodger, Jackie Robinson (b.1919).
1973: Last day of the Yom Kippur War. Also known as the Ramadan War, the October War, the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, or the Fourth Arab–Israeli War, was an armed conflict fought from 6 to 25 October 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria.
1973: A UN-imposed ceasefire ends the 19-day Yom Kippur War, which opened on the 6th of October with a stunning surprise attack by the Egyptian Army to re-capture the east bank of the Suez Canal, which itself had been rolled up along with the entirety of the Sinai Peninsula by Israel during the 6 Day War in 1967. A coordinated attack by Syria on the Golan Heights was designed to put Israel into an Arab vise, and in the early days of the attacks, the strategy looked viable. But three days of counter-attacks by Israel in the north pushed the Syrians back to their pre-war lines of departure, and another four days of Israeli offensive operations put their army within artillery range of Damascus. At the canal, Egypt’s Second and Third armies crossed via pontoon bridges at three breached sections of Israel’s Bar Lev Line, having used water cannons to erode the 80-foot tall sand berms Israel built between reinforced concrete hard spots on the canal’s eastern shoreline. By the 9th of October, the Egyptians had established stabilized defensive positions between 5-10 km inland from the canal in mountainous terrain. The initial Israeli armored counterattack was thwarted by the unexpected appearance of Soviet-provided RPGs and the very lethal Sagger wire-guided anti-tank missile. Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) quickly established a hard-fought air dominance campaign, including deep strikes against both Egyptian and Syrian reinforcements and strategic air defense nodes, close air support to their armored forces, and a stunning air-to-air posture that essentially destroyed the air forces of both Arab antagonists. The IAF kill ratio was shattering, ending with 334 Arab shootdowns to only 5 Israeli losses. Note: Israel did lose 90 aircraft to airfield attacks and some level of surface-to-air missile activity. Similar Arab aircraft losses added approximately another 150 to the accounting. The final week of battle saw Israeli armored forces lunging through the gap between Egypt’s Second and Third armies, re-crossing the canal in force, and occupying most of the western shoreline of the canal all the way to Suez, with vanguards continuing westward to within 40 miles of Cairo. More importantly, the Israeli army now completely encircled Egypt’s Third Army, their backs to the canal on the eastern shoreline. Israel’s armor completely blocked any ground communication into the Sinai, and Generals Sharon and Adan held all potential water crossings on the western bank. The ensuing peace negotiations lasted over two years but eventually led to the 1978 Camp David Accords that formalized a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
1983: The barracks of United States Marine peacekeepers at the Beirut airport is attacked by a suicide truck bomb, killing 241 Marines. Simultaneously, another suicide bomber attacked the French barracks, killing 51 French soldiers.
1994: The United States signs the “Agreed Framework” with the regime of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) in which the DPRK agrees to shut down its nuclear program in consideration of the US delivering annually 500,000 tons of heavy petroleum, making arrangements for construction of two light water reactors, providing a formal “no first use” of nuclear weapons statement, and moving toward full diplomatic and economic recognition of the DPRK. The NORKS, for their part will “freeze” their graphite modulate reactors, remain within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, “take steps” to implement the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and dismantle the graphite reactors after the LW reactors are completed. The executive agreement collapsed by January 2003.
2002: Arrest of Washington, D.C. sniper terrorists John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo at a rest stop in Maryland.