3761 BC: The “epoch reference date” for the modern Hebrew calendar.
539 BC: Cyrus the Great of Persia captures Babylon, making it the largest unified empire on earth up to its time. Cyrus maintains an honored place in Western Civilization as one of the early progenitors of a centralized state managed by the rule of law. He integrated conquered peoples into the empire with a high degree of sensitivity to their customs, strengths, and weaknesses, developing a system of local Satraps to administer the lands in the name of the King. Cyrus also has a place of honor in the Bible, being referred to as “God’s anointed,” who not only freed the Jews from their Babylonian exile but financed their return to their homeland.
680: Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of the prophet Mohammad, is decapitated in battle against the army of Caliph Yazid I. Ali’s death is one of the defining events in Islam’s great Sunni-Shi’a split. The core of the dispute centers on who rules as the legitimate successor to the prophet himself: blood heirs (Shi’a position) or political-scholarly leaders (Sunni position). The death is commemorated as the feast of Ashurah.
732: A Frankish army of 30,000 under the command of Charles “The Hammer” Martel, decisively defeats the invading Muslim army of Abdul Rahman al Ghafiqi at the Battle of Tours (also known as the Battle of Poitiers). Along with the Battle of Lepanto, this victory was one of three of the most important- engagements that halted the spread of Islam, and ensured that Europe would continue to develop as a collection of explicitly Christian kingdoms.
1492: Five weeks after heading west from the Canary Islands, Christopher Columbus makes landfall near Samana Cay in the southern region of the Bahamas Islands. He spends the next three months exploring primarily along the north coast of Cuba and the island of Hispaniola, trading with the natives, taking careful soundings, and noting the locations of the harbors, and availability of provisions for follow-on exploration. Columbus’ voyages to the New World are a story of vision, courage and endurance against unknown and often fatal odds. Columbus may not have been the first European to set foot in the Americas but he was the first to do it intentionally as the leader of a truly national undertaking. He set the path for the Great Age of Exploration and the scientific revolution that swept into its wake. His voyages played a part in the Reformation and the Enlightenment. One of history’s great mariners, the Spanish Crown named “Admiral of the Ocean Seas.”
1571: Battle of Lepanto– The last exclusive galley-versus-galley naval battle, fought between the navies of the Ottoman Turks and a Christian coalition formed by Don Juan of Austria. The lopsided victory stopped the Ottoman coastal surge in its tracks, and is considered one of the three* great battles that ensured the continued development of a Christian Europe under the spiritual guidance of the Pope, as opposed to a Muslim Europe under the political and spiritual control of the Caliphate of Ottoman Turkey.
1600: The tiny principality of San Marino, a small Tuscan city, adopts a written constitution, making it the first republic of the modern age.
1654: A huge explosion in the Dutch city of Delft kills over a hundred people, injures hundreds more, and levels the central business district. The blast occurred during an inspection of a gunpowder magazine in the city center. The Delft University of Technology maintains a popular major in the science of explosions, a direct result of this tragedy.
1691: Great Britain issues a Royal Charter establishing the Province of Massachusetts, in the New World, where the Plymouth Plantation continued to prosper.
1739: Birth of Grigory Potemkin (d.1791), Russian nobleman, military leader, and lifelong “favorite” of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia. The idiom that now bears his name came from his time as Governor-General of the newly annexed Crimea region. On the eve of renewed war with the Ottoman Empire, the Empress made an “unannounced” visit up the Dnieper River with her Court, multiple ambassadors, and a disguised Austrian Emperor Joseph II to show them the strength of her new territories. Potemkin painted up actual riverfront villages to make them look better, and also created a kind of mobile village that could be set up quickly and populated with members of his army and staff dressed up as peasants as the royal flotilla went by. It could just as quickly be knocked down and moved to the next location.
1763: King George III issues the Royal Proclamation of 1763 stating, among other things, that aboriginal lands north and west of the Appalachians and Alleghenies were closed to white settlement. The edict came on the heels of the Treaty of Paris that ended the 7 Years War (a.k.a. French and Indian War), which ceded to Britain all French claims to the eastern drainage of the Mississippi River. The king and Parliament reasoned that keeping white settlers out, it would not only stabilize relations with the Indian tribes of the Ohio Valley but would inhibit the rampant land speculation that was sure to get worse as the new territory was surveyed.
1780: At the Battle of Kings Mountain, near Blacksburg, South Carolina, an American Patriot militia, loosely organized as a collection of scores of smaller militias from “over the mountain” regions, and under the nominal command of ten different colonels, decisively defeated a superior force of Loyalist militia under the command of British Major Patrick Ferguson. The Loyalist force was part of Lord Cornwallis’ Southern Strategy, which attempted to exploit Loyalist sentiment in the coastal regions by creating local militias that would take the fight against Americans inland, led and supported by British Regulars. The previous months saw repeated vindication of this strategy with the capture of Charleston, the Battle of Camden, the Battle of Waxhaws, and Tarleton’s Massacre. Major Ferguson expected to make a short, violent thrust inland from the Waxhaw area to put down the last of the Patriots. What he didn’t know is that the news of Tarleton’s Massacre inflamed Patriots hundreds of miles away, and the intervening weeks gave the distant militias time to gather and loosely organize a defense. Ferguson finally learned of the gathering force and took a strong defensive position atop Kings Mountain. When the Patriot attack started, Ferguson rode up and down the line, fully exposed to fire, blowing commands with a silver whistle. The Patriot militias, meanwhile, broke into 20 separate groups and charged up the hill, pausing behind rocks to load their rifles, carefully aiming at and picking off individual Loyalists, and eventually Ferguson himself. The victory promoted Patriot momentum throughout all the colonies, especially in the Carolinas, where Cornwallis’ Regulars were on the cusp of an even more strategic defeat at Cowpens.
1780: A massive hurricane tears through the Lesser Antilles, creating a swath of destruction from the Grenadines to Bermuda that leaves 23,200 souls dead and no fewer than 65 naval vessels from France, the Netherlands, and Great Britain lost at sea or smashed to splinters on a lee shore, to say nothing of the devastation ashore, where thousands of homes and business were swept away by the storm’s surge. The Great Hurricane of 1780 remains the single most destructive weather event in the history of the Atlantic Ocean.
1793: Death of American patriot John Hancock (b.1737).
1810: Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria invites all the citizens of Munich to a fair just outside the city gates to celebrate his wedding to Princess Therese of Saxe- Saxe-Hildburghausen, celebrating in a meadow they named Threseinweise (Therese’s meadow), the same name as it has today. The celebration, with an agricultural fair, horse races, fresh beer, and a general celebration of all things Bavarian, was so received that the citizens of Munich have continued it to this day as the annual Oktoberfest, where you can eat traditional Bavarian food, drink traditional Bavarian beer.
1823: Scotsman Charles Macintosh patents and sells his first raincoat, a direct result of Macintosh’s invention of a method to blend rubber into cotton and linen threads, creating a wearable outer shell that actually repels water.
1844: Birth of Henry J. Heinz (d.1916).His ketchup bottle says “57 Varieties.”
1845: The first class of The Naval School is seated in Annapolis, Maryland; 50 midshipmen and 7 instructors begin the process of formalizing the training of nascent officers of the U.S. Navy.
1871: Three days after “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow” knocked over the lantern in the barn, The Great Chicago Fire finally burns itself out. The cataclysm took over 300 lives, left nearly three and a half square miles of the city center in cinders, and displaced over 100,000 people from their homes. The cow story was fabricated by a journalist, knowing it would foment the anti-Irish sentiment in Chicago.
1888: Birth of Henry Wallace (d.1965). Wallace served as Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President, 1941-45. He was the 1948 nominee for President of the Progressive Party. As a Socialist, he alienated his own Democrats with his outspoken admiration for the advances of the Soviet Union.
1910: At Kinloch Field just west of Saint Louis, Theodore Roosevelt climbs aboard a Wright Model B aeroplane with pilot Archibald Hoxey and becomes the first President to go flying.
1912: Opening guns of the 1st Balkan War, where the Balkan League (Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria) initiated combat in a bid for independence from the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were no match for the multi-front armies of the four allies, who relatively swiftly defeated their Turkish overlords and then settled into their own rounds of territorial squabbling, aided and abetted by the Great Powers of Europe.
1919: Birth of Doris Miller (d.1943), a cook aboard USS West Virginia (BB-48). During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Miller dashed up to the bridge after his normal General Quarters station was hit by a Japanese torpedo, and helped move his captain from the path of direct fire from the Japanese aircraft. Then, on his own initiative, he started firing one of the bridge machine guns at the attacking planes. He was presented the Navy Cross by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. His citation reads, in part:
““…[his] distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard of his personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller despite enemy strafing and bombing, and in the face of serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety and later manned and operated a machine gun until ordered to leave the bridge.” 2020 Update: Last January the Navy announced that the newest nuclear aircraft carrier in the new Ford class will be named USS Doris Miller (CVN-81).
1928: Three years after the death of his long-time mentor, Sun Yat Sen, General Chang Kai Shek becomes Chairman of the Republic of China.
1939: After a hard-fought victory over the Polish army, Nazi Germany annexes western Poland into the Third Reich, setting the conditions, per the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, for the Soviet Union to occupy the eastern half of that country.
1940: Publication of a secret memorandum by LCDR Arthur H. McCollum, in which he outlines the Japanese Empire’s advance throughout “the Orient,” and offers that the US generate enough of a confrontation with Japan that they will attack U.S. interests somewhere. Such an attack would ease the U.S. entry into the burgeoning World War, and free the US to overtly support Britain in her war with Germans. McCollum worked as an analyst at the Office of Naval Intelligence on the desk that monitored the Orient.
1945: In the aftermath of the Japanese surrender, the Communist Chinese under Mao Tse Tung and the Kuomintang of Chang Kai Shek signed an agreement on the post-war future of China. The “Double Tenth” agreement confirmed that the Kuomintang was the de facto ruling party of China and that the Communists were a legitimate opposition party.
1967: The communist Che Guevarra, is chased from Cuba, and is finally captured in Bolivia by soldiers of that government.
1967: The Outer Space Treaty goes into effect. The parties to the treaty agree to not place nuclear weapons into orbit and to refrain from using the moon or other celestial bodies as military testing or staging areas. It does not prohibit the “militarization” of space, but provides a framework for consultation and non-interference between spacefaring nations; it considers space as part of the global commons, and the moon and other celestial bodies as part of the “common heritage of mankind.”
1972: A race riot breaks out aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) while conducting Operation Linebacker in the Gulf of Tonkin. With resentment simmering from a recent racial incident on shore leave in Subic Bay, Philippines, nearly 200 black sailors assaulted and injured a number of white crewmen, several of whom had to be evacuated to shore-based hospitals for treatment. Post-event investigation exposed resentment at the perceived assignment of black sailors to menial and degrading duties, and the perception that white sailors got more lenient treatment at Captain’s Mast (non-judicial punishment under the UCMJ). CDR Benjamin Cloud (who was black), the Executive Officer of the ship, helped diffuse the situation and got most of the malcontents back to their stations prior to the next day’s flight operations. Nineteen sailors were eventually found guilty of charges related to the riot. A second, eerily similar mutiny occurred within a month aboard USS Constellation (CVA-64).
1973: U.S. Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew resigns from office. The former Governor of Maryland was indicted for federal tax evasion. When faced with a potentially long and ugly public trial, Agnew resigned.
1977: The Supreme Soviet adopts the 4th Soviet Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It didn’t work either.
1985: The Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro is hijacked by terrorists of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The cretins who captured the ship took wheelchair-bound American tourist Leon Klinghoffer to the upper deck, shot him in the head, and then rolled him and his chair into the cold Mediterranean.
2001: One month after the attacks of 9/11, the Executive Branch of the US government, with the concurrence of both houses of Congress, established the Office of Homeland Security,