1066: The last successful invasion of the British Isles takes place at the Battle of Hastings, where an invading French army under the command of the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy demolishes the army of England’s King Harold II. The victor changes his moniker from William the Bastard to William the Conqueror, and assumes the throne of England as William I. The victory was a credit to the discipline and morale of William’s army, aided by the fatiguing reality that Harold’s army had just recently force-marched from the coastal north, where they repelled a Norse invasion on the 25th of September.
1322: Robert the Bruce defeats the Earl of Richmond at the Battle of Old Byland– yet another nail in the coffin of British King Edward II’s subjugation of Scotland.
1356: An earthquake estimated as strong as magnitude 7.1 flattens the Swiss city of Basel, with the structural damage exacerbated by massive fires caused by falling candles and torches. It remains the strongest seismological event in Central European history.
1448: The Second Battle of Kosovo ends with the Christian armies of Hungary depleted to the point where they were no longer able to mount a credible defense, let alone any offensive operations against the victorious Ottoman armies of Anatolia. The defeat gave the Ottoman’s junior commander (and later Sultan) Mehmed II the military breathing space for his eventual conquest of the Christian capitol of Constantinople n 1453.
1540: At a location thought to be only a couple miles southwest of present day Selma, Alabama, a 600 man Spanish army of conquistadores, led by Hernando de Soto, is led by Mississippian chief Tuscaloosa to a suspiciously open field directly abutting a suspiciously stout enclosure of stucco-covered log palisade, filled with a suspiciously homogeneous collection of around 3,000 young men, all daubed with war paint and armed with longbows. Tuscaloosa lured the Spanish to his “town” of Mabila so the Spanish could trade for food and supplies in order to continue their long march through what we now know as the southeast of region of the United States. It did not take long for the trade negotiations to reach an impasse, at which point one of the Spaniards pulled an Indian’s loincloth off over his head, triggering the first of several volleys of arrows to avenge the insult. After several abortive attempts to fight back and breach the walls of Mabila, the Spanish finally organized themselves as a functional army and waded into the Indian fighters, protected by their armor, laying waste to the Braves with furious swordplay. They set fire to the “village,” took what loot they could, and moved on leaving over 2,000 dead and dying Braves, including Tuscaloosa himself, to be burned in the ruins of the fort.
1776: Just weeks after his victory at the Battle of Brooklyn British General Sir William Howe opens the next phase of his campaign to capture New York by crossing to the mainland to trap General George Washington’s army on Manhattan Island. After being thwarted from an initial attempt his first landing attempt at Throg’s Neck, Howe re-grouped and on this day lands a force of 4,000 Redcoats on the mainland side of Long Island Sound at Pell’s Point, at what today is Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. An American force of about 750 under the command of Colonel John Glover established themselves in defensive positions behind a series of stone walls. Using a tactic that would be echoed later at the Battle of Cowpens, Glover exploited the American expertise at sharpshooting to attack the advancing British with continuous fire until their position was nearly overrun. They would then make an orderly retreat to the next stone wall and re-attack the same way. After repeated repulses, the British finally halted their advance, which gave Washington time to evacuate the bulk of his Manhattan force to White Plains, where the final tactical loss sealed the fate of New York, but allowed Washington to withdraw the Continental Army intact to New Jersey.
1777: Final surrender of British General Burgoyne’s army to American General Horatio Gates. The American victory was crucial proof to the French that the Americans actually had a chance to prevail against the huge military and naval superiority of Great Britain.
1781: Not too far from here in Yorktown, Virginia, with supplies running low, and the combined American & French armies under General George Washington closing their siege lines inexorably closer to the faltering British positions, British General Lord Cornwallis sends a party under flag of truce to ask for terms of surrender. This was a direct result of the French naval victory at the Battle of the Virginia Capes, which diverted Cornwallis’ replenishment fleet from delivering its crucial stores.
1793: Death of Marie Antoinette (b.1755), widow of the late King Louis XVI. After what passed for a trial a couple days before (DLH 10/15), the now-former queen maintained her composure during the hour long ride in a open oxcart between her jail cell and the guillotine erected in the Place de la Revolution (now the Place du Concorde). Her final words were, “Pardon me monsieur, I did not mean to do it, ” having accidentally stepped on the foot of the executioner on her way across the platform.
1814:The London Beer Flood. At a prominent brewery on Tottenham Court Road, a huge vat of beer ruptures, splitting open several other vats that suddenly disgorged over 323,000 Imperial Gallons of beer into the street. The frothy surge kills 8 souls, one of whom was crushed in the wreckage of the brewery’s collapse, and five others who drowned in the basement of a home where they were conducting a wake.
1834: The Palaces of Westminster, home of the Kings of England since Medieval times, and of the Houses of Parliament since 1295, burns to the ground, with only a couple portions of the original structure remaining usable. The government opened an architectural competition began to re-build the structure, and construction began 6 years later, in 1840. Thirty years after that, Parliament moved back in. The final furnishings were not completed until early in the 20th century.
1859: Rabid abolitionist John Brown leads a team of 18 men* on a raid of the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, planning on capturing the 10,000 rifles and ammunition in storage there with the expectation of leading a slave revolt in the southern states. They captured the arsenal fine, there being only one watchman on duty, but they were pretty much like the dog who finally captured the car it was chasing, trying to figure out what to do next, when a regularly scheduled train arrived. Jumpy as they were, one of them shot Hayward Shepherd, the Baggage Master who was trying to hail them about something else. The irony of a free black man being the first victim of the purported slave revolt was likely lost on Brown. The train promptly continued on its way and telegraphed to the B&O RR headquarters that evil was afoot in Harper’s Ferry.
1884: American inventor George Eastman receives a patent for a paper-strip photographic film.
1912: Former President Theodore Roosevelt, campaigning in Milwaukee as the head of the new Bull Moose party, is shot in the chest by a local saloon keeper. The bullet penetrated his steel eyeglass case and a 50 page copy of his manuscript before lodging in the muscle of his chest wall. Since he was not coughing up blood, TR knew that the wound was not mortal, so he went ahead and gave the speech with blood slowly oozing under his shirt and coat. He opened his comments with, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose…the bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.” Afterwards, the doctors decided it would be safer to leave the bullet in place rather than remove it, and TR carried it with him until he died.
1916: Eugenicist and Progressive icon Margaret Sanger opens in Brooklyn the nation’s first contraception clinic, for which she was promptly arrested and put on trial.
1923: Cartoonist Walt Disney incorporates the Walt Disney Company with his brother Roy Disney. I
1926: British author A.A. Milne introduces his most memorable character to the public with the publication of Winnie-the-Pooh.
1926: Birth of American guitarist Chuck Berry.
1938: First flight of the Curtis P-40 Warhawk, the mainstay fighter of the Army Air Corps in the early years of WWII, with 13,738 produced before production ceased in 1944. If you had a big checkbook in early ’44, you could have had one for $44,892.00. Can’t get one for that today.
1938: Birth of Dawn Wells, Miss Nevada of 1960 and the Mary Ann half of The Eternal Question, Ginger or Mary Ann?
1940: The Nazi government of Germany, whose army spent the last six weeks obliterating Poland’s army and forcing the capitulation of the Polish government, establishes a closed ghetto in the heart of Warsaw as a place to concentrate the extensive Jewish population of the country pending further plans.
1947: USAAF ace and former POW Captain Chuck Yeager, flying as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base out in the Mojave Desert, makes the world’s first supersonic flight in the Bell X-1 rocket plane. The event was nicely depicted in the 1985 movie The Right Stuff, derived from Tom Wolf’s book of the same name, which rightly identified the Edwards test pilot cadre as the quintessence of America’s push into ever more expanded and dangerous flight regimes. After this flight, Yeager went continued to set altitude and speed records in an ongoing competition with fellow test pilot Scott Crossfield
1962: A USAF U-2 reconnaissance plane returns from a flight over Cuba with photographic proof that the Soviet Union was installing ballistic missile launching facilities on the newly communist island.