1093: Dedication of Winchester Cathedral, the nominal home of King Arthur’s round table.
1388: An army of Swiss soldiers, outnumbered 16:1, defeats a Hapsburg army of over 6,500 in the Battle of Nafels, an astounding rout by about 400 armed citizens of the cantonment of Glarus and a handful of knights from other parts of Swiss* Confederation. The battle was the final act in the long-running conflict between the ever-expansionist Hapsburg Empire and the ever-stubborn and independent minded farmers and shop keepers of the central Alps. After this battle, the Swiss kept their independence and the Emperor decided to leave them alone.
1413: After five years of increasingly bitter fighting with the Welsh, the 27 year old Henry of Monmouth is crowned King Henry V of England on the death of his father, Henry IV. The young king almost immediately turned his attentions to regaining historic landholdings in France against the Valois dynasty, to say nothing of living out a life that inspired William Shakespeare to some of his finest work.
1585: Departure from England of a five-ship fleet, organized and funded by Sir Walter Raleigh, to create a permanent English colony in the New World. The group eventually landed and set up camp on the shores of Roanoke Island on North Carolina’s Albemarle Sound. The little settlement maintained a tenuous toehold on the land; between conflict with the local Indian tribes, and lack of a viable means to sustain their need for food, the success of the enterprise was very much on the edge of maintaining viability. Raleigh commissioned his friend J0hn White two years later to go back to Roanoke with a small fleet for re-supply and reinforcement, including 115 more colonists. When they arrived they found no one except a bleached out skeleton. White stayed long enough to help the new group get re-established, and promised to return with more supplies the following Spring. Multiple delays- war, piracy, hurricanes…the usual- intervened, and when he finally stepped ashore in August of 1590, not a trace of the new colony could be found. The only clue was the word “CROATOAN” carved into a tree, and the letters “CRO-” in another. The Lost Colony remains lost to this day, but it fuels a vibrant tourism economy down in the Outer Banks. After the English colonies actually did take hold up and down the coast, there were for years reports of blue-eyed Indians who inhabited the tidewater regions of North Carolina and Virginia colonies, providing some degree of explanation about the fate of the little colony.
1588: Birth of English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (d.1679). He is probably best known for his rather gloomy view of the human condition and the need for a powerful sovereign to maintain order. In his magnum opus, Leviathan (1651), Hobbes described life of an unconstrained individual in a state of nature as “…solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
1606: King James I grants a royal charter to the Virginia Company of London, a joint stock company that will finance British colonization of North America north of Cape Fear
1614: Virginia native Pocahontas marries British subject and Jamestown leader John Rolfe.
1621: After wintering over in Cape Cod Bay, Mayflower sets sail from Plymouth, Massachusetts on its return trip to England.
1730: Dedication of Shearith Israel- the first synagogue in NYC.
1778: Commanding his brig USS Ranger, Captain John Paul Jones departs Brest, France on a raiding mission against British interests in the Irish Sea. It is the first offensive naval action of the American Revolution, and the attacks take the British completely by surprise. In a particularly daring raid into his native Scotland, Jones sails into Kirkcudbright Bay with a view to abduct the Earl of Selkirk and hold him hostage for the release of American sailors held by the British. The earl is not at home but the crew takes the liberty to steal his silver, including his wife’s teapot, still warm and full of her morning tea. The raids continue for several more weeks, and after capturing HMS Duke, Jones returns to Brest where he will seek a larger ship and make plans for more raids as the year progresses.
1792: President Washington issues the first presidential veto on a bill concerning apportionment of representatives between the several states.
1794: Birth of Rear Admiral Matthew Perry
1820: Venus de Milo (b.130 BC) is discovered on the Greek island of Melos, and is promptly transported to Paris for public display at the Louvre.
1849: Walter Hunt of New York patents the safety pin. He later sells the rights for $100.
1865: After his Appomattox meeting [DLH 4/9] with Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Major General Robert E. Lee, CSA, issues General Order #9, his last:
“After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them…I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen…I bid you an affectionate farewell.”— Robert E. Lee
1867: The United States Senate ratifies the treaty with Russia, that purchases Alaska for $7,200,000, or approximately $0.o2 per acre
1887: Anne Sullivan teaches the word “water” to Helen Keller.
1896: The first modern Olympic Games opens in Athens.
1904: Great Britain and France sign a mostly secret Entente Cordial which, although structured around their spheres of influence in their global empires, actually signaled the end of over a century of near-continuous hostility and occasional war between the two countries. Of more pertinence, the treaty solidified the obligations of one another against potential hostilities with the burgeoning Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, also treaty-bound by their own Triple Alliance. By 1907 Russia grew increasingly concerned over the conduct of the Central Powers, particularly Austria-Hungary in the Balkans, leading them to join with France and Britain to create the Triple Entente. This process, my dear history students, is exactly what George Washington warned against when he spoke of the dangers of “entangling alliances,” as we shall see in July and August.
1912: Birth of Sonja Henie (d.1969),
1912: RMS Titanic sets out from Southampton, England on her first transatlantic voyage.
1913: Ratification of the 17th Amendment, specifying the direct election of Senators, a key political goal of the Progressive movement. Prior to this, Senators were appointed by state legislatures and represented the interests of the several States themselves, serving as a powerful check on Federal overreach. Given the scope of the federal government’s metastasis over the years since ratification, it is no surprise that there is a considered body of opinion exploring the ways the 17th may be repealed, not unlike how the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th a few days back.
1916: Two months into an
1917: The Canadian Corps of the British Expeditionary Force opens its attack on Vimy Ridge, a German controlled piece of high ground that dominated the northern area of the British Arras Offensive. The four day battle achieved its objectives against ferocious resistance, and its all-Canadian nature became a nationalistic touchstone for our northern cousins.
1939: Contralto Marian Anderson sings an Easter concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a crowd of over 75,000, plus a nation-wide radio audience. The critically acclaimed concert came about after the D.A.R. refused to allow her to perform in their Constitution Hall. Anderson went on to a sterling career as a classical singer both here and in Europe, and was one of the leading lights of the post-war civil rights movement.
1940: Norwegian politician Vidkun Quisling seizes control of the Norwegian government as the Nazi invasion tightens its grip on the country. He forms a collaborationist, pro-Nazi puppet government, serving as Minister-President under the control of the Germans. After the war, he is convicted and executed for high treason, and his name has become synonymous with “traitor” ever since.
1947: Jackie Robinson opens his major league career with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
1959: NASA announces the first corps of United States astronauts, seven test pilots from the Navy and Air Force, who will be at the pointy end, literally, of America’s first steps into outer space. If you were sentient at the time, you remember the absolutely riveting levels of national pride these guys engendered, and they had yet to actually do anything except pass an excruciating set of physical and psychological screenings. But there they were: our Mercury 7 Astronauts. Author Tom Wolfe captures the mood beautifully in his book, The Right Stuff (1979), and maybe even more so in the 1983 movie of the same name.
1962: Civilian test pilot Neil Armstrong takes the X-15 rocket plane to180,000 feet altitude.
1963: On a test dive after a hastily completed major overhaul, USS Thresher (SSN-593) sinks 220 miles off of Cape Cod with the loss of all hands (112 crew and 12 civilian).
1981: Death of General Omar Bradley (b.1893), USMA class of 1915.
1991: Georgia, the home of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, declares its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union.