1577: Death of Italian Renaissance painter Titian (b.1488).
1609: Operating under contract to the Dutch East India Company, English explorer Henry Hudson discovers the Delaware Bay. The Company originally hired him to explore the route for the North-EAST passage to Asia, expecting he could find his way through the ice around the north of Russia to the riches of the Orient. After rounding the North Cape of Norway, the ice pack completely blocked his path. On his own initiative, Hudson then turned his ship Halve Mean (Half Moon) westward to search for the expected Northwest Passage. He made landfall in Nova Scotia in early July, and worked his way as far south as Cape Charles. Turning north without exploring the mouth of the Chesapeake, he then began his survey, entering on this day the Delaware Bay. He continued northward up the coast, eventually exploring the river that now bears his name all the way up to the site of present-day Albany. His trade with the natives and his careful charting of the coastline secured the Dutch claim to the region.
1645: Death of the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius (b.1583). A child prodigy who entered the University of Leiden at age 11, Grotius was one of the most influential thinkers who developed what we know now as the core principles of international law, including the law of war and the rights of belligerents on the high seas. Grotius’ most important accomplishment from this Navy man’s perspective was the codification of the idea of Mare Liberum, the Free Sea, published in 1609, whereby all nations are free to use the high seas as a pathway for trade as they see fit, a concept which became the foundation of what we now know as the global commons. Concurrent with this consensus was the definition of territorial waters as being under the sovereignty of a coastal state only to the extent that the state can actually control it. Using the “the fall of cannon shot” as the measure, it led to the long-running (over 300 years) acceptance of the three mile limit offshore as the boundary of a state’s territorial waters.
1748: Birth of Jacques-Louis David (d.1825), whose works defined the transition between 18th Century Rococo to the bold Neo-Classical composition and coloring of the Enlightenment movement. During the French Revolution he became the de facto state artist, as we saw several weeks ago with his Death of Marat work (DLH 7/13). When Napoleon came to power he led the next transition into what is known as the Empire style, continuing the classical tradition, but in a contemporary context. His work kept him at the top of the art world until his death, and even afterward, as his legions of students maintained his influence well into the 19th Century.
1776: General George Washington and the Continental Army suffer a strategic defeat at Brooklyn Heights when the British army under General William Howe outflanks his defenses and almost completely encircles the American forces as they retreat to prepared position on the heights. By late afternoon Washington recognizes they cannot hold the ground at Brooklyn and orders a retreat across the East River to Manhattan Island. While Howe is carefully digging in for a siege of the American redoubts, Washington evacuates the American army without further loss of life. Between the excellence of the Howe’s forces and the strength of the British fleet that controls New York harbor, Washington eventually realizes he will have to completely evacuate New York. On the positive side, the successful evacuation from Brooklyn ensures that the entire Continental Army remains a viable force-in-being that the British will not be able to ignore as the war deepens.
1780: Birth of the great French painter Jean Ingres (d.1867). His work is distinctive for its subtle emphasis on “line,” not just the shapes of things themselves, but the movement of the line against- and in relation to– its background. He is also noted for the way his enamel-like colors enhance the “line” concept.
1799: From the continuing wars of the various anti-France coalitions (in this case, the Second Coalition), a British fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Andrew Mitchell captures an entire Batavian Dutch fleet of twelve ships under the command of Rear Admiral Samuel Story without firing a shot. The victory hinged on an outstanding intelligence estimate, the Brits’ timely and correct application of diplomacy, a credible threat of devastating force, and a civil-military “strategic communications” plan that played directly into the nationalistic sentiments of Dutch sailors who served under the French-ruled Batavian Republic. The action took place near present-day Den Helder at the mouth of the Zuider Zee. A British army made a landing three days earlier on the North Sea side of the peninsula. The fleet then made its way into the Helder roadstead, flying the flag of the Hereditary Stadtholder, the Prince of Orange. The knowledge of the British landing, combined with the sight of the British fleet and the knowledge that their actual sovereign was within range, triggered a spontaneous mutiny of the Dutch sailors and most of their officers against the hated French. Admiral Story, recognizing that resistance would be fruitless, offered to surrender his fleet to the Stadtholder and himself and his men to the British as Prisoners of War. Admiral Mitchell made a point of delaying the decision, but then took it before the French had an opportunity to re-establish their control of the fleet. British prize crews sailed the best of the ships back to England, where they were inducted into the Royal Navy. This event became known as the Vlieter Incident. It was a singular success from an otherwise disastrous 1799 Anglo-Russian Campaign, which began to unravel almost immediately after today’s startling victory.
1830: The first steam locomotive built in the United States, the Tom Thumb, performs a demonstration to convince investors of the viability of steam railroads.
1859: First commercial extraction of oil, from a well near Titusville, Pennsylvania. “Pennsylvania grade crude” and “Pennzoil” are a couple legacies of this event, as are Standard Oil & J.D. Rockefeller, among others.
1862: The Battle of Second Manassas (Second Bull Run)- after completely negating Union General George McLellan’s Peninsular Campaign, Confederate General Robert E. Lee takes the offensive against the Union Army of Virginia, now commanded by Major General John Pope, who has to react to Lee’s aggressive thrusts and parries in a northward campaign toward Washington, DC. When Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson captures a Union supply train at Manassas Junction, Pope believes he has trapped the Confederates (counter-intuitive, I know). What Pope doesn’t know is that Jackson is holding a reinforced position behind an unfinished railroad berm, and that James Longstreet has established his 25,000 men on Jackson’s right, completely unknown to Pope. The forces fought a mostly inconclusive battle on this day, but during the night Longstreet’s forces move into an attacking position. The fight that raged throughout the 30th forced the Union back along the same retreat route it had used 15 months earlier after the Battle of First Manassas.
1883: The Indonesian volcanic island of Krakatoa self-destructs in a paroxysm of explosions that caused the landmass to completely disappear beneath the waves of the Sunda Strait. The final explosion was heard distinctly in Perth, Australia (1,930 miles away) and on Rodrigues Island off the coast of Africa, over 3,000 miles across the Indian Ocean. The force of the detonation is nominally estimated at 200 Megatons, equivalent to about 13,000 “Little Boy” atomic bombs (Hiroshima). The explosion ejected into the atmosphere approximately 5 cubic MILES of pumice, rock, and ash, creating beautiful sunsets and cold winters around the world for several years. Since 1927 the volcano has been building a new island, named Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa), which is growing about 5 meters a year.
1885: German engineer, designer and handyman Gottlieb Daimler patents the world’s first motor-cycle, powered by a one cylinder, one horsepower gasoline engine he nicknamed the “grandfather clock engine.” You probably knew that he went on to join forces with his fellow small-engine junkie Wilhelm Maybach to form the motor company we now know as Mercedes-Benz (i.e., Daimler, AG).
1896: The shortest war in history is fought between Great Britain and Zanzibar, a result of a dispute over the accession of the new Sultan of Zanzibar. With an ultimatum expiring to no effect at 0900, a British task force opened fire on the palace, setting it afire and destroying Zanzibar’s only artillery pieces, in addition to sinking a royal yacht. When the palace flag is finally hit and knocked down at 0940, the Brits cease fire, and a complex diplomatic dance between Germany, Zanzibar and Great Britain ensues, with the British choice for sultan eventually taking the throne. Total time in combat: 40 minutes.
1899: Birth of British author Cecil Louis Troughton Smith, better known by his pen name, C.S. Forester (d.1966), his eleven books detailing the life and times of Captain Horatio Hornblower, among other swashbuckling heroes, and the anti-hero of Charlie Allnut of The African Queen (1935).
1911: Ishi, the last Native American to make contact with American civilization, steps out of the woods near Mount Lassen in northern California to meet his destiny. He immediately became a sensation in anthropological circles, providing demonstrations of a former life completely independent of European influence. He lived at the University of California, San Francisco, until his death from tuberculosis in 1915.
1914: Battle of Heligoland Bight– the first naval engagement of the Great War, where the Royal Navy made a surprise attack against patrolling cruisers and destroyers of the German Imperial High Seas Fleet, sinking three light cruisers, a destroyer and two torpedo boats, and severely damaging six other cruisers and destroyers, at a cost of heavy damage to one light cruiser. By their own admission, the Brits got lucky, but the battle so unnerved the Kaiser that he restricted the German fleet from any further chance at engagement for nearly three months, creating a rift between him and the naval command that never healed.
1914: Only four weeks into the Great War, the Imperial German 8th Army of 166,000 under the command of Field Marshalls Paul von Hindenburg and Eric Ludendorf, decisively smashes the Russian 1st and 2nd Armies in the Battle of Tannenberg. The three-day fight in East Prussia saw Hindenburg take full advantage of the German railroad network to quickly move his forces to a position where Ludendorf could engage them as a singular unit against both Russian groups. Their adaptability and ability to concentrate against the Russian flanks* allowed them to completely dominate the battlefield, killing or wounding 78,000 and capturing 92,000 of the 416,000 total Russian force. Rather than report the loss to the Tsar, the Russian commander committed suicide. Over the next three years, Russia was never able to recoup from the shattering loss, and eventually sued for a separate peace.
1928: In one of the more obtuse pieces of diplomatic idealism ever to be ratified, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is signed by the United States and 14 other nations. The treaty, negotiated outside the jurisdiction of the League of Nations, essentially outlaws war as a legitimate diplomatic tool, except for self-defense. It is no stretch to say the treaty (which is actually still in force) is honored only in the breach, but it was the basis for the “crimes against the peace” that underlay the post WWII Nuremburg Trials.
1937: Birth of New Zealand race car driver and designer Bruce McClaren (d.1970). Race winner in Formula 1, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the CanAm series, and the Indy 500. His brilliant driving style directly influenced crucial racing developments in aerodynamics, suspension, and highly focused engineering efforts. He was killed while testing an M8D CanAm car at Goodwood at age 32, but his legacy lives on today as a major constructor in Formula 1 and in an eponymous automobile business that defines the word “supercar.”
1949: The Soviet Union detonates its first atomic bomb. Despite a significant level of in-house development by Soviet scientists, the event was hastened by broad-based espionage from the Manhattan Project by Klaus Fuchs, who provided the Soviets significant details on gaseous diffusion of uranium isotopes, using plutonium instead of uranium in the fission device, techniques for extracting plutonium through a “uranium pipe,” confirmation of critical mass (determined after years of trial and error by the Manhattan Project), and a complete set of blueprints and schematics for our own atomic bomb.
1966: The Beatles perform their last concert for paying customers, held in San Francisco at Candlestick Park.
1968: At the Democratic National Convention taking place in Chicago, ten thousand anti-war protesters are goaded into violent action by Tom Hayden, triggering a violent counter-action by Chicago police and Illinois National Guard. In a summer of race rioting and anti-war protests all around the country, this one stands out for the callousness of the neo-communist organizers and the ham-handedness of the Chicago political machine, all of which was broadcast “live, in living color” for the nation to see.
2005: Hurricane Katrina slams into the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, wreaking havoc. Minimum central pressure was 902 mb, or 26.64 in/hg.