888: Death of Charles the Fat (b.839), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the youngest son of Louis the German and Hemma. Charles was a great-grandson of Charlemagne. He was the second-last emperor of the Carolingian dynasty and the last to rule, briefly, over a re-united Frankish empire. Over his lifetime, Charles became ruler of the various kingdoms of Charlemagne’s former Empire. Granted lordship over Alamannia in 876, following the division of East Francia, he succeeded to the Italian throne upon the abdication of his older brother Carloman of Bavaria who had been incapacitated by a stroke. Crowned Emperor in 881 by Pope John VIII, his succession to the territories of his brother Louis the Younger (Saxony and Bavaria) the following year reunited the kingdom of East Francia. Upon the death of his cousin Carloman II in 884, he inherited all of West Francia, thus reuniting the entire Carolingian Empire (wikipedia).
1412: The Medici family of Florence is formally appointed to act as banker to the Papacy, an account that greatly accelerated their rise as the most powerful family in Italy, to say nothing of hastening the development of modern banking and accounting methods to accurately deal with vast sums of money.
1584: Florentine explorer Gionvanni da Verrazzano sets sail from Madeira to find an ocean route to the Pacific. He explores much of the eastern coast of North America, mis-identifying Pamlico Sound as the Pacific Ocean. He discovered the entrance to New York harbor, and farther up the coast, Block Island. The narrows of NY harbor, and the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge is named after him.
1670: British pirate Henry Morgan, captures and sacks the city of Panama in the Spanish Main, burning it to the ground after taking anything and everything of value. For nearly 10 years, multiple Royal Governors of Jamaica ignored repeated edicts from the Crown to suppress piracy. Instead, they encouraged Morgan to range throughout the Caribbean attacking Spanish ships and port cities under Jamaican Letters of Marque, which somehow added legitimacy to his activities. Morgan kept his crews occupied with adventure and plunder, while enriching himself, his Governors, and the Crown itself with looted Spanish treasure. The sack of Panama, however, was the last straw for the Spanish: England was formally at peace with Spain in 1670, and the Spanish Crown demanded Morgan’s head. In 1672 he was arrested for the act, and returned to England for an expected trial and hanging. Instead, King Charles II knighted him for Services to the Crown and appointed him Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica, where he served until 1683, living there until his death in 1688. Today, Captain Morgan’s Rum still sports an image of the Captain, swashbuckling in a scarlet jacket trimmed in gold.
1707: The Scottish Parliament ratifies the Act of Union with England, beginning the process of creating the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Wales (and later, Northern Ireland).
1741: Birth of Benedict Arnold. During the American Revolution, Arnold distinguished himself through acts of intelligence and bravery. His actions included the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, defensive and delaying tactics at the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain in 1776 (allowing American forces time to prepare New York’s defenses), the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut (after which he was promoted to major general), operations in relief of the Siege of Fort Stanwix, and key actions during the pivotal Battles of Saratoga in 1777, in which he suffered leg injuries that halted his combat career for several years. Despite his successes, he was passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress, while other officers claimed credit for some of his accomplishments. Congress investigated his accounts and concluded that he was indebted to Congress (even as he had spent much of his own money on the war effort). Arnold was frustrated and bitter at this, as well as with the alliance with France and the failure of Congress to accept Britain’s 1778 proposal to grant full self-governance in the colonies. He decided to change sides (wikipedia).
1773: Captain James Cook, on his second voyage of discovery, becomes the first European explorer to sail below the Antarctic Circle, which lies at 66 degrees 33 minutes South (North) latitude, about 650 nautical miles south of Cape Horn. Part of Cook’s mission was to survey the northern extent of the summer icepack as well as the iceberg zone. This region is known to sailors as the “Roaring 40s,” where it is not unusual for near-hurricane force winds to occur for weeks at a time, causing the seas themselves to build into breakers approaching fifty feet in height. Cook conducted his survey from a wooden sailing ship.
1778: On his third Voyage of Discovery, Captain James Cook discovers a Central Pacific island chain he names the Sandwich Islands. They have since reverted to their native name, Hawaii. As an aside, the people who consider themselves the indigenous natives of the chain are working to further devolve the name into a near-phonetic transliteration of the Polynesian Hawai’i, which is itself derived from O-havai’i.
1784: The new United States government ratifies the Treaty of Paris, which acknowledges its existence as an independent political entity.
1786: The Virginia General Assembly accepts the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson– as part of the supreme law of the Commonwealth. Jefferson insisted it be included in his epitaph.
1808: Birth of Salmon P. Chase (d.1873), a prominent New Yorker and principled “Free Soil” abolitionist. Chase ran for the 1860 Republican nomination for President, but lost to Abraham Lincoln, who nevertheless brought him into his Cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury, where he established the framework for a national banking system, and created a viable market for government bonds supported by paper money. His financial reforms provided the crucial capital necessary for financing the war effort against the Confederacy. Chase, after threatening resignation several times, was appointed by Lincoln (after accepting the resignation) to sit as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, where he served until his death. The Chase banking empire in New York was named in his honor, even though Chase himself had no fiduciary interest in the corporation.
1831: Birth of Horatio Alger, Jr. American writer of inspiring books about boys who rise from humble circumstances to accomplish great things.
1875: Birth of Albert Schweitzer (d.1965), musician, theologian, and medical doctor whose work in easing the lives of African tribesmen in Gabon, and his deep intellectual response to the real problems of both colonialism and the de-colonizing movement earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.
1943: After over 6 months of brutal combat and continuing losses to the U.S. Marines, the Japanese army completes Operation KE, the evacuation of Guadalcanal.
1943: Start of the First Warsaw Uprising in the Jewish Ghetto. After four years of being crammed into a single ghetto, the Jews of Warsaw revolt against the Nazi occupation. Armed with pistols, rifles and Molotov cocktails, the fighters seek to forcibly oppose the renewed transports of the Jewish population to the death camps. The rising lasted through May, forcing the Germans into a complete military operation in order to put the revolt down.
1943: First day of the Casablanca Conference between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill with representatives of the Free French forces. Joseph Stalin was invited but declined to attend because of the ongoing siege of Stalingrad. This conference publicly declared unconditional surrender as the core Allied war aim against Germany. To get there, Roosevelt became the first President to fly in an airplane while serving in office, taking a plane between Miami and Casablanca across the Atlantic Ocean.
1945: The Red Army captures what’s left of Warsaw, Poland. After six years of war, the city is reduced to heaps of rubble, with a population struggling for subsistence.
1945: With Soviet forces nearing, the Nazi administrators of Auschwitz begin to evacuate the death camp.
1945: The Soviet sweep into Eastern Europe winds up arresting Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg off the streets of Budapest, where he established a “Swedish Cultural Zone” to protect the Jews of Budapest from Nazi deportation.
1950: First flight of the prototype MiG-17 fighter plane, a workhorse of the communist bloc through the 1980s.
1966: An armed B-52 on a routine deterrent patrol suffers a mid-air collision with its KC-135 tanker over Polomares, Spain. Both planes break up in flight, and three of the four B-28 thermonuclear bombs on board the B-52 fall onto farmland. Two of them detonate conventionally, spreading nuclear material over a wide area. Cleanup efforts involved removing some 1,400 tons of dirt, and transporting it back to the Savannah River Plant in the United States for burning and disposal. The fourth bomb fell into the sea just offshore, but remained unlocated for over three months. During the (34 Navy ships) search effort, which finally succeeded with the deep submersible Alvin, the regular U.S. press, unable by security rules to confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons, was left making statements like, “I don’t know of any missing bomb, but we have not positively identified what I think you think we are looking for.” Quoted in Anthony Lake, “Lying Around Washington,” Foreign Policy,no. 2 (Spring 1971), p. 93 [Extracted from (Brookings website)]