1099: Now controlling Jerusalem, the knights of the First Crusade elect Godfrey de Bouillon as the first Defender of the Holy Sepulchre, creating the first Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem. Godfrey could not bring himself to take the title of “King” in the Holy City- hence the awkward title- but he acted the part, forcing Acre and a dozen other cities to pay tribute to this nascent kingdom.
1545: Following their inconclusive battle yesterday with the British fleet in the Solent, the French invasion fleet lands a small army on the Isle of Wight. The soldiers make a desultory attempt to conquer the island, but after looting and burning a few towns, they are repulsed by local militia. It remains the last direct French assault on the British Isles.
1812: An Anglo-Portuguese army under the command of Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) defeats a French army in the Battle of Salamanca. The battle cemented Wellesley’s reputation for tactical genius, as he kept his own dispositions hidden from the French while remaining alert and disciplined to watch and wait for opportunities to exploit fleeting French tactical weaknesses. The British Peninsular Campaign remained a constant drain on French resources during Napoleon’s reign. Although neither side won a decisive strategic victory, the constant coalition pressure on the Iberian Peninsula eased French pressure against other coalition allies in the French eastern European campaigns, most notably the French drive deep into Russia.
1849: Birth of American poet Emma Lazarus (d.1887), author of the poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse of your teeming soil; bring these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.”
1861: First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas)- After a two day march from Washington and a short bivouac at Centerville in the sultry July heat, the Union Army of Northeastern Virginia under Brigadier Irvin McDowell attacks the Confederate Army of the Potomac (correct army names, on both accounts) of General Joe Johnson at a stone bridge over Bull Run Creek near Manassas, Virginia. The fight brought to prominence Confederate Colonel Thomas Jackson, whose regiment came up from reserve to halt a Union advance against General Bee. When things were looking particularly bad, Bee turned to Jackson and exclaimed, “The Enemy are driving us!” Jackson turned to him and responded: “Then we shall give them the bayonet.” Suitably impressed with his taciturn subordinate, Bee then turned to his wavering men: “There stands Jackson like a stone wall…rally behind the Virginians!” As the battle ebbs and flows around the Warrenton Turnpike it becomes increasingly clear to both sides that the nascent war will not be the simple game that so many voluptuaries expected. The mindset was so pervasive (“On to Richmond!”) that the upper crust of Washington society this morning drove hundreds of carriages to the high ground near the expected battlefield to watch the Bluecoats whip the Rebs while they enjoyed a picnic lunch. When the Union army began its otherwise orderly withdrawal from their defeat, the picnickers panicked and turned the escape route into a rout. The high casualty count sobered both sides into realizing this would be a long and hard-fought campaign. Union casualties: 2,896- 460 killed/1100 wounded/1300 missing; Confederate casualties: 1,982- 387 killed/1500 wounded. NOTE: Civil War naming conventions varied between North and South; the North named battles after significant geographic landmarks (rivers, creeks, mountains, etc.), while the South generally named them after the nearest town or settlement. Bull Run- Manassas and Antietam- Sharpsburg are two of the more prominent examples of this little proclivity.
1903: The Ford Motor Company sells its first car, a “quadracycle.”
1914: The Empire of Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to the Republic of Serbia to allow Austria to conduct the investigation and trial of whomever it was that shot Archduke Ferdinand last month. To no-one’s surprise, Serbia rejects the demand, setting in motion Austrian plans that have been in place since 1912 to once and for all crush Serbian nationalism and its constant interference in Bosnia. During the post-assassination dragnet, one of the conspirators spills his guts, leading not only to the arrest of several more conspirators, but also to six bombs built by the Serb arsenal, four pistols, training documentation, suicide pills, and a map, annotated with locations of the Gendarmerie and escape routes out of Sarajevo. Leading up to this ultimatum were a series of diplomatic notes and tense diplomacy between Austria and Germany, the bottom line being that Germany needed to goad Austria into declaring war in order to trigger a wider war with France and Russia for which they were much better prepared than either. From the Austrian perspective, it was crucial to ensure Germany would support an Austrian mobilization for yet another Balkan war, particularly since Russia had signaled its support for Serbia. Germany, in fact, gave a Austria a famous diplomatic “Blank Cheque” to destroy Serbia. To help prop up the façade that Germany was caught completely unawares by the ultimatum, the entire General Staff, the Kaiser, and the majority of his ministers ostentatiously went on vacation on the 23rd.
1923: Death of Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula (b.1878), the Mexican warlord more commonly known as Pancho Villa.
1929: The Fascist state of Italy bans the use of foreign words in the Italian language.
1933: Fifty thousand cheering people greet aviation pioneer Wiley Post as he arrives at Floyd Bennett Field in New York City at the completion of his second flight around the world. The distinction here is that he did the feat solo, using a self-developed autopilot and compass instead of a navigator as on his earlier flight. He went on to further acclaim as he investigated the problems of high altitude flight, inventing several varieties of pressure suits to compensate for the physiological dangers of low pressures, low temperatures and low oxygen.
1936: The Montreux Convention is signed in Switzerland, allowing Turkey to fortify the Bosporus and Dardanelles. The treaty also stipulates free passage of all ships (except one class)* in peacetime.
1942: The National Socialist German government opens the Treblinka extermination camp.
1944: German Chancellor Adolf Hitler survives an assassination attempt led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.
1946: Jewish terrorists of the Irgun movement, including future Prime Minister Manachem Begin, bomb the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, headquarters of the civil and military administration of British Palestine.
1949: The United States Senate ratifies the North Atlantic Treaty, creating for the first time an entangling alliance warned about by President Washington.
1954: As the Battle of Dien Bien Phu continued to play out, the Geneva Conference on Indochina agrees to divide Vietnam into a northern zone governed by the Vietminh party of Ho Chi Minh, and a southern zone governed by the State of Vietnam, a nominal republic. The conference was attended by the USSR, United States, France, the UK and the Peoples Republic of China, none of whom were happy with the decision, especially since the going in position for all parties was a unified state. You will note that actual Vietnamese representation was not part of the decision matrix.
1961: Astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom makes the United States’ second flight into space aboard the Liberty Bell 7. His 15 minute sub-orbital flight reaches an apogee of 118 miles and lands 300 miles downrange from Cape Canaveral. After touchdown, the prototype explosive hatch on the capsule fires, opening the cockpit to seawater which nearly drowns Grissom. The recovery helicopter cannot keep the capsule from sinking and cuts it free as its wheels touch the water, after which they pluck the foundering astronaut* out of the water, his space suit filled with multiple gallons of the Atlantic. Grissom went on to be the first American to fly twice into space (Gemini 3, with John Young), and was commander of the first Apollo mission, in which he and fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire on the launch pad in January, 1967.
1973: Death of Eddie Rickenbacker (b.1890), pioneering race car driver, World War I fighter ace (26 confirmed kills), owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and CEO of Eastern Airlines. Rickenbacker also acted as President Roosevelt’s personal courier during World War II, commandeering a B-17 to transport him to meet with General Douglas MacArthur on a subject that remains unknown to this day. During the trip across the Pacific, the crew became lost, and the pilot was forced to ditch the aircraft at sea, which led to an ordeal of survival for 26 days in a rubber raft. Rickenbacker would always credit God-directed miracles for their survival, most notably the time when a seagull alighted on his head and remained there for nearly an hour while Rickenbacker slowly reached up and captured it. They carefully divided all the parts evenly, which kept them alive for several more days. During his time at the helm of Eastern, he wrote in his autobiography what many of us in the aviation world believe is a fundamental truth: “I have never liked to use the word ‘safe’ in connection with either Eastern Airlines or the entire transportation field; I prefer the word ‘reliable.’”
1976: Atlanta Braves slugger Hank Aaron smacks his 755th and final home run. With h/t to the baseball junkies who annually remind me of my statistical weakness, I should note right here that even though he spent the bulk of his career with the Braves, he spent his final season with the Milwaukee Brewers, where this astounding record was set. It held through 2007, when Barry Bonds of the SF Giants popped his 756th.
1982: The Pittsburgh Pirates’ great first baseman & left fielder Willie Stargell nails his final home run, number 475, ranking 30th on the all-time list, tied with Stan Musial and right behind Lou Gherig’s 493.
2003: United States troops of the 101st Airborne Division, making a coordinated attack on a protected Iraqi compound, kill Uday and Qusay Hussein.