988: Traditional date of the founding of Dublin, Ireland.
1040: Lady Godiva makes her famous ride through Coventry to protest an onerous tax levied by her husband. He relents.
1099: The First Crusade- Low on supplies, and finding themselves encamped on arid ground after they failed to initially breach the fortified walls of Jerusalem, the 15,000 men of the First Crusade respond to a vision by the priest Peter Desiderius to purify themselves by a three day fast, and then make a pious demonstration of marching barefoot around the city, mimicking the Hebrews’ actions at Jericho. This day saw both the completion of the fast and the demonstration around the city, and stimulated a public rapprochement between bickering factions in the Crusader army. One week later, the final assault on Jerusalem will begin.
1191: The Saracen garrison at Acre surrenders to Conrad of Montferral, ending a two-year siege of the city- a key waypoint on the Third Crusade.
1536: Death of Erasmus of Rotterdam (b.1466), best known as the first and greatest humanist thinker, biblical translator, and author of nearly 30 percent of the books circulating in the early 16th century. Ironically, despite being a devout Catholic, his incisive sense of logic and belief in human free-will decisions made him one of the early intellectual “fathers” of the Protestant Reformation.
1543: Good old King Henry VIII, convinced he still had it in him, marries his sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr, who not only survived him but also survived three other husbands, thus becoming the most married queen in English history.
1576: Explorer Martin Frobisher sites the landmass of Greenland.
1776: Captain James Cook departs Plymouth on his third journey of exploration of the Pacific Ocean.
1778: As evidence of his support- heavily lobbied by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson- of the newly declared United States of America, Louis XVI of France declares war on the United Kingdom. The war costs him big money, which he finances through heavy borrowing. The financial strain plays directly into the crisis that caused him to convene the Estates General in 1789.
1789: The French National Assembly, which on the 17th of June formed itself out of an uneasy alliance between the 3rd and 2nd Estates of the Estates Generale, almost immediately became embroiled with both the Crown and the 1st Estate over its legitimate authority. Banned from the Estates venue, on the 20th of June it met on a tennis court and took The Tennis Court Oath, which committed the Assembly not to adjourn until it had created a new national constitution. By this day, the Crown had moderated its demands on the group, and they, in turn, re-designated themselves the National Constituent Assembly and assumed unto themselves sole legislative authority, an assertion not yet universally agreed upon. It did, however, provide a viable venue for the continued transformation- to full revolution– of the French government.
1789: The French Minister of Finance, Jacques Necker, is dismissed from office by King Louis XVI for favoring a re-structured tax program that would shift the burden more evenly across the Estates. In his years of service Necker was widely viewed as a highly forward-thinking reformer, even when working directly for the Crown. During the upheavals of early 1789, he took a leading role in supporting the demands of the Third Estate, but over time he found less and less cooperation from the rest of Louis’ government. With unrest growing concurrent with the dissolution of the National Assembly and the establishment of the National Constituent Assembly, high expectations were growing among the common people of Paris, many of whom looked to Necker as their voice at Court. His dismissal on this day and the way the news traveled through the grapevine on the 12th triggered an increasingly violent mob mentality, exacerbated by the extensive presence of mercenary troops serving at the order of the King. With Necker’s dismissal, the mobs began to grow panicked over the prospect of a violent repression of the political and social movement that was energizing the city.
1798: The Quasi-War with France- After four years of increasing tensions between the United States and the revolutionary French Republic, including repeated capture of American merchant ships by French privateers, Congress on this day repeals all treaties with France. This includes canceling our Revolutionary War debt to France, justified on the basis that the money was owed to the Crown and not the Republic. The action infuriated the French government, who increased its issue of Letters of Marque in order to continue harassing American shipping. With its entire navy in layup after the war, the American coastline is completely naked to attacks. President Adams re-activated 25 ships, who go on to distinguish themselves by capturing 22 privateers and deterring hundreds of attacks on American shipping. The conflict lasts nearly two years until Napoleon Bonaparte takes control of the French Directory and focuses French attentions elsewhere.
1804: Death of former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton (b.1755), the victim of a duel with the sitting Vice President, Aaron Burr. The two had long been political rivals, but after a recent NY gubernatorial election which Burr lost to an associate of Hamilton’s, Burr became so incensed at Hamilton and vice versa, that the two took their dispute to a bluff over the Hudson River at Weehawken, NJ. Hamilton shot intentionally high, but Burr was determined to take his revenge and aimed directly at Hamilton’s torso. After his fall, Hamilton turned to his Second and his doctor and told them the wound was mortal. Minutes later he fell unconscious and was taken back home to NYC. On his deathbed, he moved in and out of consciousness as he bid farewell to a stream of friends and relatives. Finally, in the early afternoon, he died.
1839: Birth of John D. Rockefeller (d.1937): Cleveland native, oil man, industrial titan, and philanthropist
1846: U.S. troops occupy Monterrey and Yerba Buena (San Francisco), beginning the American conquest of California.
1846: Congress authorizes the retrocession to Virginia of District of Columbia lands south of the Potomac River. So the Pentagon is, in reality, not in DC. Something along these lines, by the way, would be a viable solution to the problem of “representation” for District residents
1853: Commodore Matthew Perry, with a United States Navy fleet dubbed the “Black Ships” by the Japanese, steams into Tokyo Bay to begin negotiations to open trade relations between the United States and Japan.
1854: Birth of George Eastman (d.1932), inventor of roll film in 1884 and film transparencies, the foundation of the motion picture industry. He founded the Eastman Kodak company in 1892, establishing a mass-produced film and standardized photo equipment that brought photography out of the expensive laboratories of the dry plate process and into the hands of the general public. In his later years, Eastman was a notable philanthropist, donating over $100 million to a variety of charities and foundations.
1856: Birth of Nikola Tesla (d.1943), Serbian-American inventor whose work with electricity and magnetism was well ahead of his time.
1859: Publication of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities
1863: The United States authorizes its first military draft to fill the ranks of the Union army. Exemptions and substitutions may be purchased for $300; a lucrative black market follows.
1865: At the Navy Yard in Washington, four conspirators convicted in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln are hanged by the neck until dead, three months after the President’s shooting by John Wilkes Booth. [Photos: Lewis Payne, David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt at the scaffold. Surratt was the first woman executed in the United States
1868: Final ratification of the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing full citizenship to former slaves.
1870: Death of Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren (b.1809), Chief of the Navy Bureau of Ordnance, and inventor of a number of advanced muzzleloading naval artillery pieces. His legacy includes the Naval Test range on the Potomac River that bears his name.
1914: Babe Ruth makes his major league debut with the Boston Red Socks, playing pitcher and outfield.
1921: Former President William Howard Taft is sworn in as the 10th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
1925: Opening day of the ACLU-initiated trial against young biology teacher John T. Scopes, in Dayton, Tennessee. The case was sensationalized primarily because of the presence of the two most famous lawyers in the country, three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryant for the prosecution, and Clarence Darrow for Scopes. The climax came when the two lawyers agreed to cross-examine each other on the issues surrounding the teaching of evolution.
1930: Under the guidance of industrialist Henry Kaiser, construction begins on Boulder Dam in southern Nevada. In March Nevada legalized gambling almost concurrently with the announcement of the project.
1940: First major Luftwaffe assault in what would become known as the Battle of Britain
1943: Opening guns of Operation HUSKEY, the Allied invasion of Sicily. During this campaign Lieutenant General George S. Patton cements his reputation as “Old Blood and Guts” as he sweeps wide of his assigned lanes and captures not only Palermo at the western end of the island, but beats British Field Marshall Montgomery to Messina in the east.
1943: Battle of Prokhorovka, the primary armor engagement of the two months long Battle of Kursk, which began on the 9th as a German attempt to perform a double-pincer encirclement of the Soviet bulge resulting from the German’s earlier withdrawal from Stalingrad. Kursk was the last offensive operation executed by the Wehrmacht on their eastern front; any further activity was halted by Hitler as a result of yesterday’s Allied invasion of Sicily. Today’s eight-hour battle pitted 494 German tanks against 593 Soviet T-34 tanks plus 37 pieces of self-propelled artillery, creating the largest armored battle in history. The Soviets were able to stall the German offensive and save their over-extended forces, but they could not exploit the action to prevent a continued orderly German withdrawal.
1944: After three weeks of intense fighting, Saipan Island in the Marinas is declared taken. The final days of the assault included the Japanese staging a suicidal Bonzai charge that overwhelmed the combined Army and Marines units in their path but resulted in over 4,500 Japanese deaths, many of whom were already-wounded personnel forced into the charge. Saipan was also where Japanese civilian suicides were first ordered en masse. The island became a major US Army Air Corps bomber base for attacks on the Japanese homeland.
1951: The city of Paris celebrates its 2000th birthday.
1960: Two months after being shot down on a U-2 reconnaissance mission over Russia, the Soviet Union formally charges Francis Gary Powers with espionage. He is convicted in August and spends two years in prison before being part of a prisoner exchange with the U.S. for Soviet spy Rudolf Abel.
1962: Launch of TELSTAR, the world’s first active, direct-relay communications.
1962: The United States conducts the STARFISH high altitude nuclear test program. This burst was one of five conducted in outer space during the FISHBOWL series of tests. STARFISH was a 1.4 megaton W49 warhead carried by a Thor rocket to an apogee of 680 miles. The Mk.4 re-entry vehicle was detonated at 250 miles and produced an electromagnetic pulse that forced virtually all of the instrumentation off of the scale, in addition to creating an orbital radiation belt and an aurora visible for hours after the burst.
1985: French intelligence agents (DGSE) bomb and sink the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbor, New Zealand.