624: The Muslim army of Medina defeats the Quraysh of Mecca, an improbable victory credited to either divine intervention or the genius of Mohammad. The spread of Islam thus continued apace.
1314: Death of Jacques de Molay (b.1243), the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, burned at the stake. The Templars were a monastic military order that grew out of the First Crusade’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1096. Within a few years, Christian pilgrims again began arriving in the city, and two knights of the Crusade, Hughes de Payens and Godfrey de Saint-Omer proposed establishing a monastic order that could protect them. They established their headquarters in what is now the Al Asqa mosque, which they called the Temple of Solomon, built on the ruins of the original temple, and from which they derived their name. The order quickly grew and was recognized by the Pope in 1129. For nearly 200 years the Templars epitomized knightly Crusading virtues, in addition to growing very wealthy*. Templar orders throughout Europe began functioning as banks, and because of the financial hold they had over many of the royal houses in Europe, and the secrecy of their proceedings, their power began to be seen as a serious political threat. By 1306, King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Templars as a result of his wars with England, began a systematic campaign to destroy the order. In concert with Philip, Pope Clement ordered all Christian monarchs to arrest the Orders and seize their assets. Philip devised a secret plan to arrest every Templar in France, including de Molay, and carried it out in a massive nighttime raid on Friday, the 13th of October 1307. The Templars were charged with numerous acts, including apostasy, idolatry, heresy, obscene rituals, homosexuality, financial corruption, fraud and secrecy. Under torture, many confessed their alleged crimes, and after torture, most recanted. Those who recanted were burned at the stake for relapsing into apostasy.The elderly de Molay, who had confessed only under torture, eventually retracted his statement. His associate, the Preceptor of Normandy, followed de Molay’s example and insisted on his innocence. Both men were declared guilty of being relapsed heretics, and they were sentenced to be burned alive at the stake in Paris on March 18, 1314. De Molay reportedly remained defiant to the end, asking to be tied in such a way that he could face the Notre Dame Cathedral and hold his hands together in prayer. According to legend, he called out from the flames that both Pope Clement and King Philip would soon meet him before God. Pope Clement died only a month later, and King Philip died in a hunting accident before the end of the year.
1413: Accession of Henry V as King of England.
1622: The first of the Powhattan Massacres at Jamestown. 347 settlers are slain, a full third of the colony’s population.
1685: Birth of Johann Sebastian Bach
1765: In an attempt to raise money to protect the vast territories recently gained by from the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War), Parliament authorizes the Stamp Act. The legislation is not well-received by the American colonies.
1766: British Parliament repeals the hated Stamp Act.
1775: In a speech before the Virginia House of Burgesses, Patrick Henry gives voice to the greatest quote from the American Revolution: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
1776: British forces complete their evacuation of Boston after George Washington’s capture of Dorchester Heights a week prior.
1806: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reach the Pacific coast at the mouth of the Columbia River. From their journal, “Ocean in view- oh the joy!”
1820: Death of naval hero Stephen Decatur, killed in a duel with disgraced Commodore James Barron. The duel grew out of festering discontent from a court-martial that faulted Barron for his actions in surrendering his ship, USS Chesapeake, after a short action with HMS Leopard off the coast of Norfolk in June of 1807. The British captain refused Barron’s surrender and boarded Chesapeake to look for deserters from the Royal Navy. He took four crewmen off the ship, one of whom was hanged, the other three sentenced to 500 lashes. The incident inflamed Americans over both the high-handedness of the British, and also the apparent fecklessness of Barron, who only got off one shot before he surrendered. At the subsequent court-martial, Barron was convicted of not preparing his ship in advance for possible action and was suspended for 5 years without pay. Captain John Rodgers was the president of the court-martial, and Decatur was a member. When Barron finally returned to duty, he remained controversial and was greatly criticized. Decatur, once a former subordinate, was one of the most vocal critics. Barron finally challenged him to a duel with pistols, which they fought on March 22, 1820 at Bladensburg Dueling Field in Bladensburg, Maryland. After his suspension, Barron remained in the Navy on shore duty, becoming the Navy’s senior officer in 1839. He died in Norfolk, Virginia on April 21, 1851.
1845: A patent is issued to Stephen Perry of London, for the rubber band.
1848: Birth of Nathaniel Herreshoff (d.1938). Known throughout the sailing world as “The Wizard of Bristol,” he was the naval architect who designed and built the defenders of Americas Cup through the 1930s. His yacht designs remain the gold standard for their blending of technical excellence, operational power, grace and beauty.
1850: Henry Wells and William Fargo start a new stagecoach line, called American Express.
1853: Death of Christian Doppler (b.1803). The Austrian mathematician and physicist is best known for his theory that the frequency of waves depends on the relative speed of the source and the observer. In astronomy this is known as a “red shift” (receding) or “blue shift” (approaching) in the motion of stars, and is at the heart of the Big Bang theory of a constantly expanding universe
1858: Birth of Rudolf Diesel
1865: Battle of Bentonville, NC, the last major engagement between the Union army of William Tecumseh Sherman and the Confederates of Joe Johnson. The fight lasted through the night of the 21st, when Johnson pulled back his battered remnants across Mill Creek, burning the bridge behind him. Both armies subsequently worked their way northward toward Virginia in an attempt to join up with their respective commanders, U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.
1871: Fresh from Prussia’s stunning victory over France, and on the heels of the long-awaited unification of the fractious Germanic states and principalities, Otto von Bismarck is designated Chancellor of the newly created German Empire
1903: The Wright brothers patent their airplane, specifically the wing-warping control mechanism.
1918: Congress authorizes “Daylight Savings Time.” 1931: Gambling is legalized in Nevada.
1933: Completion of the Nazi government’s first concentration camp, at Dachau, a suburb of Munich.
1940: German Furher Adolf Hitler and Italian Duce Benito Mussolini meet at the Brenner Pass to form the Pact of Steel against France and Great Britain.
1944: Just outside the teeming city of bella Napoli, Mount Vesuvius erupts, killing 26 and sending thousands into panic.
1947: President Harry Truman, in a move to prove he is not soft on communism, orders sweeping loyalty investigations on all federal employees.
1965: Christian minister and activist Martin Luther King, on his third attempt, successfully leads 3500 civil rights protesters on a march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama.
1968:The U.S. Congress repeals the requirement for a gold reserve to back U.S.currency.
1969: Golda Meir is seated as the first female Prime Minister of the State of Israel.