1095: At the final convocation of the Council of Clermont (DLH 11/19), Pope Urban II gives an impassioned speech to the assembled nobles and knights, outlining the plea for help from Byzantine Emperor Alexius I. After reviewing the depredations of Moslem armies as they spread into Christian territories, Urban declares a Crusade to turn back the Moslems from Anatolia and eventually to re-take the holy city of Jerusalem. He calls on the assembled knights to “take up the cross” and spend the upcoming winter months collecting the forces they will need for the unprecedented armed march. The crowd enthusiastically responds with cries of “Deus Vult!” (God wills it!). If you’re interested in reading through some source documentation, the website Medieval Sourcebook has posted all five known versions of the speech, recorded after Jerusalem’s capture by men who may or may not have been at the Council, but who were certainly familiar with not only the original speech, but also Urban’s subsequent sermons as the Crusade played out
1343: An underwater earthquake in the Tyrrhenian Sea initiates a tsunami that devastates Naples and much of the low-lying Amalfi coast.
1491: Opening guns in the Siege of Granada, where the combined forces of Aragon and Castile begin their final push against the stronghold of the Emirate of Granada, last remaining vestige of the 780 years of the Moslem empire of Al-Andalus. You’ve probably heard some of our Islamist adversaries quacking about the current fight to restore Al-Andalus; we’ll talk about it some more at the end of the siege in early January.
1748: Death of the great British hymnist Isaac Watts (b.1674), much of whose music you probably know by heart. How about these: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; Joy to the World; Jesus Shall Reign Where ‘ere the Sun; Alas and Did My Savior Bleed; I Sing the Mighty Power of God, and over 700 more songs, to say nothing about his scholarly writings on logic and its relationship to faith. Look at those dates, and consider the strength and depth of music across the ages…
1778: On his third Pacific voyage of exploration, Captain James Cook becomes the first European to land on Maui, in the Sandwich Islands chain.
1833: Birth of gunman, lawman, and newspaperman, Bat Masterson (d. 1921). He achieved particular notoriety in 1881-83 as one of the good guys during the height of the lawlessness in Dodge City, and after cementing a reputation as a no-nonsense enforcer in the decreasingly Wild West, he began a career as a newspaper writer in Kansas, Denver, and eventually New York City, where President Theodore Roosevelt recruited him to be Deputy US Marshall for federal grand jury sessions.
1835: The Provincial Government of Texas authorizes the establishment of a core of mounted state law enforcement officers, known as the Texas Rangers.
1835: Birth in Scotland of American industrialist, steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (d.1919), often considered the second-richest man in history behind J.D. Rockefeller. Carnegie’s philanthropy exists today in the form of the magnificent Carnegie Hall in New York, and hundreds of libraries across the country.
1863: At the Battle of Lookout Mountain, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a Union force of 10,000 under General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker fights an uphill battle through fog and rocky defiles to defeat one of Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s brigades defending the heights. The battle is often called the “Battle Above the Clouds” from the way the two sides blindly fired towards each other during the course of the day. Confederate Brigadier John C. Brown, positioned atop the mountain, was himself unable to see or direct the defenses due to both the fog and the steep geography that blocked sight lines to the fighting below. That night, the Confederate force withdrew to establish a better defensive position on nearby Missionary Ridge.
1883: Death of abolitionist Sojouner Truth (b.1797), who achieved nation-wide fame for her outspoken advocacy of abolition and women’s rights, particularly her 1851 speech at a woman’s rights convention, where she peppered her extemporaneous review of basic human rights with the phrase, “Ain’t I a woman??” She was a major force in the recruitment of black soldiers for the Union Army, and met President Lincoln while working at the Freedman’s Hospital in Washington.
1888: Birth of Dale Carnegie (d.1955), one of the original lights of training in business improvement methods. His original work, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (1936) remains a staple in business circles.
1901: Establishment of the U.S. Army War College in the garrison town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
1912: As part of Treaty of Fez, signed back in March, Spain assumes a Protectorate role over the northern shoreline of Morocco, sharing the role with France, who has overall responsibility for Morocco’s security. The treaty was of a piece with the great colonial African land grab of the late 19th Century. Morocco, in particular, became an early (1904-06) venue for Germany’s increasing assertiveness in European affairs, particularly regarding France’s claims over the North African kingdom.
1914: Birth of Joe “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio (d.1999), who spent 13 years as center fielder for the New YorkYankees (1936-42 and 1946-51), providing the team and the country with a record of baseball superlatives: 3-time AL MVP, 13 consecutive All-Star games; a 56 game hitting streak*- unsurpassed to this day, #5 in career home runs (361), #6 slugging percentage (.571), 10 AL Pennants, 9 victorious World Series. The Yankees got their money’s worth when they hired the “Yankee Clipper” from his original ball club, the San Francisco Seals. His post-baseball career saw him very successful in business, but less successful in a string of dramatic but short-lived marriages and love affairs with beautiful actresses, including Marilyn Monroe.
1924: Macy’s department store sponsors its first Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC.
1942: The French Navy in Toulon, largely intact, but idled by its status under the terms of the Vichy agreement with Nazi Germany, is scuttled by the French themselves when they learn of Germany’s attempt to seize the ships in response to the Allied invasion of French North Africa three weeks earlier. The scuttling included three battleships, four heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, thirty destroyers and torpedo boats, fifteen submarines, and a number of support vessels. For Germany, the loss merely confirmed the fecklessness of the Vichy government, and removed the usefulness of the French Navy as a fleet-in-being that had to be guarded against. For the Allies, the loss was the potential of transforming that fleet-in-being into an actual fighting force in support of the Free French under Charles De Gaulle.
1963: Dallas police move to transfer Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald from the basement of the Dallas police headquarters to the county jail, when, from out of the crowd of reporters at the door, nightclub owner Jack Ruby* lunges forward and shoots Oswald in the abdomen. He died 90 minutes later in Parkland hospital, the same place where President Kennedy was declared dead two days earlier. All the national networks were broadcasting Oswald’s transfer, providing the country with a live broadcast of the murder that Sunday morning.
1963: After three days of a State funeral, President John F. Kennedy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The unprecedented live television coverage of the assassination and events leading to today’s funeral created a riveting cultural touchstone for the generation who saw it unfolding before their eyes.