Here are a few, brief notes about what happened during the week of November 5th.
“Remember, remember, the 5th of November…”
1605: Discovery, with only hours to spare, of The Gunpowder Plot- a conspiracy by leading British Catholics to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I himself, in hopes of leading a violent restoration of Catholicism in Great Britain. The thirteen conspirators spent months coordinating (in addition to strategic kidnappings), access to a large basement storeroom located directly beneath the House of Lords and filling it with multiple barrels of gunpowder, which remained hidden behind firewood and coal. On the night of 4-5 November, the point man for the detonation, Guy Fawkes, worked his way toward the storeroom, disguised as a firewood delivery man. He was stopped and questioned by a watchman but was allowed to continue his work. Late into the evening, alerted by concerned (Catholic) Parliamentarians, a renewed search of the Parliament “above and below” the chambers found Fawkes in the room directly below the Lords, carrying a slow match and a pocket-watch, dressed in black and wearing riding spurs. He was arrested on the spot, and when news of the arrest was made public, the Gunpowder conspirators went into hiding. They were systematically arrested, tortured, confessed, were tried and found guilty of treason, and executed by hanging, drawing and quartering, with their limbs sent across the realm, and the rest of their mortal remains burned into ash.
1793: In reaction to centuries of sometimes capricious authority from the Roman Catholic Church, the French Revolutionary government begins a systematic legislative attempt to de-Christianize the country, and implement a society based on pure Reason. They intend to replace it with what supporters call the Cult of Reason, and begin their program by encouraging mobs to strip from public display all crosses or Christian iconography, including on gravesites, to seize all plate and precious stones from cathedrals and churches and to loudly proclaim the triumph of Reason in all things. As a symbol of what people should emulate, the cult’s leaders introduced The Goddess of Reason, not as an icon to worship, but as the ideal to which everyone should strive. After a year Citizen Maximilien Robespierre ordered the Cult of Reason shut down, and founded, the Cult of the Supreme Being, to tame some of the excesses by acknowledging the existence of some kind of a God, whose primary role was to guide mankind to virtue through reason. In 1801, the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte put an end to the program with an executive decree outlawing the cults and restoring the legal authority of the Catholic Church.
1864:Union General William Tecumseh Sherman orders all government and war-related buildings in Atlanta to be burned to the ground. This begins his March to the Sea, ordering his army’s supply trains and casualties to return to Tennessee, while his forces move across a wide swath of Georgia and South Carolina–this march entrenched the Union’s reach and power. Before setting out, he notified the War Department that he would no longer be sending telegraphic updates on his campaign: “I expect the Richmond papers will keep you fully informed.”
1871: Welsh journalist and adventurer Henry Morgan Stanley, after a major trek through the jungles of Tanganyika, finds the missing Scottish missionary, Dr. David Livingstone, greeting him with “Doctor Livingstone, I presume.” After the meeting, Stanley’s continued trek to the west coast of Africa via the Congo River provided the basis for Belgian King Leopold II’s claim on the entire Congo basin, and became the inspiration for Joseph Conrad’s bnovel, Heart of Darkness.
1831: Leader of the August slave uprising over in Surrey County, Nat Turner, is tried, convicted and hanged by the neck until dead.
1975: The 729-foot long Great Lakes freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks in a violent storm on Lake Superior– all 29 souls were lost.
1980: Death of Steve McQueen.