70 BC: Birth of Roman poet Virgil (d.19 BC), author of the Ecolgues and the Aenid, among other works, whose legacy includes such pith as, Omnia vincit Amor (Love conquers all), Tempus Fugit* (time flies…), Latet anguis in herba (a snake in the grass), and Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis (Bear up, and live for happier days).
1066: The last successful invasion of the British Isles takes place at the Battle of Hastings, where an invading French army under the command of the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy demolishes the army of England’s King Harold II. The victor changes his moniker from William the Bastard to William the Conqueror, and assumes the throne of England as William I. The victory was a credit to the discipline and morale of William’s army, aided by the fatiguing reality that Harold’s army had just recently force-marched from the coastal north, where they repelled a Norse invasion on the 25th of September.
1307: King Philip the Fair of France, with the begrudging support of the Pope, sends out swarms of secret agents to arrest over 400 Knights Templar on charges of treason, blasphemy, and a dozen or so other spurious charges. The last Grand Master of the order, Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake: this was the moment when Philip’s crusade against the Crusaders came to fruition, with torture, forced confessions and brutal executions following in the wake of this night.
1322: Robert the Bruce defeats the Earl of Richmond at the Battle of Old Byland- yet another nail in the coffin of British King Edward II’s subjugation of Scotland.
1529: End of the first Siege of Vienna, where the heretofore unstoppable armies of Suleiman I (The Magnificent) were stopped after an exhausting march through the Balkans by the combination of Vienna’s walls, an early snowfall, and the determination and skill of the German Landsknets- a powerful mercenary force well trained in the use of halebrids, pikes and long swords.
1764: During pause in his tour of Rome, British historian Edward Gibbon “[…] sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted fryars [sic] were singing Vespers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the City first started to my mind.” The idea germinated on this day eventually became six massive volumes of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, produced over a frenetic 12 years of nearly continuous research and writing. Gibbon was immediately catapulted to the top of Britain’s scholarly world. Gibbon’s primary theme was that the Romans lost their edge, and eventually their imperial power, as a result of civic virtue, i.e., an increasing unwillingness to hold onto a disciplined military-led culture, compounded by Christianity’s new emphasis on the eternal life of the spirit, which eased the temporal burdens of resistance to external aggression
1775: The Continental Congress, recognizing the need to do something to protect American trade on the high seas, authorizes and purchases two vessels to act as the Continental Navy, progenitor of the United States Navy, which recognizes this date as its formal beginning. The tiny American fleet eventually grew to 65 vessels, mostly converted merchant ships, all of which provided the command and operational experiences for the cadre of captains who distinguished themselves in later naval conflicts with both France and Great Britain. 11 ships finished the war basically intact, with the final one, frigate Alliance, being sold off to a private buyer for $26,000* in 1785.
1792: In the District of Columbia, the cornerstone is laid for the Executive Mansion, known today as the White House.
1793: Queen Marie Antoinette is tried and convicted by a revolutionary court of “justice.”
1863: The Confederate submarine CSS H.L. Hunley sinks (rather than submerges) during a test dive, drowning its inventor. After being raised and refurbished one more time, the 7-man submersible eventually makes the world’s first successful submarine attack on another warship (DLH 2/17). Hunley is currently on display in its restoration lab on the site of the former Naval Station Charleston.
1884: American inventor George Eastman receives a patent for a paper-strip photographic film.
1908: The Chicago Cubs win the World Series.
1912: Former President Theodore Roosevelt, campaigning in Milwaukee as the head of the new Bull Moose party, is shot in the chest by a local saloon keeper. The bullet penetrated his steel eyeglass case and a 50 page copy of his manuscript before lodging in the muscle of his chest wall. Since he was not coughing up blood, TR knew that the wound was not mortal, so he went ahead and gave the speech with blood slowly oozing under his shirt and coat. He opened his comments with, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose…the bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.” Afterwards, the doctors decided it would be safer to leave the bullet in place rather than remove it, and TR carried it with him until he died.
1914: Birth of Mohammad Zahir Shah (d.2007), the last King of Afghanistan.
1926: British author A.A. Milne introduces Winnie-the-Pooh.
1928: The rigid airship Graf Zepplin completes its first Trans-Atlantic crossing.
1934: The Soviet Republic of China- the nascent communist workers’ paradise- collapses as the Kuomintang army under Chaing Kai Shek triumphantly enters Ruijin, forcing the communists under Mao Tse Tung to begin their storied “Long March” to the mountain fastness of the interior, where they will re-organize and plot their eventual return to power.
1938: First flight of the Curtis P-40 Warhawk, the mainstay fighter of the Army Air Corps in the early years of WWII, with 13,738 produced before production ceased in 1944. If you had a big checkbook in early ’44, you could have had one for $44,892.00.
1943: After running Il Duce out of office and putting his corpse on public display on a meat hook, the new government of suddenly non-Fascist Italy turns on their former Pact of Steel partner and joins the Allies against Nazi Germany. The occupying German army is not impressed, and fought a bitter and basically successful retrograde action up the Italian peninsula for the next two years, with the Germans still holding much of northern Italy when the war ended. The political reversal did not do any favors to the reputation of Italian fighting forces, a sting that lingered for decades.
1947: USAAF ace and former POW Captain Chuck Yeager, flying as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base out in the Mojave Desert, makes the world’s first supersonic flight in the Bell X-1 rocket plane. The event was nicely depicted in the 1985 movie The Right Stuff, derived from Tom Wolf’s book of the same name, which rightly identified the Edwards test pilot cadre as the quintessence of America’s push into ever more expanded and dangerous flight regimes. After this flight, Yeager went continued to set altitude and speed records in an ongoing competition with fellow test pilot Scott Crossfield.
1951: First broadcast of I Love Lucy, starring Lucille Ball, Dezi Arnez, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley.
1962: A USAF U-2 reconnaissance plane returns from a flight over Cuba with photographic proof that the Soviet Union was installing ballistic missile launching facilities on the newly communist island.
1966: Inspired by ongoing Leftist dissent against the Vietnam War, black radicals Huey Newton and Bobby Seals form the Black Panther Party.
1997: The Thrust SSC, driven by British fighter pilot Anthony Green, sets a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, marking the first time a wheeled vehicle passes the supersonic threshold.
2003: The Chicago Cubs, in Game 6 of the NL playoffs: Cubs 3 games to 2 over the Marlins; bottom of the 8th inning, Cubs ahead 3-0, 1 out, full count. Marlins 2nd baseman tags an easy pop fly to the Left Field line. Cubs LF Moises Alou runs over to catch it, which will put them only 4 outs away from their first World Series since 1945, let alone that 1908 record. Alou makes a leap toward the wall, and Cubs fan Steve Bartman also reaches out from his seat to snag the probable foul ball and tips it away from Alou’s glove. The inning therefore continues, the Cubs allow the Marlins to score 8 runs in the remaining at-bats to win the game and tie the playoffs. It stands to reason that the Marlins follow up with a win in game 7, and off they go to the World Series.