1254: Birth of Venetian explorer Marco Polo (d.1324).
1676: At the climax of three months of agitation by 29 year old planter Nathaniel Bacon, a makeshift “army” of nearly a thousand angry Virginia frontiersmen and farmers, furious that Governor William Berkeley will not stand with them against Indian harassment and raids, storm into the colonial capital at Jamestown and burn the city to the ground. Although Bacon’s Revolt (a.k.a. Bacon’s Rebellion) represented a clear danger to the colonial government, it rapidly fell apart when Bacon himself contracted dysentery and died in late October.
1776: Guarding the northernmost portions of Alta California, Spain establishes the Presidio of San Francisco on the tip of land that borders the entrance to San Francisco Bay.
1789: Representatives from the Several States, in congress, after over two years of intense discussion and negotiation, sign The Constitution of the United States in Philadelphia, and send the document to the States themselves for ratification.
1793: George Washington lays the first cornerstone for the capitol building in the District of Columbia.
1812: A week after his victory over the Russian army at Borodino (DLH 9/7), Napoleon Bonaparte and his Grande Armee enter Moscow and take possession of the Kremlin.
1812: A day after Napoleon’s entry into Moscow, a series of fires begin just after midnight, spreading and building into a three-day firestorm that consumes nearly ¾ of the mostly wooden city. The French evacuate until the fire is contained, but remain in occupation of the Russian capital.
1835: HMS Beagle arrives in the Galapagos Islands with naturalist Charles Darwin aboard.
1850: As part of the Compromise of 1850 Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Act.
1862: As part of the plan exposed by Robert E. Lee’s “lost dispatch”, a Confederate detachment under Stonewall Jackson captures the town of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, snagging with it a huge number of U.S. forces (12,419 Federals), the largest capture of American soldiers until the Japanese overwhelmed Bataan in 1942.
1862: The Union Army of the Potomac halts Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first foray into the northern states a the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), the single bloodiest day of combat in American history, with 23,000 casualties (10,000 Union, 13,000 Confederate)
1863: The Battle of Chickamauga is fought on the approaches to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The huge clash is a pyrrhic Confederate victory that halts a major Union advance, but at such a cost that the Confederates never really recovered their full fighting capability in the Western theater. The battle carries the distinction of creating the second-highest number of casualties in the entire Civil War, (Union 16,170 (1,670 KIA), Confederate 18,454 (2,312 KIA)), second only to the casualty count at Gettysburg in July.
1875: Birth of James C. Penny (d.1971), who opened his first dry-goods store in Kemmerer, Wyoming, in 1902. In 1940, visiting one of his stores in Iowa, he trained a young employee named Sam Walton how to tie a package with a minimal amount of ribbon.
1881: Death of President James Garfield (b.1831), eighty days after being shot by a disgruntled federal employee. Garfield’s major accomplishment during his short term as President was initiating a massive civil service reform program, beginning with the post office. His death may have been the first ‘going postal’ event.
1891: Birth of Karl Donitz (d.1980), German submariner and intellect behind the highly effective “Wolfpack” strategy in World War II. Donitz had the dubious distinction of being named in Hitler’s will as his successor as head of the Third Reich; as such, he issued the surrender order to the German armed forces after a week in office, carefully working the timing of the event so that the bulk of the German armed forces would fall under the control of the Western Allies instead of the Soviet Union.
1908: On an Army demonstration flight at Fort Meyer, Virginia, the Wright Brothers’ first commercial aircraft Model A, piloted by Orville Wright, crashes when one of the propellers breaks, slicing a guy wire and severing the rear control surfaces of the machine. Wright is severely injured by the plunge into the ground, and his passenger, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge dies, becoming the world’s first aviation fatality.
1916: After two and a half months of unrelenting combat in the Battle of the Somme British forces introduce the “tank” to the battlefield. The machine is impervious to barbed wire and rifle & machine gun fire, but is very slow moving (3 mph) and notoriously unreliable. That being said, it does the job of creating a clear path for supporting infantry to break through German defenses in several portions of the battle line.
1919: Congress officially authorizes U.S. veterans of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), fresh from their victorious return from the Great War, to incorporate The American Legion as a veterans support group under Title 36 U.S.C.
1929: Birth of Sir Stirling Moss, often referred to as the “greatest driver never to win the World Driving Championship.”
1939: First broadcast by Nazi propagandist Lord Haw Haw, who railed against British combat and diplomatic activities across the European continent.
1940: The most active day of the Battle of Britain– the first day of Germany’s final “decisive” air assault on England.
1944: Birth of Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, first man to climb all of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 meters (26,000 feet), and the first to solo to the summit of Mount Everest (29,029 feet) without supplemental oxygen.
1945: Opening assault in the brutal Battle of Pelileu in the South Pacific. The recent HBO mini-series The Pacific centered its narrative on 1st Marine Division that spearheaded this campaign.
1948: The North American Aviation F-86 Sabrejet sets a world speed record of 671 mph. The design, particularly the swept-back wings, was derived from captured German aerodynamic research dating from 1940.
1952: American silent film icon and long-time left wing political advocate Charlie Chaplin leaves for a trip to England, and is immediately barred from re-entry by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the behest of the House Un-American Activities Committee and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.
1970: Jordan’s King Hussein declares martial law in response to an attempted fedeyeen coup against his Hashemite throne. The conspirators, organized around Yassir Arafat’s Fatah movement, vow revenge over their failure and form a new militant group known as Black September Organization in memory of this day. Two years later, the Black September kidnapped and assassinated eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich, ensuring that the terms “Palestinian” and “terrorist” would be forever linked.
1970: Death of guitarist Jimmie Hendrix.
1975: Kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst is arrested a year after her inclusion on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
1984: Retired USAF test pilot Joe Kittenger completes the first solo balloon crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.
1991: Discovery of 5,300 year old Copper Age mummy, “Otzi the Iceman” by German mountaineers.