1187: The great Saracen general Saladin invests* Jerusalem in a bid to break the nearly 100-year reign of Christian kings over the city.
1519: Portuguese explorer and navigator Ferdinand Magellan, on commission Spanish King Carlos I (later Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire), departs on a voyage of circumnavigation in order to confirm a westward connection between Spain and the Spice Islands of the South Pacific. Magellan’s fleet consists of five ships and 270 men.
1598: English playwright and poet Ben Jonson is briefly jailed for manslaughter after killing an actor in a duel. He is released after reciting a Bible verse and getting a tattoo on his thumb. Jonson’s career did not suffer from the episode, and he went on to become one of the most popular men of letters during the Elizabethan era in merrie olde England. He was a peer and theatrical competitor of William Shakespeare, and although he always considered himself the better intellect, he eulogized Shakespeare as the “Sweet Swan of Avon” and “Soul of the Age!”
1641: The British merchant ship Merchant Royal founders at sea and sinks off of the coast of Cornwall, with a cargo of £100,000 of gold, 400 bars of Mexican silver, and 500,000 pieces of eight. It has never been found.
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: Death of twenty-one year old American patriot Nathan Hale (b.1755), hanged as a spy after being caught scouting around the British encampment of British General William Howe on Long Island. You probably remember his final words as the noose was placed around his neck: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
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. It remained in Army hands until the BRAC rolled through. The facility was turned over to the National Parks Service in 1994 as mixed-use historic, recreational, and commercial sector of the City. One of Presidio’s distinguishing features was its lack of a perimeter fence
1780: Arrest of British major John Andre, General Clinton’s primary aide-de-camp, who coordinated Benedict Arnold’s treasonous surrender of West Point. Andre was captured inside American lines while wearing civilian clothes, along with Arnold’s handwritten copy of the defensive plan for the fort tucked into his stockings. He was tried and convicted as a spy, and with the bitter memory of Nathan Hale (9/22) still fresh, was sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead instead of being shot like a soldier.
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.
1806: Leaders of the 1803 Corps of Discovery, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, arrive in Saint Louis three years after their westward departure, completing their epic exploration and recording of the United States’ new Louisiana Territory.
1845: In New York, the Knickerbockers Baseball Club is formed, becoming the nation’s first professional baseball team.
1861: Birth of Robert Bosch (d.1942), who came into prominence in the nascent automobile industry with his invention of a dependable magneto for spark plug ignition. He continued to invent and manufacturer a line of the highest quality electrical equipment in his Stuttgart plant. Today, the company that bears his name has added retail electrical tools and equipment to its product line.
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.
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 attack may be noted as the act of ‘going postal’.
1893: American bicycle maker and inventor Charles Duryea, along with his brother Frank, perform a road test on their first gasoline-powered vehicle, a 4 horsepower single-cylinder model. It worked. They performed a second test in November and then decided to go commercial with the idea. You’ll notice in the second picture below that the Duryeas recognized the marketing potential of racing, which they did, and it also worked.
1904: Death of Chief Joseph, last leader of the Nez Perce tribe of the Pacific Northwest (b.1840).
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.
1927: Heavyweight boxing champs Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey clash in the famous “Long Count” re-match for the title championship. Exactly a year prior (less one day), Tunny defeated Dempsey in a ten-round unanimous decision. Promoting a second competition between the principals created a great deal of buzz, and the fight met all expectations. The popular name of the match grew out of a furious set of blows that drove Tunney to the mat during the seventh round. Dempsey stood still over his opponent, per the old rules, ready to knock him down again. The referee did not start the count until Dempsey returned to a neutral corner, which gave Tunney an additional few seconds to recover and continue the fight, hence: the “long” count. Tunney, in turn, knocked Dempsey down in the eighth, and finished in complete control for his second heavyweight title. At the completion of the fight, Dempsey raised his opponent’s arm and said, “You were best. You fought a smart fight, kid.” Controversy endures to this day that Dempsey could have won the title if he had gone to the corner sooner, allowing the count to begin right away.
1929: Birth of Sir Stirling Moss (d.2020), often referred to as the “greatest driver never to win the World Driving Championship.”
1937: Publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnum opus, The Hobbit. The book has never been out of print.
1939: Death of Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (b.1856), who gave us such useful tools such as: the Freudian Slip; the use of free-association as a means to identify the relationship between the unconscious self and conscious actions; the Id and super-ego; the Oedipus Complex; and the famous and universally un-answered question, “What do women want?”
1942: First flight of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, a pressurized, high altitude bomber which provided the Army Air Corps with a dramatic increase in range and payload over their B-17s and B-24s.
1943: Birth of Spanish singer Julio Iglesias, who has sold over 300 million records in 14 languages.
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.
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.
1962: Civil rights activist James Meredith is barred from entering the University of Mississippi.
1964: The first flight of the Mach 3 North American XB-70 Valkyrie supersonic bomber.
1973: Death of singer-songwriter Jim Croce (b.1943), less than a week after finishing his album “I’ve Got a Name.” He was working his way through a nationwide university concert tour. Having just finished a gig at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, he wanted to leave immediately for the next show in Texas; the chartered Beech 18 crashed into a tree on the late-evening takeoff, killing Croce and his entire road crew.
1973(b): Professional tennis star Billie Jean King defeats retired professional tennis star Bobby Riggs in what was billed as the ultimate Battle of the Sexes, this time on the tennis court. Riggs instigated the matchup during an interview earlier in the year when he contended that the reason women’s and men’s tennis was segregated is because men would consistently beat the women. Paraphrasing: “Even I [at age 55] can beat any woman out there!” Two match-ups ensued; in May, Riggs trounced Margaret Court 6-2 6-1, and after weeks of public goading, King agreed to meet him in the Houston Astrodome. Both sides played to the press, and when the big event arrived, King won, 6-4 6-3 6-3.
1981: The Senate unanimously confirms Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.
1991: Discovery of 5,300-year-old Copper Age mummy, “Otzi the Iceman” by German mountaineers.
1997: Death of comedian Red Skelton (b.1913). “All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner”
1999: Death of George C. Scott (b.1927), best known for his portrayal of General George S. Patton in the 1970 film.