Day By Day

Monday, September 14, 2009

This Day In History

Today is National Anthem Day, so get out there and sing. For those, like me, who lack singing skills [it's a really hard song to sing] this is also National Creme-filled Donut Day", so enjoy.

On this day in 1759 General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon died. Montcalm was commander of the French forces in New France during the conflict the British colonists called the "War Against the French and Indians" ["French and Indian War" for short -- Europeans call it the "Seven Years War"]. As commander Montcalm produced several important early victories but was ultimately unable to cope with the superior resources Britain committed to the struggle for North America. By 1759 Montcalm was defending one of the two major French strongholds remaining in Canada, Quebec City [the other was Montreal], against an assault by British General James Wolfe. The two forces joined battle on the Plains of Abraham just outside the city and during the fighting both generals died. James Wolfe was killed on September 13th; Montcalm was fatally wounded and died on the following day. Though fighting at and around Quebec continued for several months after Montcalm's defeat this dual death of leaders on the Plains of Abraham became the great iconic moment of the war that decided the ultimate fate of a continent.

On this day in 1812 Napoleon's Grande Armee marched into Moscow -- we all know how that turned out.

And on this day in 1814 a British invasion fleet tried but failed to reduce the forces at Fort McHenry guarding Baltimore harbor. As a result the attempt to capture Baltimore failed and the British had to withdraw from Maryland. The successful resistance at the fort was immortalized by Francis Scott Key in a poem titled "The Star Spangled Banner" which was eventually set to music and is still performed to this day, mostly at sporting events.

And on this day in 1847 the U. S. Army, led by General Winfield Scott, captured Mexico City, effectively bringing the War with Mexico to an end, although the formal end was not until the following year. As a result of this war the United States acquired the "Mexican Cession", a vast territory stretching from Texas to California.

And on this day in 1879 Margaret Sanger, birth control advocate, racist, fascist, eugenicist, and founder of Planned Parenthood was born.

And on this day in 1901 President William McKinley died in Buffalo, New York. The President had traveled to Buffalo to attend the Pan-American Exposition held in that city. He arrived in the city on September 5th, then on the following day visited Niagara Falls in the morning. That afternoon he returned to the Exposition grounds to attend a public reception. There he was approached by a Polish anarchist terrorist, Leon Czolgosz, who shot him twice.

McKinley was taken to a nearby house for medical treatment. The attending doctors could not find and remove one of the bullets in the President's body [although a new invention, the x-ray machine was available]. For a few days McKinley seemed to be recovering, but then his condition worsened and he died on the fourteenth. Afterwards it was discovered that what killed him was infection and gangrene caused by the bullet remaining in his body.

McKinley's death brought his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, to the presidency. This had a marked effect on the course of American national development. McKinley had been a pro-business fiscal conservative, resistant to foreign policy adventures, and a promoter of cultural pluralism domestically. Roosevelt, by contrast, was a profound racist, a "progressive" committed to activist government, and an imperialist very much in tune with contemporary elite sentiment. Rather than resisting some of the worst tendencies of early Twentieth century culture, as McKinley did, Roosevelt embraced them and the nation has never been the same since.

And on this day in 1956 the first prefrontal lobotomy was performed. Appropriately it took place in Washington, DC.

And on this day in 1958 WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh began broadcasting.

And on this day in 1965 "F-Troop" premiered on TV. This, in the eyes of some, marks the high-water mark of American culture.

And on this day in 1975 Mother Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was canonized -- the first Saint born in America.