Day By Day

Monday, September 21, 2009

This Day In History

Today has been specified by the United Nations as the "International Day of Peace", timed to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. That's all very well for the international thuggocracy meeting in New York, but I prefer to think of today as "National Miniature Golf Day".

On this day in 1327 deposed King Edward II of England was murdered in Berkeley Castle, probably on orders from his wife. He was the son of Edward I "Longshanks" and the father of Edward III, two of the strongest and most celebrated Kings of England. Edward IIs reputation has suffered in comparison with his dad and his lad. He is widely considered to have been a homosexual, although he sired five children and is regarded as an exceptionally weak king. His major accomplishment was founding universities at Oxford and Cambridge. If you have trouble placing him, rent a copy of Mel Gibson's "Braveheart". He's the guy whose boyfriend is defenestrated by Longshanks.

And on this day in 1520 Suleiman [the Magnificent] became Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He ruled for 46 years, conquered much of Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. His fleets dominated the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and much of the Indian Ocean. He made Turkey the superpower of the sixteenth century. In 1529 his forces were finally halted at the seige of Vienna, one of the great turning points in the history of the West.

Just after midnight on this day in 1777 British forces under the command of Gen. Charles Gray, launched a surprise attack on a Continental Army division under the command of Mad Anthony Wayne quartered at Malvern, PA. The Brits attacked from the woods using bayonets and caught Wayne's forces as they slept. In the ensuing panic 53 Continentals were killed, 113 wounded, and 71 taken prisoner. British losses were 4 dead and 5 wounded.

The attack was a stunning military success, but a public relations disaster. Americans started the rumor that the Redcoats had rounded up and slaughtered prisoners, granting no quarter. They emphasized that the Brits had attacked with bayonets, considered at that time to be a barbaric and needlessly cruel weapon. The charges were false, the Brits behaved honorably and did take prisoners, but American propaganda made the dead into martyrs and the Malvern incident became known as the Paoli Massacre, a rallying point for colonial resistance. Even before the age of mass media spin could transform a disaster into a victory. There is a brilliant fictional description of the battle in Bernard Cornwell's Redcoat which I highly recommend.

And on this day in 1784 the "Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser" America's first successful daily newspaper, was published in Philadelphia.

On this day in 1792 the revolutionary French National Convention formally established the First French Republic. This was France's first experiment with republican government and it only lasted twelve years. They kept trying though. Today we are dealing with the "Fifth French Republic". Let's hope they finally got it right this time.

On this day in 1814 Francis Scott Key's poem "Defence of Fort McHenry" was published in the Baltmore American. Later it was set to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven", an almost unsingable British drinking song, and in 1931 Congress made the resulting song, "The Star Spangled Banner" our national anthem.

And on this day in 1937 J. R. R. Tolkien published "The Hobbit".

And this is for Larry (who used to command one of these things), on this day in 1954 the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was commissioned.