Day By Day

Monday, October 19, 2009

This Day In History

Today is "Evaluate Your Life Day". Of course that assumes you have one. I don't.

On this day in 439 AD the Vandals, led by Gaiseric, captured Carthage in North Africa [Tunisia today]. People today forget that the Vandals [an East German people who have gotten really horrible press over the centuries] were once a Mediterranean sea power based in Africa. For nearly a century they controlled much of North Africa until finally defeated by Roman forces under the command of Belisarius in 533 AD.

On this day in 1739 a British sea captain, Robert Jenkins, stood before Parliament and delivered an impassioned statement recounting his bad treatment by Spanish coast guards. At the end of his speech he held aloft his severed ear which had been cut off by the Spanish troops who had boarded his ship. This dramatic gesture may or may not [probably not] have led Parliament to declare war on Spain but the conflict has ever since been known as the "War of Jenkins' Ear". It raged for eleven years and became embroiled in a more general struggle, the "War of the Austrian Succession". The real point of issue was Spain's attempt to control the sale of slaves in Latin America.

Here's a biggie. On this day in 1781 Major General Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington and the Count de Rochambeau at Yorktown. This effectively ended the military phase of the American Revolution.

And on this day in 1812 Napoleon began his retreat from Moscow. It is one of the most disastrous military campaigns in history. There is a famous graphical representation by Charles Joseph Minard illustrating how the march on Moscow and subsequent retreat affected the French forces. You can view it here.

And speaking of enormous disasters, on this day in 1949 the People's Republic of China was formally proclaimed.

And on this day in 1879 Thomas A. Edison held the first public demonstration of the electric light bulb. Life would never be the same.

And on this day in 1932 Philly Chuck Klein won the National League MVP. Way to go, Chuck.