What A Day this Has Been!

On this day in:

1191–During the Third Crusade: Saladin’s garrison surrenders to Conrad of Montferrat, ending the two-year siege of Acre.

 1690–Protestant forces led by William of Orange defeat the Roman Catholic army of James II at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland. The Battle of the Boyne remains a controversial topic, especially in Northern Ireland, where some Protestants remember it as the great victory over Catholics that resulted in the sovereignty of Parliament and the Protestant monarchy. The day has often been marked by confrontations between Protestants and Catholics. Among Irish nationalists in the Republic of Ireland people see the battle as a major step on the road to the complete British colonization of Ireland. In 1923, IRA members blew up a large monument to the battle at the site on the Boyne and destroyed a statue of William III in 1929 that stood outside Trinity College, Dublin in the center of the Irish capital.

The battle of Boyne

1730–Birth of Josiah Wedgwood, English potter.

1759–Quebec–English General James Wolfe orders his cannon to start firing on Quebec from heights of Lévis. Come nightfall, Jean-Daniel Dumas leads 1,600 soldiers, mostly students, in a disastrous night attack on the English–the young men panic and fire on each other.

British General James Wolfe


1804–Former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton dies a day after being shot in a duel with Aaron Burr


1812–Windsor Ontario–U S forces numbering about 2500, under Brigadier General William Hull, cross the Detroit River and occupy the town of Sandwich. This is the first American invasion in the War of 1812. However, worried about a new alliance between the British and the Native Americans led by Tecumseh, Hull will soon retreat to Detroit, and surrenders to the British a month later. (My Canadian friends love reminding me of these events!)

1817–Birth of Henry David Thoreau, American poet, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist. “Some say that government is best which governs least. . . . I say that government is best which governs not at all.”–”On Civil Disobedience.” “Ay, if one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.”–”On Civil Disobedience.”


H. D. Thoreau

1843–Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints, receives a revelation that anyone who rejects polygamy will suffer damnation.

 1849–Saint John, New Brunswick–Rioting between Orangemen and Catholics in Saint John kills twelve people.

 1854–In his journal, Thoreau writes, “Many young barn swallows (they have a darker crescent on the breast and long tail-feathers not grown) sit in flocks on the bared dead willows over the water and let me float within four or five feet. Birds do not distinguish a man sitting in a boat.”

1861In his abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison reports that “The President’s Message was communicated to Congress on Friday last. It is of moderate length, dispassionate but firm in its tone, and simple in its style. It asks for four hundred thousand soldiers and four hundred millions of dollars for the vigorous prosecution of the war. It is every where well received.”

1862–Congress first authorizes the Medal of Honor.

1863–Retreating from the bloody battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Confederate forces under General Robert E Lee reach the swollen waters of the Potomac River. The days and weeks of frequent rains that had plagued both armies during the campaign have driven the river to levels almost never seen in mid-July. Lee’s men look for ways to ford the river while President Lincoln sends telegrams to the slow-moving Union General George Meade, attempting to have him move fast enough to catch the Confederates before they cross the river.

 1864–Arriving before Washington DC, Confederate forces under General Jubal Early find that they have moved too slowly–Federal forces have reenforced the capital’s defenses. The Confederates retreat. As the wry Rhode Island Union soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes in his diary, “General Early was late.” (I can hear that Yankee accent even as I read his words.)

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

1895–Birth of Broadway lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II

1895–Birth of Buckminster Fuller, American engineer and architect

1913–In the Second Balkan War, one of the immediate predecessor conflicts to the First World War, Serbian forces begin their siege of the Bulgarian city of Vidin.

1917–The Bisbee Deportation occurs as vigilantes, hired by the corporate mine owners, kidnap and deport approximately 1,300 striking miners, their family members and union supporters, from Bisbee, Arizona.

1917–Birth of Andrew Wyeth, American artist.

1933–As part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, a minimum wage of 40 cents an hour is established in the U.S. (That equals $6.78 in 2011 money!)

FDR heads to his first inaugration, 1933, with President Hoover

1934–Birth of Van Cliburn, pianist.

1946–”The Adventures of Sam Spade” premiers on ABC radio.

1954–President Dwight Eisenhower proposes a highway modernization program, with costs to be shared by federal and state governments. This will become the modern interstate highway system.

1972–George McGovern wins the Democratic presidential nomination at the party’s convention in Miami Beach.

1973–Death of Lon Chaney, Jr., American actor.


1984–Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale names New York Congresswoman Geraldine A. Ferraro his running mate, making her the first woman to run on a major party ticket. (I remember the excitement I felt that day!)

Geraldine Ferraro


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