Fought January 18-23, 1913, the Battle of Frenchtown saw American forces under Brig. Gen. James Winchester (right) crushed by a combined British and Native American army. Having pushed north towards Detroit, Winchester's men succeeded in driving enemy forces from Frenchtown along the River Raisin on January 18. Occupying the town, Winchester failed to make the necessary defensive arrangements. On January 22, British and Native American troops under Brig. Gen. Henry Proctor attacked. Though the American right quickly collapsed, Kentucky regiments fought tenaciously to hold Frenchtown. Captured early in the fighting, Winchester was asked to have them surrender. After some negotiation, the Kentuckians agreed in exchange for British assurances that they would be treated fairly as prisoners of war. Later in day, Proctor withdrew north and took along the uninjured prisoners. Lacking transport for the wounded Americans, he stated that sleds would be sent south the next day. During the night, the British guards in Frenchtown slipped away and the next morning Native American forces returned. Looting the town, they killed those too injured to move. The rest were taken north to be ransomed. Quickly dubbed the Red River Massacre, the incident spurred the recruiting cry "Remember the Raisin" and led to a surge in American enlistments....
This week, just a few items about treasure, an archaeological find, and a modern look at a medieval king's skull.
The region in France that's associated with a fine wine and a deep red color has a history going back far into the early Middle Ages. Learn about the Germanic people who gave their name to Burgundy, the early medieval kingdom that rose there, and the duchy it became in this introduction.
April 23, 1014 - Munster Irish and Leinster forces clash outside of the Dublin at the Battle of Clontarf. In 1013, the King of Leinster, Máel Mórda mac Murchada, rose in rebellion against the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru. Receiving assistance from the Dublin Vikings of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, the Manx Vikings of Brodir, and the Viking Earl of Orkey, Sigurd Lodvesson, Murchada prepared for Brian's inevitable attack. After raiding around Dublin, Brian moved to confront his enemy's army. Meeting at Clontarf, just north of Dublin, the two forces engaged in a series of champion fights before opening the main battle. Commencing on the morning of Good Friday, April 23, the fighting at Clontarf lasted throughout the day. With the battle turning in his favor, Brian returned to his tent to pray. While there, Brodir, who earlier had nearly been killed by Brian's brother, Wolf the Quarrelsome, approached the tent with a small band of followers. Attacking, they killed Brian and his retainers. On the battlefield, Brian's forces succeeded in cutting off Murchada's route of escape and began massacring his forces. As the fighting finished, Brian's army, despite his death, proved victorious and was able to kill Murchada and destroy his army. The battle eliminated much of Ireland's central leadership and the country soon sank into regionalized, factional fighting.
Laid down in 1904, USS Idaho (BB-24) (right) entered service four years later. The second and final ship of the Mississippi-class, the battleship intially operated in the Caribbean and Atlantic until greeting the returing Great White Fleet in February 1909. Largely engaged in routine, peacetime operations over the next four years, Idaho did conduct a cruise to Europe and protected American interests off the Mexican coast. Sold to Greece in the summer of 1914, the battleship entered the Royal Hellenic Navy under the name Lemnos. Remaining active in various roles, it was sunk in April 1941 by German Ju 87 Stukas during World War II....
I thought this pair of articles deserved their own post, because it's two ways to look at the coal industry during the industrial revolution. On the one hand, you've got how coal production expanded and its economic role here, but on the other there's the human side, and we have a piece on living and working conditions in the mines.
April 19, 1775 - The American Revolution begins with fighting at Lexington (left) and Concord. Early on the morning of April 19, 1775, 700 British troops departed Boston with orders from Gen. Thomas Gage to search for and seize colonial munitions in the town of Concord. Alerted that the British were approaching by Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Dr. Samuel Prescott, colonial militia and "Minutemen" were able to muster. Forming his men on Lexington Green, Captain John Parker gave them strict instructions not to fire unless fired upon. After the lead elements of the British column, led by Major John Pitcairn, arrived there was an exchange of words and then a shot rang out. While it is not known who fired it, it led to a brief battle in which eight colonists were killed. Moving on the British reached Concord and began their search for munitions. Near the North Bridge, colonial militia was able to defeat a British detachment. Having completed their mission, the British began marching back to Boston. As they moved, colonial forces repeatedly sniped at and ambushed them, ultimately inflicting 273 casualties. Colonial casualties for the day numbered 94. The fighting at Lexington and Concord became the opening battles of the American Revolution....
Laura Keene was a British-American stage actress who became known was the first powerful female theater manager and is credited with establishing New York City as the leading theatrical center in the United States. She was the featured actress in the production of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre, during which John [Read More ...]
As most Christians (and many non-Christians) know, the early followers of Jesus were persecuted by the authorities in the Roman Empire. Christians were blamed for the Great Fire in Rome and thrown to the lions; many zealous converts were ostracized, exiled and even executed for their faith. At one point, it even became illegal to be a Christian in Rome.
Yet in the Middle Ages, an overwhelming percentage of the population of western Europe was Christian, and the bishop of Rome -- the pope -- was such a powerful cleric that the few kings who dared to disobey his commands found themselves in some difficult situations. The Christian Church had become the most influential institution in the western world.
How did this change come about? How could what can only be described as a sect within Judaism become a full-fledged, independent religion? What events made Christianity change from an oppressed and illegal following to the triumphant and official creed of the Roman Empire? And how did the city of Rome become the center of Christianity in the west?
Get the answers in the very basic introduction, A New Religion.
Fought September 19, 1864, the Third Battle of Winchester saw Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan advance south and attack Confederate forces led by Lt. Gen. Jubal Early. Striking with VI and XIX Corps, his early efforts to penetrate Early's line east of Winchester failed to obtain a breakthrough despite heavy fighting. Bringing up VIII Corps, Sheridan was able to drive back the Confederate left forcing Early to withdraw to a new position closer to the town. Coming under coordinated assaults by Union infantry, he was nearly surrounded when Maj. Gen. Alfred Torbert appeared north of Winchester with two cavalry divisions. This threat and the imminent danger of Sheridan shattering his line led Early to order a retreat south to Fisher's Hill. Forming a new defensive line, he was beaten again by Sheridan two days later....
April 15, 1952 - The B-52 Stratofortress (right) flies for the first time. Introduced in 1955 , the B-52 Stratofortress became the backbone of the US Strategic Air Command. Designed for delivering nuclear weapons in the event of war with the Soviet Union, the B-52 saw service dropping and firing conventional munitions during the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. In addition, the aircraft has been used in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. At this time, the B-52H squadrons are stationed at Minot Air Force Base (North Dakota) and Barksdale Air Force Base (Louisiana). An economical aircraft, the US Air Force intends to retain the B-52 until at least 2040, bringing the service life of the design to a remarkable 85 years....
Commissioned in 1908, USS Mississippi (BB-23) (right) was the lead ship of its class of battleship. Designed as a smaller version of the earlier Connecticut-class, the Mississippi-class ultimately consisted of two ships. Entering service, Mississippi operated in the Atlantic and in early 1909 met the Great White Fleet as it returned from its around-the-world cruise. Continuing to sail with the Atlantic Fleet, the battleship visited Europe in 1910 before delivering Marines to Cuba two years later. In early 1914, Mississippi assisted in building Naval Air Station Pensacola. Embarking seaplanes, it carried them south to support the American occupation of Veracruz that spring. This marked the first combat deployment of US naval aviators. Remaining in the vicinity for a month, Mississippi returned to Hampton Roads in the summer of 1914. Shortly thereafter, it, and its sister ship USS Idaho (BB-24), were sold to Greece. Renamed Kilkis, the former Mississippi remained in the Royal Hellenic Navy until being sunk during World War II....
Some of the press surrounding the recent acquisition of Crimea by Russia included the statement that they were changing borders established in the aftermath of World War 2. However, Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by the Russian Soviet Federation in 1954. The reason why is indistinct, and Mark Kramer, Director of the Cold War Studies Program at Harvard University, has posted his deduction via the Wilson Center website. If you want the shorthand, Khrushchev used sending Crimea to Ukraine to gather support in his battle for power after Stalin's death.
April 11, 1809 - Captain Thomas Cochrane opens the Battle of the Basque Roads (right). Having blockaded a French fleet of eleven ships of the line in Basque Roads, Adm. Lord Gambier became reluctant to attack. Annoyed by this inaction, the Admiralty dispatched the daring Cochrane to lead a fire ship attack against the French. Delayed by Gambier on April 10, Cochrane led an assault in on the night of April 11 using two explosion ships and twenty fire ships. While the latter were largely ineffective, the former caused great confusion and fear among the French. As a result, many of the French ships slipped their cables and ran aground in the shallow waters of Basque Roads. Seeing all but two of the French ships aground at dawn, Cochrane repeatedly signaled Gambier to enter the roads to complete the victory. When it became clear that Gambier would not attack, Cochrane entered the French anchorage aboard HMS Imperieuse (38 guns) and intentionally became heavily engaged with three French ships of the line. Signaling Gambier for aid, two British ships of the line and seven frigates finally joined the action. Before nightfall, Cochrane had captured or destroyed four ships of the line and a frigate. Though eager to renew the action the next morning, Cochrane was incensed when Gambier recalled the entire fleet. Returning to Britain, Cochrane was knighted but committed career suicide through constant criticism of Gambier. Though it became obvious to all that Gambier had failed badly, he was acquitted in a sham court-martial which cleared his name....
This week, just a few stories about sunken ships, found communities, and the return of what was lost.
April 8, 1864 - Confederate forces win the Battle of Mansfield. In March 1863, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks began pushing up the Red River with the goal of capturing Shreveport, LA. Supported by RAdm. David D. Porter's gunboats, the campaign moved slowly and Banks' men became increasingly strung out due to poor roads. Opposing the Union advance was a small Confederate army led by Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor (right). After initially withdrawing, he was able to gather sufficient forces to make a stand just south of Mansfield. Selecting a clearing surrounded by heavy woods, Taylor succeeded in luring Banks' lead elements into battle. Attacking on April 8, he routed them and drove back Union forces. Beaten, Banks consolidated his position and turned back Confederate assaults the next day at the Battle of Pleasant Hill. Despite this success, he elected to break off the campaign and retreat south....
April 6, 1812 - The forces of the Earl of Wellington storm the city of Badajoz, Spain. Following the capture of Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo, the Earl of Wellington moved to take the city of Badajoz. Arriving outside of its walls, British troops invested the city on March 16, 1812. Outnumbering the French garrison nearly 5-to-1, the British began pushing trenches and siege lines towards the city's thick walls. After beating off numerous French sorties, they succeeded in breaching the wall in three places. On April 6, Wellington ordered his men to storm the city. Moving forward, their attacks were repeatedly beaten back by the French defenders. As Wellington began to debate ending the assault, men from Gen. Thomas Picton's division were able to gain a foothold on the walls allowing reinforcements to enter the fray. Fighting through the city, the superior British numbers turned the battle in their favor and the French were forced to retreat to the San Cristobal fortress. Surrounded and outnumbered, the French soon surrendered. In the wake of the fighting, British troops brutally looted the city....
Richard J Evans, a historian I greatly admire, has written a book on 'counterfactual' history, a subject I find good fun (examples of counterfactual include what would have happened if Britain had stayed out of WW1). It looks an interesting read, but this review from the Times Higher Education Supplement concludes fans of alternate history will be disappointed as Evans finishes, well, not exactly a fan. Indeed, in a small interview with Evans at the end of the review he gives a definite statement on another subject: "so I gave up historical fiction; it's not really for grown-ups." Controversial, and not something I personally agree with even though I rarely read any.
Two experts, Michael Hicks of the University of Winchester, and Professor Martin Biddle, Director of the Winchester Research Unit, have spoken to BBC History Magazine about their great concerns regarding the identification of a skeleton found under a car park as Richard III. Both are worried by delays in releasing details on the evidence, and in what the holders of the skeleton claim. They want a coroner's style inquest into the issue, which seems fair enough.
On September 17, 1862, seventy-eight girls and young women were killed in an explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - the worst civilian disaster of the Civil War. The deaths of these young women were given little press coverage because the Battle of Antietam was fought the same [Read More ...]
Through works like The Birth of Europe and Medieval Civilization, groundbreaking historian Jacques Le Goff helped us all understand that the Middle Ages were not a time of darkness but the era in which many of our most fundamental modern western principles were formed. He did a great deal to change the focus of learning about the past from politics and events to attitude and anthropological matters. Two of his books are on my shelf (and several more on my wish list). Jacques Le Goff's impact has been strong these last several decades, and his works will continue to influence and inform for decades to come.
Jacques Le Goff died in Paris on Tuesday at the age of 90.
Every now and then some scientist or other comes out with an article or book or monograph on how the disease of the Black Death could not have been Bubonic Plague, or how "evidence shows" that multiple diseases were involved in the pandemic. Usually, they're waving their papers under our noses without first looking at the entire known history of events. Now a new theory is here to exonerate those sweet little rodents that we've always blamed as carriers (oh Remy, won't you cook me a nice batch of Ratatouille?)
Everything you know about the Black Death is wrong, claims Terrence McCoy at the Washington Post. Um, really? Everything? And Black Death wasn't actually bubonic plague, Kate Seamons of Fox News tells us. Hmmm. Why, then, did period sources describe victims with black buboes?
If you've read our little feature Death Defined, you know that scholars long ago concluded that four different manifestations of the disease spread during those horrible years. This included Bubonic, which was transmitted by fleas living on infected rats; and Pneumonic, which was airborne. The Bubonic form, which was survivable, spread more slowly and killed more slowly than the Pneumonic; but both were caused by the same bacterium, yersinia pestis. And let's not forget the Septicemic variety, which could kill a healthy individual virtually overnight if an open sore came into contact with the infection. The speed of transmission varied greatly, and the different forms of the disease can explain why.
The recent discovery of 25 skeletons under London's Charterhouse Square has provided scientists with some fascinating new data. But does any of it really contradict what we already know? Check out this article by Jill Lawless of the Associated Press, made available at SFGate, and decide for yourself.
And please, think twice before you try to pet any of the critters that may be residing in your walls.
There's an ongoing discussion about modern graffiti. Is it art, or is it just vandalism? Personally, I believe that some graffiti is most definitely art, and I admire the renegade artists who made blank walls and train cars much more interesting and, yes, beautiful with their talents. On the other hand, anyone who tags art that's already been created (a mural in Austin springs to mind) is just displaying childish stupidity.
But we tend to forget that graffiti can also be a historian's friend. When archaeologists uncover long-buried buildings and discover names or slogans scratched into the walls, scholars of many disciplines tend to get pretty excited.
So here's a rather exciting story at BBC News about graffiti on the wall of a church in Suffolk, England -- not art, but an autograph by 15th-century poet John Lydgate.
As with the last time I spoke about the effect of the weather on heritage, I feel a little bad talking about historical sites when so many people have suffered in the storms. But after a winter of harsh weather, English Heritage have identified twenty five of its sites of particular historic interest as being at major risk from coastal erosion or flooding. There's more in this Guardian article, but what I wanted to stress was that this listing of twenty five could be vastly expanded because there are masses of interesting historical sites near the coast - Britain is an island nation after all - which are being damaged by what feels like extremes of weather. (Well, extreme for Britain.)