This Day in History
1775 — Olive Branch Petition. This was a last ditch effort by the 2nd Continental Congress to avoid war with England. It was addressed to King George, and not Parliament, in the hopes he would intervene. John Adams wrote the first draft but it was considered too inflammatory so John Dickinson, a delegate from Pennsylvania, rewrote it. There was little chance of its success because although the Colonies did pledge their loyalty to the king, they did not agree to follow the laws dictated by England. The document was a compromise within the Congress itself because some delegates were more moderate and did not support open rebellion. John Adams wrote to a friend that the petition was necessary to keep the delegates united. Predictably it had no effect as the king refused to even receive the document. It did however keep the 2nd Continental Congress intact.
Given that the petition was sent out after Lexington and Concord, and after the Battle of Bunker Hill, it seems a bit preposterous that anyone thought it would even be considered. It was successful however as a compromise and that’s how governing should work. If only we had more of that now.
1871 — Trial of Satanta and Big Tree. They were cousins and Kiowa chiefs. Despite a peace treaty the Kiowa’s were unhappy because whites continued to encroach on their land and their reservation became smaller. Big Tree and Satanta struck back by leading war parties. In March they attacked a wagon train and killed seven teamsters. On orders from Gen. Wm. Sherman they were arrested and brought to trial on July 5th & 6th. Convicted they were sentenced to hang but fearing an Indian uprising, the sentence was commuted to prison. After two years, promising to remain peaceful, they were released. However more broken government promises caused them to react again. They teamed up with Comanche warriors and began more raiding. Tired of being fugitives and constantly hunted by the army, they surrendered in 1874. Satanta committed suicide while in captivity while Big Tree finally accepted the ways of the white man and counseled peace.
Some people are just slow learners, I mean, the law is the law. What’s so hard about that? What about the whites breaking the treaties you might ask? Well, that’s different. They had God and Manifest Destiny on their side.
1943 — Battle of Kursk. Taking place about 280 miles southwest of Moscow, this was Germany’s last major offensive against Russia in WWII. Both armies had amassed huge amounts of aircraft, tanks and soldiers. Germany had lost the element of surprise however because their secret code had been broken, and the Russians were waiting for them. The battle began on the 5th and continued until August 23rd. On July 12th a tank battle began that may have been the largest in history. Germany attacked with 2,700 tanks and Russia countered with 3,600. By the time fighting ground to a halt Germany had lost 500 tanks, Russia 1,500. Germany suffered 200,000 casualties, Russia 800,000, possibly more. So while tactically Germany won, it is considered a Russian victory because they did not allow a breakthrough.
6,300 tanks facing off! I’d describe two tanks battling it out as terrifying. At Kursk, with roaring of thousands of engines, cannons firing, dust swirling, explosions, fires, confusion, death in all manner of horrifying ways, I don’t know if the words exist to describe the horror.
1321 — Joan of the Tower. Joan was an English princess born in the Tower of London. In order to ensure peace between England and Scotland, she was married off to Prince David, future king of Scotland. Joan was seven years old at the time, her new hubby checked in at four years four months. The usual palace intrigue, dissension, betrayal and deceit took place. Nor was peace ensured. By age 22 David was defeated in battle and was a prisoner in England. Joan died at age 41. There is no evidence the union produced any offspring.
I imagine a lot of women end up feeling like they married a four year old.
1874 — Eugen Fischer. Professor of medicine, member of Nazi Party. Fischer used pseudo-science to try prove some races were superior to others. Hitler utilized Fischer’s work in justifying his belief in the superiority of the German people and the inferior status of Jews. After the war Fischer distanced himself from the Nazis and minimized his role in their activities. Successfully, for he lived happily in West Germany until he died at age 93.
His philosophy, sadly, may never die.
1853 — Cecil Rhodes. Diamond mine magnate, politician, British imperialist. Rhodes was born in England and sent to South Africa at age 17 for his health. He entered the diamond trade at age 18 and in twenty years amassed a fortune, gaining control over the world’s diamond trading market. Entering politics he became Prime Minister by age 37 and used that position to appropriate large portions of land from black Africans and disenfranchising them with restrictive voting laws. (I wonder if he cited possible voter fraud as a reason.) Rhodes believed the English were the master race, he also wanted Britain to recover the U.S. as a colony and thought the whole world should be under England’s control. The African country of Rhodesia, now two countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia, was named after him. The Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University is funded from a trust from his diamond empire. Rhodes’ power waned after he planned the Jameson Raid. The goal of the raid was to overthrow the government of President Kruger of South Africa, and ultimately led to the 2nd Boer War. There are still many buildings in Africa named after him and monuments dedicated to him, creating much controversy. Students are trying to have his statue removed from the University of Cape Town.
The world is currently being challenged by a new viewing of history. Some see it as trying to re-write history, others see it as trying to right history.