This Day in History

Gary Jenneke
5 min readJan 1, 2023


January 1st

1804 — Haiti gains independence. A colony of France, Haiti was profitable because of slave labor. At the time of the revolution there were 40,000 whites living on the island in the form of plantation owners, teachers and business owners. There were 500,000 slaves of African descent. It had always been a rebellious slave population and this large number was kept under control through measures of extreme cruelty. In addition there were 30,000 free blacks, some legal and others who had escaped plantation life and were living in the hills. The latter group was called the Maroons. The entire population was in unrest. The whites because of unfair tariffs imposed by France and the enslaved because they wanted to be free. Inspired by the French Revolution, the rebellion began in 1791. It was complicated as French and colonial forces were fighting each other as were blacks and whites. Toussaint l’Overture, a former slave, led a revolt against the planters. Soon his forces occupied a third of the island. The fighting was horrific and left 24,000 of the original 40,000 whites dead and 100,000 slaves also perished.

The forces of l’Overture routed the French and even a British army that came to try acquire the island. Napoleon Bonaparte then sent an army of 43,000 to reestablish the colony and restore slavery. They did manage to capture l’Overture and send him to France where he died in prison. However on November 8th, 1803, new leader and also former slave, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, defeated the French in a decisive battle. At the beginning of the new year he declared Haiti’s independence.

Our founding fathers in their wisdom created the now ever so sacred 2nd Amendment. Have to wonder if the inspiration behind it was to prevent a similar uprising from happening in the United State.

1978 — Dallas Cowboys 23, Minnesota Vikings 6. In the NFC Championship game played at Texas Stadium the Cowboys easily defeated the Vikings. A horrible accident happened near the beginning of the game when a fan dressed in a snowman costume somehow caught on fire and was completely engulfed in flames. A camera captured the incident and it was replayed for the viewing audience way too many times.

I remember watching the game as it was another big Viking loss in another big game. Whoop-dee-do. We had plenty of practice getting over that. It was much harder getting over watching the fan on fire.

1995 — The last “The Far Side” cartoon. The one panel comic strip, created by Gary Larson, ran from 12/31/79 to 1/1/95. The syndicated strip was published in over 1,900 newspapers and translated into 17 languages. (Are there even 1,900 newspapers left any more?) Larson was inspired by MAD Magazine as a youth and also Gahan Wilson. The Far Side had a surreal quality to it and the humor was abstract, often times escaping the reader. It even inspired angry letters to the newspapers questioning it value. There were composite books of the Far Side cartoons and calendars also. After a 25 years hiatus “The Far Side” returned online.

One of my favorite cartoons


1735 — Paul Revere. Silversmith and patriot. His fame came from a midnight “The British are Coming” ride to warn the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord. Few knew of him until he was immortalized in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1861. Although he was undoubtedly an early patriot there is some question whether his famous ride actually happened as most believe.

1745 — Anthony Wayne. Revolutionary War general. Wayne led American troops at a number of battles, most successfully at the Battle of Stony Point where his bold action earned him the nickname of “Mad Anthony”.

1752 — Betsy Ross. Seamstress. Ross is known for having created and sewn the colors, stars and stripes of America’s first flag.

January 1st has to rank high for the date of birth of heroes of the American Revolution. There is some doubt however that their reputations are all warranted. William Dawes, Israel Bissel and a sixteen year old girl named Sybil Ludington all rode to warn of the British advance but there is little evidence that Paul Revere did. As noted, he owes his fame to a poem. Wayne may have gotten his nickname not in battle but from a perhaps innocent soldier who he had ordered flogged. And nobody had ever heard of Betsy Ross until long after her death when one of her grandsons claimed it was she who had sewn the first American flag. The only evidence produced is a receipt from a ship for its flag. There were no receipts from George Washington or the Continental Congress. As with so much in life, from myths come the truth.

1942 Country Joe McDonald. Musician. Country Joe and The Fish became nationally known after their stand-in performance at Woodstock. It was there they performed the “I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die” song with its infamous audience participation cheer. Originally it was “Gimme an F, gimme an I” and so forth to spell out Fish. But before Woodstock it had morphed into gimme me an F , gimme a U… well, you get the idea. The cheer had gotten them banned from a music festival tour for life and also cost them an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. A Navy veteran, Country Joe became a political activist in his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was also very supportive of returning Vietnam veterans. For a while he was in a theater group, The F.T.A Show, along with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, that played in coffee shops close to military installations. They played to disenchanted G.I.s and were monitored by the F.B.I. He left the group because he thought Fonda didn’t really understand what the soldiers were going through. Country Joe played music to inmate veterans in prisons and continued his activism, opposing the 2003 Iraq War. This raised the ire of broadcaster Bill O’Reilly who compared him to Fidel Castro. Country Joe was scheduled to play at the 50th anniversary of Woodstock until negotiations for that event fell apart.

I like him, always have, even more now that I found out he’s a former swabbie like myself.

1976 — Chai Jing. Chinese journalist. Jing made a documentary film, “Under the Dome” about air pollution in China. It was viewed 300 million times on the internet before the Chinese government had it taken offline.

The Communist Party and the Republican Party have that in common, an intolerance for “fake news”.


“That’s not in my american history book” by Thomas Ayres



Gary Jenneke

Writer, traveler, veteran, miscast accountant except for one interesting stint at a Communist cafe, retiree and blogger.