17 June 2007

This day in history: 17 Jun

1497: Forces under King Henry VII defeated Cornish rebels led by Michael An Gof at the Battle of Deptford Bridge.

1579: Sir Francis Drake claimed California (or perhaps Oregon) for England, calling it Nova Albion (New England).

1631: Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to her fourteenth child (a girl).

1775: Although they suffered heavy casualties, British forces defeated American rebels in the Battle of Bunker Hill (actually fought on Breed's Hill), near Boston.

1839: Kamehameha III issued the Edict of Toleration, giving Roman Catholics the freedom to worship in Hawai`i.

1863: Union cavalry (Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick) encountered Confederate troopers (Colonel Thomas T Munford) near the village of Aldie, Virgina, resulting in four hours of stubborn fighting. Colonel Louis P di Cesnola, 4th New York Cavalry, rallied his regiment, which was falling back, and - despite the fact that he was unarmed - led it in a charge. Impressed, Kilpatrick presented his own sword to di Cesnola, who led another series of charges before being seriously wounded and taken prisoner by the Confederates.* Di Cesnola was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1876: 1500 Sioux and Cheyenne, led by Crazy Horse, defeated General George Crook's forces at Rosebud Creek in Montana Territory. First Sergeant Joseph Robinson, D Troop, 3rd Cavalry, led the skirmish line under fire with judgment and great coolness, bringing up the lead horses at a critical moment. Robinson was awarded the Medal of Honor, as were two other 3rd Cavalry first sergeants (F and I Troops) and a trumpeter (M Troop). Two Indian women - The Other Magpie, a Crow riding with General Crook, and Buffalo Calf Road Woman, sister of a Cheyenne chief - were also noted for their actions during the battle.**

1877: The Nez Perce defeated the US Cavalry at White Bird Canyon in the Idaho Territory.

1885: The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbour aboard the steamer Isere.

1898: The United States Navy Hospital Corps was established.

1933: Two FBI agents, two Kansas City policemen and captured fugitive Frank Nash were killed at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, by gangsters attempting to free Nash.

1939: Convicted murderer Eugen Weidmann was guillotined outside the prison Saint-Pierre in Versailles - the last public guillotining in France. (The last person to be guillotined was murderer Hamida Djandoubi, on 10 September 1977.)

1940: RMS Lancastria, carrying an estimated 4000 to 9000 civilian refugees and RAF personnel being evacuated from St Nazaire, was sunk by the Luftwaffe near Saint-Nazaire, France.

1972: Five White House operatives were arrested for burglarizing the Democratic National Committee's offices in the Watergate Building, in Washington, DC.

1987: The last known dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens) died in Florida. The bird was officially declared extinct in 1990.

In addition to Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631) and Weidmann (1908-1939), King Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), Jeff Chandler (1918-1961), Pamela Britton (1923-1974), Sir Richard Nugent O'Connor KT GCB DSO MC ADC (1889–1981), Zerna Sharp (1889-1981) and Kate Smith (1907–1986) died on this date.

And happy birthday to King Edward I "Longshanks" (1239–1307), Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (1882–1971), Heinz Guderian (1888–1954), M C Escher (1898–1971), F F E Yeo-Thomas GC MC and bar (1901-1964), Ruth Graves Wakefield (1903-1977), Red Foley (1910–1968), Margaret Ringenberg (1921-TBD) and Erin Murphy (1964-TBD).

* According to his MoH citation, Colonel di Cesnola was "in arrest, when, seeing his regiment fall back, he rallied his men, accompanied them, without arms, in a second charge, and in recognition of his gallantry was released from arrest." Apparently di Cesnola had been placed under arrest for insubordination, but I haven't been able to find out any details.

** Buffalo Calf Road Woman also fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, eight days later, at the side of her husband.

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