05 August 2007

This day in history: 5 Aug

642: Oswald of Northumbria was defeated and killed by Penda of Mercia in the Battle of Maserfeld (now Oswestry, Shropshire).

1100: Henry I Beauclerc, who had been King of England since his brother's death three days earlier, was crowned in Westminster Abbey.

1305: Sir William Wallace was captured by the English near Glasgow.

1583: Sir Humphrey Gilbert formally took possession of Newfoundland (and of the land 200 leagues to the north and south) for England, establishing the first English colony in North America at what is now St John's.

1620: The Mayflower and Speedwell departed Southampton, England, on their first attempt at a voyage to America. They were forced to turn back following sabotage by Speedwell's crew; Mayflower's third attempt, which began on 6 September of that year, was successful.

1689: 1500 Iroquois attacked the village of Lachine, on the island of Montreal in New France. 80 French colonists were killed, and the village was burnt to the ground.

1716: Prince Eugene of Savoy defeated the Ottomans in the Battle of Petrovaradin (now in Serbia).

1763: British and Indian forces led by Colonel Henry Bouquet defeated Chief Pontiac's Indians at Bushy Run, in southwestern Pennsylvania.

1858: Cyrus Field's Atlantic Telegraph Company completed the first transatlantic telegraph cable, between Foilhommerum, Valentia Island, in western Ireland, and Heart's Content, in eastern Newfoundland; it operated for less than a month before being destroyed by excessive voltage.

1864: "Damn the torpedoes! Four bells. Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!" Admiral David Farragut, aboard the sloop-of-war USS Hartford (Captain Percival Drayton), led a Union flotilla through Confederate defenses - forts, gunboats, and the ironclad ram CSS Tennessee - at Mobile Bay, near Mobile, Alabama. Monitor USS Tecumseh hit a mine and sank with the loss of 93 men, and USS Oneida lost a boiler and was taken under tow by USS Galena. 97 men* were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions this day aboard Hartford** (12 awards), Richmond (29), Metacomet (8), Brooklyn (23), Lackawanna (11), Galena (4), Chickasaw (2) and Oneida (8).

1915: The Italian submarine Nereide (Capitano di Corvetta Carlo Del Greco) was torpedoed and sunk near the island of Pelagosa, in the central Adriatic, by the Austrian SM U 5 (Linienschiffsleutnant Georg von Trapp).

1944: Japanese POWs attempted to escape from a prisoner of war camp outside Cowra, NSW, Australia - possibly the biggest mass breakout in history.

1957: American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark, debuted on ABC television.

1964: American aircraft from carriers USS Ticonderoga (CVA 14) and USS Constellation (CVA 64) bombed targets in North Vietnam in retaliation for strikes against US destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin.

1969: Mariner 7 made its closest fly-by (3524 kilometres) of Mars.

1981: President Ronald Reagan fired 11,350 striking air-traffic controllers who had ignored his order to return to work.

Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (c 1000–1063), Frederick North KG PC, 2nd Earl of Guilford (1732–1792), Richard Howe KG, 1st Earl Howe (1726–1799), Jacques Boucher de Crèvecœur de Perthes (1788–1868), Carmen Miranda (1909–1955), Norma Jean Mortenson (1926–1962), Richard Burton CBE (1925-1984) and Sir Alec Guinness CH CBE (1914–2000) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Edward John Eyre (1815-1901), Joseph Merrick (1862–1890), John Huston (1906–1987), Neil Armstrong (1930-TBD), Sammi Smith (1943-2005) and Loni Anderson (1946-TBD).

* Yes, 97 (ninety-seven). If that seems excessive, remember that at that time, the Medal of Honor was the only decoration awarded by the US armed forces; it was either that, or nothing. So men received the MoH for actions that nowadays would rate "only" a Navy Cross, a Silver Star or a Bronze Star.

** Commissioned on 27 May 1859, Hartford served, with gaps, until she was finally decommissioned for the last time on 20 Aug 1926. She sank at her berth at Norfolk Navy Yard on 20 Nov 1956, and was subsequently scrapped.

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