26 December 2007

This day in history: 26 Dec

1776: Hessian forces commanded by Colonel Johann Rall were defeated by George Washington's troops at Trenton, New Jersey.

1861: Confederate envoys James M Mason and John Slidell, who had been taken prisoner 8 November in the Trent Affair, were freed by the US government, thus heading off a possible war between the United States and Britain.

1862: The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, near Vicksburg, began; it would end in a Confederate victory on 29 December.

That same day, the former CSS Red Rover was commissioned as the US Navy's first hospital ship, USS Red Rover (Acting Master William R Wells). Her crew of 47 included three Sisters of the Order of the Holy Cross, the first female nurses to serve on a US Navy hospital ship.

And the largest mass hanging in US history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, when 38 Santee Sioux were hanged for participating in the Dakota Conflict.

1898: Marie and Pierre Curie announced the isolation of radium.

1899: At Game Tree, near Mafeking, the Protectorate Regiment was engaged in a fight with the Boers. After the order to retire was given, Sergeant Horace R Martineau was wounded thrice whilst attempting to carry a wounded corporal away from the Boer trenches. Trooper Horace E Ramsden's brother had been shot through both legs and was lying only ten yards in front of the Boer positions; Ramsden picked him up and carried him back some 800 yards, despite being under heavy fire all the time and having to stop regularly to rest. Both wounded men were eventually carried to safety. Martineau and Ramsden were awarded the Victoria Cross.

1915: SMS Kingani was captured by HM ships Mimi and Toutou.

1943: German battleship Scharnhorst attempted to attack Convoy JW55B (Loch Ewe to Murmansk) off North Cape, Norway. Escorting cruisers HMS Belfast, Norfolk and Sheffield successfully drove Scharnhorst away from the convoy, and battleship HMS Duke of York arrived with cruiser HMS Jamaica and four destroyers* to finish the German ship off. Only 36 men survived from the Scharnhorst's crew of over 1800. This was the last engagement in which a Royal Navy capital ship fought an enemy capital ship.


HMS Duke of York

1944: Combat Command R (Col Wendell Blanchard), 4th Armored Division, broke through German forces to reach the 101st Airborne Division troops who had been surrounded at Bastogne.

1961: US Air Force pilots were given permission to undertake combat missions (Operation Farm Gate) against the Viet Cong as long as at least one Vietnamese national was carried on board the strike aircraft for training purposes.

1973: Soyuz 13 (V V Lebedev and P I Klimuk), launched from Baikonur on 18 December, landed in Kazakhstan.

1974: Salyut 4 was launched from Baikonur; it would remain in orbit until 2 Feb 1977.

1991: The Supreme Soviet formally announced the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890), Frederic Remington (1861-1909), Melvil Dewey (1851–1931), Harry S Truman (1884–1972), Jack Benny (1894–1974), Howard Hawks (1896–1977), Jason Robards (1922–2000), Erich Topp (1914-2005) and Gerald Ford (1913-2006) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Charles Babbage FRS (1791–1871), George Dewey (1837–1917), Richard Widmark (1914-TBD), Steve Allen (1921–2000), Phil Spector (1940-TBD) and James T Conway (1947-TBD).

* HM ships Saumarez, Scorpion and Savage, and KNM Stord.

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