09 March 2008

This day in history: 9 Mar

1796: Napoléon Bonaparte married his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais.

1831: The French Foreign Legion was founded.*

1847: US forces under General Winfield Scott invaded Mexico near Vera Cruz.

1858: At Lucknow, India, Lieutenant Thomnas A Butler, 1st Bengal European Fusiliers, swam across the Gomti River and took up a position where he could observe and report on rebel positions, remaining in view of the enemy and under heavy fire for a considerable time. That same day, Lieutenant Francis E H Farquharson, 42nd Regiment (the Black Watch), led a portion of his company against a rebel bastion at Lucknow and spiked both of the enemy guns, preventing them from firing on the 42nd's advanced positions. Butler and Farquharson were awarded the Victoria Cross.

1862: The first battle between two ironclad warships, near Norfolk, Virginia, resulted in a draw after five and a half hours. The two participants, of course, were USS Monitor and CSS Virginia.

1863: John Singleton Mosby, with 29 fellow cavalrymen, paid a very-early-morning visit to Yankee-occupied Fairfax Court House, Virginia. When they departed, having suffered no casualties, they took with them 33 prisoners (including Brigadier General Edwin H Stoughton), 58 horses and "a considerable number of arms."

1925: Pink's War, in Waziristan - the first RAF operation conducted independently of the Army or Navy - began.

1945: Over 100,000 people died when American B-29 Superfortress bombers attacked Tokyo, Japan, with incendiary bombs.

1961: Sputnik 9, carrying a dummy cosmonaut, a dog named Chernushka, mice and a guinea pig, was launched from Baikonur. It landed an hour and 41 minutes later, and was successfully recovered.

1986: US Navy divers found the heavily damaged crew compartment of the Space Shuttle Challenger, with the bodies of all seven astronauts (commander Dick Scobee, pilot Michael Smith, mission specialists Judith Resnik, Ellison S Onizuka and Ronald McNair, and payload specialists Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe) still inside.

That same day, the unmanned Soviet spacecraft Vega 2 rendezvoused with Comet Halley.

2006: NASA announced that evidence of liquid water had been discovered on Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn.

David Rizzio (ca 1533–1566), Jules Cardinal Mazarin (1602–1661), Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (1870-1964), George Burns (1896–1996) and Chris LeDoux (1948–2005) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), "Johnnie" Johnson CB CBE DSO** DFC* (1915–2001), Mickey Spillane (1918–2006) and Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934–1968).

* Some sites, such as the first one linked to here, give the date as 10 March. The official Legion website (second link), however, gives it as 9 March; they should know.

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