John’s Believe It Or Not… May 30th

In 1868 First ‘Decoration Day’ observed. In 1431 Joan of Arc martyred. In 1806 Andrew Jackson wins a duel. In 1967 Republic of Biafra proclaimed. In 1971 Mariner 9 departs for Mars.

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John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Tuesday! We Survived Monday! Did you know…

* 1868 ‘Decoration Day’, later called Memorial Day, first observed in Northern US states. (Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear – Memorial Day was born out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. [Thanks to Mae Clair who tipped me off about the origins of this day.])

A small American flag was placed in front of over 220,000 graves for Memorial Day at the Arlington National Cemetery by the Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment.
A small American flag was placed in front of over 220,000 graves for Memorial Day at the Arlington National Cemetery by the Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. (www.lifebuzz.com)

* 1431 Joan of Arc martyred. (At Rouen in English-controlled Normandy, Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who became the savior of France, is burned at the stake for heresy. Joan’s village of Domremy lay on the frontier between the France of the Dauphin and that of the Anglo-Burgundians. In the midst of this unstable environment, Joan began hearing “voices” of three Christian saints—St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. When she was about 16, these voices exhorted her to aid the Dauphin in capturing Reims and therefore the French throne. In May 1428, she traveled to Vaucouleurs, a stronghold of the Dauphin, and told the captain of the garrison of her visions. Disbelieving the young peasant girl, he sent her home. In January 1429, she returned, and the captain, impressed by her piety and determination, agreed to allow her passage to the Dauphin at Chinon. Dressed in men’s clothes and accompanied by six soldiers, she reached the Dauphin’s castle at Chinon in February 1429 and was granted an audience. Charles hid among his courtiers, but Joan immediately picked him out and informed him of her divine mission. For several weeks, Charles had Joan questioned by theologians at Poitiers, who concluded that, given his desperate straits, the Dauphin would be well-advised to make use of this strange and charismatic girl. Charles furnished her with a small army, and on April 27, 1429, she set out for Orleans, besieged by the English since October 1428. On April 29, as a French sortie distracted the English troops on the west side of Orleans, Joan entered unopposed by its eastern gate. She brought greatly needed supplies and reinforcements and inspired the French to a passionate resistance. She personally led the charge in several battles and on May 7 was struck by an arrow. After quickly dressing her wound, she returned to the fight, and the French won the day. On May 8, the English retreated from Orleans. During the next five weeks, Joan and the French commanders led the French into a string of stunning victories over the English. On July 16, the royal army reached Reims, which opened its gates to Joan and the Dauphin. The next day, Charles VII was crowned king of France, with Joan standing nearby holding up her standard: an image of Christ in judgment. After the ceremony, she knelt before Charles, joyously calling him king for the first time. In May 1430, the Burgundians laid siege to Compiegne, and Joan stole into the town under the cover of darkness to aid in its defense. On May 23, while leading a sortie against the Burgundians, she was captured. The Burgundians sold her to the English, and in March 1431 she went on trial before ecclesiastical authorities in Rouen on charges of heresy. Her most serious crime, according to the tribunal, was her rejection of church authority in favor of direct inspiration from God. After refusing to submit to the church, her sentence was read on May 24: She was to be turned over to secular authorities and executed. Reacting with horror to the pronouncement, Joan agreed to recant and was condemned instead to perpetual imprisonment. Ordered to put on women’s clothes, she obeyed, but a few days later the judges went to her cell and found her dressed again in male attire. Questioned, she told them that St. Catherine and St. Margaret had reproached her for giving in to the church against their will. She was found to be a relapsed heretic and on May 29 ordered handed over to secular officials. On May 30, Joan, 19 years old, was burned at the stake at the Place du Vieux-Marche in Rouen. Before the pyre was lit, she instructed a priest to hold high a crucifix for her to see and to shout out prayers loud enough to be heard above the roar of the flames. As a source of military inspiration, Joan of Arc helped turn the Hundred Years War firmly in France’s favor. By 1453, Charles VII had reconquered all of France except for Calais, which the English relinquished in 1558. In 1920, Joan of Arc, one of the great heroes of French history, was recognized as a Christian saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Her feast day is May 30.)

Execution and Death Joan was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. Before she was tied to the stake, Joan asked for cross so a bystander tied two sticks together for her.
Execution and Death Joan was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. Before she was tied to the stake, Joan asked for a cross so a bystander tied two sticks together for her. (All-len-All)

* 1806 Andrew Jackson wins a duel. (In Logan County, Kentucky, future president Andrew Jackson participates in a duel, killing Charles Dickinson, a lawyer regarded as one of the best pistol shots in the area. The proud and volatile Jackson, a former senator and representative of Tennessee, called for the duel after his wife Rachel was slandered as a bigamist by Dickinson, who was referring to a legal error in the divorce from her first husband in 1791. Jackson met his foe at Harrison’s Mills on Red River in Logan, Kentucky, on May 30, 1806. In accordance with dueling custom, the two stood 24 feet apart, with pistols pointed downward. After the signal, Dickinson fired first, grazing Jackson’s breastbone and breaking some of his ribs. However, Jackson, a former Tennessee militia leader, maintained his stance and fired back, fatally wounding his opponent. It was one of several duels Jackson was said to have participated in during his lifetime, the majority of which were allegedly called in defense of his wife’s honor. None of the other rumored duels were recorded, and whether he killed anyone else in this manner is not known. In 1829, Rachel died, and Jackson was elected the seventh president of the United States.)

Andrew Jackson duel with Dickinson
Andrew Jackson duel with Dickinson (owlcation.com)

* 1967 Republic of Biafra proclaimed. (After suffering through years of suppression under Nigeria’s military government, the breakaway state of Biafra proclaims its independence from Nigeria. In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, the Muslim Hausas in northern Nigeria began massacring the Christian Igbos in the region, prompting tens of thousands of Igbos to flee to the east, where their people were the dominant ethnic group. The Igbos doubted that Nigeria’s oppressive military government would allow them to develop, or even survive, so on May 30, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu and other non-Igbo representatives of the area established the Republic of Biafra, comprising several states of Nigeria. After diplomatic efforts by Nigeria failed to reunite the country, a war between Nigeria and Biafra broke out in July 1967. Ojukwu’s forces made some initial advances, but Nigeria’s superior military strength gradually reduced Biafran territory. The state lost its oil fields–its main source of revenue–and without the funds to import food, an estimated one million of its civilians died as a result of severe malnutrition. On January 11, 1970, Nigerian forces captured the provincial capital of Owerri, one of the last Biafran strongholds, and Ojukwu was forced to flee to the Ivory Coast. Four days later, Biafra surrendered to Nigeria.)

Map showing the Republic of Biafra
Declaration of independence of the Republic of Biafra (Politics – Naij.com)

* 1971 Mariner 9 departs for Mars. (The U.S. unmanned space probe Mariner 9 is launched on a mission to gather scientific information on Mars, the fourth planet from the sun. The 1,116-pound spacecraft entered the planet’s orbit on November 13, 1971, and circled Mars twice each day for almost a year, photographing the surface and analyzing the atmosphere with infrared and ultraviolet instruments. It gathered data on the atmospheric composition, density, pressure, and temperature of Mars, and also information about the surface composition, temperature, and topography of the planet. When Mariner 9 first arrived, Mars was almost totally obscured by dust storms, which persisted for a month. However, after the dust cleared, Mariner 9 proceeded to reveal a very different planet–one that boasted enormous volcanoes and a gigantic canyon stretching 3,000 miles across its surface. The spacecraft’s cameras also recorded what appeared to be dried riverbeds, suggesting the ancient presence of water and perhaps life on the planet. The first spacecraft to orbit a planet other than earth, Mariner 9 sent back more than 7,000 pictures of the “Red Planet” and succeeded in photographing the entire planet. Mariner 9 also sent back the first close-up images of the Martian moon. Its transmission ended on October 27, 1972.)

nasa's maven probe to study why mars atmosphere changed over time
NASA’s MAVEN probe to study why Mars atmosphere changed over time. (www.nytimes.com)

Acknowledged Sources:

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport        http://www.onthisday.com/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

8 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 30th”

  1. Thanks for the nod on Memorial Day, John. I’m glad I was able to inspire your search for more information 🙂

    I never knew about Andrew Jackson and those duels. I seem to remember from history he was quite a rough-around-the edges president (at least for the time period).

    As for Joan of Arc. Any time I read anything about her, I am awed by her courage, which is even more stupendous when you consider her age.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Again, thanks for the tip about Decoration Day, Mae – I might have passed on that story if it hadn’t been for your post. “Old Hickory” was a no-nonsense kind of guy who you didn’t mess with. I agree Joan was in a class of her own. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mae.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m always amazed by how little I know! St Joan was my patron saint for Confirmation, so I am familiar with her life and courage. But, otherwise, I read today’s historical glimpses in astonishment. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Her story is really amazing – more evidence that gender has nothing to do with leadership and courage. That was definitely a political execution wrapped in the phoney trappings of religious heresy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Gwen!

      Liked by 2 people

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