John’s Believe It Or Not… July 18th

In 1814 – Eight traitors captured during the War of 1812 are hanged at Ancaster in Upper Canada (Ontario). In 64 Fire of Rome. In 1969 Incident on Chappaquiddick Island. In 1986 Video of Titanic wreckage released. In 1995 Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” is published.

John Fioravanti is standing in front of the blackboard in his classroom.

We Made It to Tuesday! Did you know…

* 1814 – Eight traitors captured during the War of 1812 are hanged at Ancaster in Upper Canada (Ontario).  (During the war of 1812 marauding bands of renegade settlers, many of whom had defected to the United States from the Niagara and London Districts, were active in Southwestern Upper Canada. A number were captured, and in May 1814, nineteen prisoners were indicted for High Treason. A special court was authorized to sit at Ancaster, and the acting attorney-general, John Beverly Robinson, instructed to prosecute. The trials were conducted by Chief Justice Thomas Scott and Puisné Judges William Dummer Powell and William Campbell. Fifteen were condemned to death as traitors. On July 20, 1814, eight were executed at Burlington Heights and the remainder sentenced to exile. These trials became known as the “Bloody Assize“. (A court of assize was a periodic court administering serious civil and criminal law.)

However at least one of the convicted, Jacob Oberholzer (also Overholser) may have simply been the victim of jealous neighbors who wanted his property. Their less than reliable accusations led to his conviction and although spared the death sentence, he later died of typhus as a prisoner.

For eight others, however, the court decided they would be spared the traditional end of being drawn and quartered but on July 20, they were put onto wagons beneath a hastily built mass gallows at Burlington Heights and strangled to death, although one was killed by a heavy brace that fell off the structure while the victims struggled as they strangled.

Not gruesome enough a spectacle, in a horrible aftermath, their heads were cut off and displayed on spikes to discourage any other citizens from treasonous acts.

Though in terms of loss of life, the War of 1812 did not result in staggering numbers, the Bloody Assizes of 1814 as they are known, remains a particularly sad chapter.)

Bob Rennie leads a group of captured soldiers in a military reenactment. Rennie is portraying is great-great-great-great-grandfather Henry Bostwick, who arrested many of the 19 people tried in the Bloody Assize of Ancaster, some 200 years ago.
Bob Rennie leads a group of captured soldiers in a military re-enactment. Rennie is portraying is great-great-great-great-grandfather Henry Bostwick, who arrested many of the 19 people tried in the Bloody Assize of Ancaster, some 200 years ago. (

* 64 Fire of Rome. (During the night of July 18, 64 AD, fire broke out in the merchant area of the city of Rome. Fanned by summer winds, the flames quickly spread through the dry, wooden structures of the Imperial City. Soon the fire took on a life of its own consuming all in its path for six days and seven nights. When the conflagration finally ran its course it left seventy percent of the city in smoldering ruins.

Rumors soon arose accusing Emperor Nero of ordering the torching of the city and standing on the summit of the Palatine playing his lyre as flames devoured the world around him. These rumors have never been confirmed. In fact, Nero rushed to Rome from his palace in Antium (Anzio) and ran about the city all that first night without his guards directing efforts to quell the blaze. But the rumors persisted and the Emperor looked for a scapegoat. He found it in the Christians, at that time a rather obscure religious sect with a small following in the city. To appease the masses, Nero literally had his victims fed to the lions during giant spectacles held in the city’s remaining amphitheater.

From the ashes of the fire rose a more spectacular Rome. A city made of marble and stone with wide streets, pedestrian arcades and ample supplies of water to quell any future blaze. The debris from the fire was used to fill the malaria-ridden marshes that had plagued the city for generations.)

On the night of July 18, 64 AD, 1949 years ago, a great fire broke out in Rome, starting form the area of the Circus Maximus.
On the night of July 18, 64 AD, 1949 years ago, a great fire broke out in Rome, starting from the area of the Circus Maximus. (Archeoguidaroma)

* 1969 Incident on Chappaquiddick Island. (Shortly after leaving a party on Chappaquiddick Island, Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy of Massachusetts drives an Oldsmobile off a wooden bridge into a tide-swept pond. Kennedy escaped the submerged car, but his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, did not. The senator did not report the fatal car accident for 10 hours.

On the evening of July 18, 1969, while most Americans were home watching television reports on the progress of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, Kennedy and his cousin Joe Gargan were hosting a cookout and party at a rented cottage on Chappaquiddick Island, an affluent island near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The party was planned as a reunion for Kopechne and five other women, all veterans of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. Bobby Kennedy was Ted Kennedy’s older brother, and following Bobby’s assassination in June 1968 Ted took up his family’s political torch. In 1969, Ted Kennedy was elected majority whip in the U.S. Senate, and he seemed an early front-runner for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination.

Just after 11 p.m., Kennedy left the party with Kopechne, by his account to drive to the ferry slip where they would catch a boat back to their respective lodgings in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. While driving down the main roadway, Kennedy took a sharp turn onto the unpaved Dike Road, drove for a short distance, and then missed the ramp to a narrow wooden bridge and drove into Poucha Pond. Kennedy, a married man, claimed the Dike Road excursion was a wrong turn. However, both he and Kopechne had previously driven down the same road, which led to a secluded ocean beach just beyond the bridge. In addition, Kopechne had left both her purse and room key at the party.

Kennedy escaped the car and then dove down in an attempt to retrieve Kopechne from the sunken Oldsmobile. Failing, he stumbled back to the cottage, where he enlisted Gargan and another friend in a second attempt to save Kopechne. The three men were unsuccessful; her body was not recovered. The trio then went to the ferry slip, where Kennedy dove into the water and swam back to Edgartown, about a mile away. He returned to his room at the Shiretown Inn, changed his clothes, and at 2:25 a.m. stepped out of his room when he spotted the innkeeper, Russell Peachey. He told Peachey that he been awakened by noise next door and asked what time it was. He then returned to his room.

Was Kennedy trying to establish an alibi? In Leo Damore’s Senatorial Privilege–the Chappaquiddick Cover-up (1988), the author recounts an interview with Joe Gargan in which Gargan claimed that Kennedy had plotted to make Kopechne the driver and sole occupant of the automobile. Whatever Kennedy’s intentions, on the morning of July 19 he went back to Chappaquiddick Island and then returned to Edgartown. At 9:45 a.m., 10 hours after driving off Dike Road bridge, Kennedy reported the accident to Edgartown Police Chief Dominick Arena and admitted that he was the driver.

On July 25, Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, received a two-month suspended sentence, and had his license suspended for a year. That evening, in a televised statement, he called the delayed reporting of the accident “indefensible” but vehemently denied that he been involved in any improprieties with Kopechne. He also asked his constituents to help him decide whether to continue his political career. Receiving a positive response, he resumed his senatorial duties at the end of a month.

There is speculation that he used his considerable influence to avoid more serious charges that could have resulted from the episode. Although the incident on Chappaquiddick Island helped to derail his presidential hopes, Kennedy continued to serve as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts into the 21st century.)

1969: The Chappaquiddick incident
1969: The Chappaquiddick incident (

* 1986 Video of Titanic wreckage released. (On this day in 1986, new close-up videotapes of the sunken ocean liner Titanic are released to the public. Taken on the first manned expedition to the wreck, the videotapes are stunning in their clarity and detail, showing one of the ship’s majestic grand staircases and a coral-covered chandelier swinging slowly in the ocean current.

At the time of its launch, the RMS Titanic was the largest ocean liner ever built, measuring nearly 900 feet long and 150 feet from its water line to its highest beam. It was considered unsinkable owing both to its vast size and its special construction. On its maiden voyage, the Titanic carried more than 2,200 people, including several of the world’s most rich and famous. Its collision with an iceberg and subsequent sinking in the icy waters of the North Atlantic resulted in the death of some 1,500 people, many of whom could have been saved if the ship had carried a sufficient number of lifeboats.

It was not until 73 years later, in 1985, that the Titanic wreck was discovered. Marine geologist Robert Ballard, in conjunction with Jean-Louis Michel of the Institute of Research for the Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), located the remains of the Titanic 350 miles southeast of Newfoundland, 13,000 feet down on the ocean floor. Ballard, who was from Massachusetts’ Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, had the help of the U.S. Navy, which supplied him with Argo, a high-resolution sonar device, and submersible photographic sled.

Ballard’s discovery caused a great stir among the public, and touched off a new era in underwater exploration and scientific research, especially on the topic of the Titanic. The following year, Ballard returned to the wreck, this time to dive down to the bottom in a submersible craft called Alvin and acquire photo footage of the ghost ship. Ballard was accompanied by Ralph Hollis, Alvin‘s pilot, and Mark Bowen, who piloted Jason, Jr., a robotic submarine, or “swimming eyeball,” used to explore the interior of the liner. Two miles beneath the surface, the explorers found, frozen in time, trappings of life aboard the Titanic, including a wood-burning stove and unopened champagne bottles being readied for a toast. Jason, Jr. also found the ship’s safes, but left them as they lay: It was decided that the Titanic expedition would leave the ship’s debris undisturbed on the ocean floor.

Even after several years of visiting the wreckage, not a trace of human remains has been found. Like other soft, degradable materials such as wood and carpet, human body parts were most likely scavenged by sea creatures not long after the ship’s sinking.

Diving tours of the Titanic wreck site to begin in 2018
Diving tours of wreck site to begin in 2018 (

* 1995 Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” is published. (On this day in 1995, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” a memoir by a little-known law professor named Barack Obama, is published. Obama wrote the book before entering politics; 13 years after it was published, he was elected America’s 44th president.

“Dreams from My Father,” tells the story of Obama’s family—he was born in Hawaii in 1961 to a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya. The book is also, as Obama writes in the introduction, “a boy’s search for his father, and through that a search for a workable meaning for his life as a black American.” Obama describes his adolescence in Hawaii, where he was raised by his white grandparents; his post-college years as a community organizer in Chicago; and a visit he made to Kenya as a young man to meet his African relatives following the 1982 death of his father, who he had seen only once after his parent’s divorce when he was 2.

After being elected the first black president of the influential Harvard Law Review in 1990 while in his second year of law school, Obama was contacted by a literary agent who eventually got him a reported $40,000 advance to write what became “Dreams from My Father.” When the book was published in 1995, Obama was a law professor at the University of Chicago and had not yet stepped into the national spotlight. The book received favorable reviews; however, it sold a modest 8,000 to 9,000 hardcover copies and went out of print within several years.

The year after the book’s publication, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate, his first foray into politics. In March 2004, he shot to national prominence by winning the U.S. Senate Democratic primary in Illinois. The publicity generated by his victory prompted a publisher to reissue “Dreams from My Father” in the summer of 2004. Boosted by his well-received keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that July, and his landslide election to the U.S. Senate in November of the same year, “Dreams of My Father” became a best-seller. Reviewers praised the book for its eloquence and candor.

In October 2006, Obama, then a U.S. senator, published his second book, “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming America.” Like his first book, “The Audacity of Hope” became a best-seller, and Obama drew crowds at book signings as speculation mounted over whether he would seek the presidency. In February 2007, Obama announced he would run for the White House. When asked about “Dreams from My Father” while on the campaign trail in 2008, he told The New York Times “he was not even thinking about political consequences when he wrote the memoir. In fact, he said, one editor warned him back then that his references to drug use could come back to haunt him—if he were ever nominated for the Supreme Court.”)


Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* Radio Canada International

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* EyeWitness To 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 (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

15 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 18th”

  1. It always makes me wonder when I read history – what if? What would be different if Ted had stayed by the car? Was it drunkenness or drugs or infidelity that drove him?
    Oh for Obama now.


  2. The burning of Rome; so many days and so much destruction. Can you imagine being from Massachusettes in 1969? I rest my comments on this… thanks for a great post, John.


  3. Loved the Titanic photo. I always wondered why Teddy went through all his machinations when it would have been easier just to stay at the crash site. I suppose he was drunk and didn’t want to be cited for vehicular homicide. (Notice how I answered my own question) Great post, John

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It still amazes me that Ted Kennedy could have behaved the way he did . Clearly, as in most things Kennedy, the public will never know the full story.

    I am a huge admirer of Ted’s older brother, Bobby, and have read numerous books about him. I believe Chappaquiddick is considered to be part of the “Kennedy curse.” So sad for Mary Jo Kopechne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, Ted Kennedy seemed to have little moral fiber when it came to women. However, JFK and RFK were no better – they were smarter about it. Mary Jo was a willing participant knowing Ted was married – too bad she paid with her life. You’re right about the Kennedy shroud over the truth. Thanks for your thoughts, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fantastic information, John. I can’t believe how awful people can be to each other. I went to an exhibition about the Titanic in Cape Town two years ago. I was so eerie and tragic. We learned an awful lot as we bought a book about the stories of some of the passengers from all walks of life. A sad but amazing read.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you, John, for this posting. It is amazing how elusive time can be. The Chappaquiddick incident was almost a half century ago, but its crushing impact is still felt. Thank you for the reminder about Dreams Of My Father – it is a book I need to read. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

I love comments & questions! Please share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s