John’s Believe It Or Not… July 29th

In 1609 – Samuel de Champlain meets a large war party of Iroquois heading north near Ticonderoga. In 1588 Spanish Armada defeated. In 1958 NASA created. In 1848 Tipperary Revolt ends in failure. In 1981 Prince Charles marries Lady Diana.

John Fioravanti standing in fron of his classroom blackboard.

Yay! It’s Saturday! Did you know…

* 1609 – Samuel de Champlain meets a large war party of Iroquois heading north near Ticonderoga. (Champlain {Father of New France [Quebec]}had to make friends of the Algonquin and Huron Indians around him so that they would guide him into this unknown land, and allow him to make settlements and build trading posts among them. To gain their good-will he had to promise to help them in their war with the Iroquois south of the lakes, who were their deadly enemies.

So it was in the summer of 1609, the next after the founding of the city of Quebec, that Champlain joined a party of his Indian allies on a raid into the Iroquois country. They travelled up the St. Lawrence and the river Richelieu to the lake which is now called by his name. Here they met their enemies. Both parties landed on the western shore and prepared for battle. The Iroquois sheltered themselves behind a rude stockade of tree trunks, from which they came out to attack Champlain’s Indians. He, with two other Frenchmen, had hidden themselves in the woods, so as to surprise the Iroquois by their sudden appearance. Led by three chiefs, decked with tall plumes of feathers fastened in their hair, the Iroquois advanced, and the arrows flew thick on both sides. Champlain stepped forward in sight of the Iroquois, who ceased firing in their astonishment. Taking careful aim at one of the chiefs, he fired his arquebus, which he tells us he had loaded with four bullets, while at the same time his two companions fired from the woods. Two of the chiefs fell dead and a third was wounded. The Iroquois, who had never seen a white man, and knew nothing of firearms, became panic-stricken and fled. It was an easy victory, but the attack drew upon the French the hatred of the Iroquois, and for more than a hundred years the settlers of Canada suffered all the horrors of savage warfare for this alliance of Champlain with the Northern Indians.

1609 Photograph - Champlain Fighting Native Americans by Granger
1609 Photograph – Champlain Fighting Native Americans by Granger (Fine Art America)

* 1588 Spanish Armada defeated. (Off the coast of Gravelines, France, Spain’s so-called “Invincible Armada” is defeated by an English naval force under the command of Lord Charles Howard and Sir Francis Drake. After eight hours of furious fighting, a change in wind direction prompted the Spanish to break off from the battle and retreat toward the North Sea. Its hopes of invasion crushed, the remnants of the Spanish Armada began a long and difficult journey back to Spain.

In the late 1580s, English raids against Spanish commerce and Queen Elizabeth I’s support of the Dutch rebels in the Spanish Netherlands led King Philip II of Spain to plan the conquest of England. Pope Sixtus V gave his blessing to what was called “The Enterprise of England,” which he hoped would bring the Protestant isle back into the fold of Rome. A giant Spanish invasion fleet was completed by 1587, but Sir Francis Drake’s daring raid on the Armada’s supplies in the port of Cadiz delayed the Armada’s departure until May 1588.

On May 19, the Invincible Armada set sail from Lisbon on a mission to secure control of the English Channel and transport a Spanish army to the British isle from Flanders. The fleet was under the command of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia and consisted of 130 ships carrying 2,500 guns, 8,000 seamen, and almost 20,000 soldiers. The Spanish ships were slower and less well armed than their English counterparts, but they planned to force boarding actions if the English offered battle, and the superior Spanish infantry would undoubtedly prevail. Delayed by storms that temporarily forced it back to Spain, the Armada did not reach the southern coast of England until July 19. By that time, the British were ready.

On July 21, the English navy began bombarding the seven-mile-long line of Spanish ships from a safe distance, taking full advantage of their long-range heavy guns. The Spanish Armada continued to advance during the next few days, but its ranks were thinned by the English assault. On July 27, the Armada anchored in exposed position off Calais, France, and the Spanish army prepared to embark from Flanders. Without control of the Channel, however, their passage to England would be impossible.

Just after midnight on July 29, the English sent eight burning ships into the crowded harbor at Calais. The panicked Spanish ships were forced to cut their anchors and sail out to sea to avoid catching fire. The disorganized fleet, completely out of formation, was attacked by the English off Gravelines at dawn. In a decisive battle, the superior English guns won the day, and the devastated Armada was forced to retreat north to Scotland. The English navy pursued the Spanish as far as Scotland and then turned back for want of supplies.

Battered by storms and suffering from a dire lack of supplies, the Armada sailed on a hard journey back to Spain around Scotland and Ireland. Some of the damaged ships foundered in the sea while others were driven onto the coast of Ireland and wrecked. By the time the last of the surviving fleet reached Spain in October, half of the original Armada was lost and some 15,000 men had perished.

Queen Elizabeth’s decisive defeat of the Invincible Armada made England a world-class power and introduced effective long-range weapons into naval warfare for the first time, ending the era of boarding and close-quarter fighting.)

Defeat of the Spanish Armada' (c1797), from 'Old Naval Prints,' by Charles N Robinson & Geoffrey Holme (The Studio Limited, London), 1924. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Defeat of the Spanish Armada’ (c1797), from ‘Old Naval Prints,’ by Charles N Robinson & Geoffrey Holme (The Studio Limited, London), 1924. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. (National Maritime Museum)

* 1958 NASA created. (On this day in 1958, the U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America’s activities in space. NASA has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, that have yielded vital information about the solar system and universe. It has also launched numerous earth-orbiting satellites that have been instrumental in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.

NASA was created in response to the Soviet Union’s October 4, 1957, launch of its first satellite, Sputnik I. The 183-pound, basketball-sized satellite orbited the earth in 98 minutes. The Sputnik launch caught Americans by surprise and sparked fears that the Soviets might also be capable of sending missiles with nuclear weapons from Europe to America. The United States prided itself on being at the forefront of technology, and, embarrassed, immediately began developing a response, signaling the start of the U.S.-Soviet space race.

On November 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik II, which carried a dog named Laika. In December, America attempted to launch a satellite of its own, called Vanguard, but it exploded shortly after takeoff. On January 31, 1958, things went better with Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite to successfully orbit the earth. In July of that year, Congress passed legislation officially establishing NASA from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and other government agencies and confirming the country’s commitment to winning the space race. In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared that America should put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. On July 20, 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission achieved that goal and made history when astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon, saying “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

NASA has continued to make great advances in space exploration since the first moonwalk, including playing a major part in the construction of the International Space Station. The agency has also suffered tragic setbacks, however, such as the disasters that killed the crews of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986 and the Columbia space shuttle in 2003. In 2004, President George Bush challenged NASA to return to the moon by 2020 and establish “an extended human presence” there that could serve as a launching point for “human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.”)

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) began managing the United States space exploration program on October 1, 1958.
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) began managing the United States space exploration program on October 1, 1958. (

* 1848 Tipperary Revolt ends in failure. (At the height of the Potato Famine in Ireland, an abortive nationalist revolt against English rule is crushed by a government police detachment in Tipperary. In a brief skirmish in a cabbage patch, Irish nationalists under William Smith O’Brien were overcome and arrested. The nationalists, members of the Young Ireland movement, had planned to declare an independent Irish republic, but they lacked support from the Irish peasantry, who were occupied entirely with surviving the famine.

By the mid-19th century, the Irish population, which suffered under the system of absentee landlords, had been reduced to a subsistence diet based largely on potatoes. When a potato blight struck the country in the 1840s, disaster ensued. Between 1846 and 1851, more than one million people starved to death, and some two million people left the country, mostly to America. With the desperate times of the famine came an increased radicalism in the Irish nationalist movement.

In 1846, O’Brien formed, with John Mitchel, the Irish Confederation, a branch of the Young Ireland movement dedicated to freeing Ireland by direct action. By 1848, the group was calling for open rebellion against the English, but Mitchel was arrested, convicted of sedition, and transported to a prison colony in Australia before the revolt could begin. Aggravated by the worsening potato famine and Mitchel’s arrest, O’Brien launched an unsuccessful uprising on July 29, 1848. He was arrested and sentenced to death for treason, but his sentence was commuted to transportation to the penal colony at Tasmania.

After the failure of the Young Ireland revolt, many embittered Irish nationalists {Fenians} immigrated to the United States, Australia, and Canada, where they redoubled their agitation against England.)

The attack on the Widow McCormack's house on Boulagh Common, Ballingarry, County Tipperary,
The attack on the Widow McCormack’s house on Boulagh Common, Ballingarry, County Tipperary, (History Ireland)

* 1981 Prince Charles marries Lady Diana. (Nearly one billion television viewers in 74 countries tune in to witness the marriage of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, to Lady Diana Spencer, a young English schoolteacher. Married in a grand ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the presence of 2,650 guests, the couple’s romance was for the moment the envy of the world. Their first child, Prince William, was born in 1982, and their second, Prince Harry, in 1984.

Before long, however, the fairytale couple grew apart, an experience that was particularly painful under the ubiquitous eyes of the world’s tabloid media. Diana and Charles announced a separation in 1992, though they continued to carry out their royal duties. In August 1996, two months after Queen Elizabeth II urged the couple to divorce, the prince and princess reached a final agreement. In exchange for a generous settlement, and the right to retain her apartments at Kensington Palace and her title of “princess,” Diana agreed to relinquish the title of “Her Royal Highness” and any future claims to the British throne.

In the year following the divorce, the popular princess seemed well on her way of achieving her dream of becoming “a queen in people’s hearts,” but on August 31, 1997, she was killed with her companion Dodi Fayed in a car accident in Paris. Tests conducted by French police indicated that the driver, who also died in the crash, was intoxicated and likely caused the accident while trying to escape the paparazzi photographers who consistently tailed Diana during any public outing.

On April 9, 2005, Prince Charles wed his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, in a private civil ceremony. The ceremony had originally been planned for April 8 but had to be rescheduled so as not to conflict with the funeral of Pope John Paul II. After the civil ceremony, which the queen did not attend, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams blessed the union on behalf of the Church of England in a separate blessing ceremony. An estimated 750 guests attended the event, which was held at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor and was attended by both of Charles’ parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

Though Camilla technically became the Princess of Wales with the marriage, she has announced her preference for the title Duchess of Cornwall, in deference to the beloved late princess. Should Charles become king, she will become Queen Camilla, though she has already announced her intention to use the title Princess Consort, most likely in response to public opinion polls showing resistance to the idea of Queen Camilla.)

Charles and Diana wave to crowds from their open carriage.

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* C.W. Jeffreys                    

* This Day In History – What Happened Today


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.

18 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 29th”

  1. The defeat of the Spanish armada also marked a significant development in naval technology – the transition from heavy galleons (having large fore and aft castles designed for infantry fighting) to more agile frigates (a sleeker ship design which served as a better artillery platform). Drake’s flagship in the battle, Revenge, was a race-built galleon – an early precursor of the frigate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that detail, Robert. Funny, that until this development, naval battles hadn’t changed much since the days of ancient Greece and Rome – grapple the enemy ship and send soldiers over to subdue and capture – or destroy. I appreciate your comment, good sir!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love these John. So interesting. The things that change the world! If Champlain had not taken sides Canada might be totally different. It was terrible what happened to the starving Irish. They let them starve.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Opher, you just made my day! I’m not sure the fledgling colony of New France (Quebec) would have survived long without Algonkian and Huron Natives support – not to mention the fur trade. It would make a good alternative history novel/series. The Potato Famine and British neglect drove my Irish ancestors (Freemans + Ryans) from County Cork to Canada at that time. It was a tragedy. Thanks for commenting, good sir!

      Liked by 1 person

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