It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did you know…
* 1759 – James Wolfe’s army defeats Montcalm’s French forces at the Battle of Québec on the Plains of Abraham.
The battle was a key moment in the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), which was fought in Europe, India and North America (American history books refer to the conflict in North America as the French and Indian War). On one side was the alliance of France, Austria, Sweden, Saxony, Russia and Spain; on the other, the alliance of Britain, Prussia and Hanover. While France was preoccupied with the hostilities in Europe, Britain targeted French colonies overseas and attacked the French navy and merchant fleet, in the hope of destroying France as a commercial rival.
Although the French repulsed several British attacks in North America — including the successful defense of Fort Carillon by Montcalm — the British had made significant gains by 1759. On 26 July 1758, they captured the fortress of Louisbourg on Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), which led to the seizure of other French positions in Atlantic Canada and left New France exposed to British ships, which could now sail up the St. Lawrence River. One of the brigadiers of the Louisbourg expedition was James Wolfe, who was praised in Britain and its American colonies for his role in taking the fortress.
Wolfe sent Brigadier James Murray to target French stores and shipping about 65 km upriver from Québec. While this reduced the supplies available to the French defenders, it did not lure Montcalm into open battle. In desperation, Wolfe resorted to the systematic destruction of the buildings and countryside around Québec, but Montcalm still refused to attack. However, in late August a number of British ships managed to navigate the difficult currents of the St. Lawrence River and sail past the Québec batteries, establishing a strong British naval presence upriver of the city. The British command, therefore, decided to try landing an invasion force upriver from Québec, cutting the city off from Montréal and thus compelling Montcalm and the French army to fight.
When Montcalm heard about the British landing and ascent, he decided to attack quickly before the British had the chance to establish themselves. Historians have criticized his response, suggesting that he should have waited for reinforcements to arrive from French detachments in the area. The French force consisted of about 4,500 men from the army at Beauport, many of whom were militia or Aboriginal warriors. Wolfe’s army was very close in size but was composed almost entirely of regular soldiers, highly disciplined and trained for the field battle to come.
Montcalm’s men advanced and began firing once they were about 120 meters from the British line. However, Wolfe’s soldiers stood firm until the French were about 40 meters away when they started the rolling volleys which quickly halted and then reversed their enemy’s advance.
General Wolfe died soon after the firing commenced, shot three times in the first few minutes of the engagement. After hearing that the French force was retreating, Wolfe reportedly stated, “Now, God be praised, I will die in peace.” Several other high-ranking British officers were killed as well, and the British charge lost some of its direction.
Brigadier-General George Townshend assumed command and organized two battalions to counter a French relief force under Colonel Bougainville that was approaching from behind; Bougainville decided to pull back, and the British consolidated their position on the heights. While this allowed Montcalm’s army to escape, Montcalm himself was wounded during the retreat and died the next morning in Québec. Townshend’s decision to entrench the British position instead of aggressively pursuing the French army had significant consequences; the French marched that night and bypassed their enemy on the way to Pointe-aux-Trembles, leaving only a small force in the town. The British laid siege to Québec, and on 18 September, the French commander signed the Articles of Capitulation and turned the city over to the British. However, the war for New France would continue.
* 1814 Key pens Star-Spangled Banner.
On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the “Star-Spangled Banner”: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”
Francis Scott Key was born on August 1, 1779, at Terra Rubra, his family’s estate in Frederick County (now Carroll County), Maryland. He became a successful lawyer in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and was later appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
On June 18, 1812, America declared war on Great Britain after a series of trade disagreements. In August 1814, British troops invaded Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, Capitol Building, and Library of Congress. Their next target was Baltimore.
After one of Key’s friends, Dr. William Beanes was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. However, Key and Beanes weren’t allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away. After a day, the British were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry and quickly penned a few lines in tribute to what he had witnessed.
The poem was printed in newspapers and eventually set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called “To Anacreon in Heaven” by composer John Stafford Smith. People began referring to the song as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.
Francis Scott Key died of pleurisy on January 11, 1843. Today, the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1914 is housed at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
* 1993 Israel-Palestine peace accord signed.
After decades of bloody animosity, representatives of Israel and Palestine meet on the South Lawn of the White House and sign a framework for peace. The “Declaration of Principles” was the first agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians towards ending their conflict and sharing the holy land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea that they both claim as their homeland.
After the 1967 war, the PLO was recognized as the symbol of the Palestinian national movement, and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat organized guerrilla attacks on Israel from the PLO’s bases in Jordan and, after 1971, from Lebanon. The PLO also coordinated terrorist attacks against Israelis at home and abroad. The Palestinian guerrilla and terrorist activity provoked heavy reprisals from Israel’s armed forces and intelligence services. By the late 1970s, Arafat had won international acceptance of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Violence mounted in the 1980s, with Palestinians clashing with Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to dislodge the PLO. In 1987, Palestinian residents of Gaza and the West Bank launched a series of violent demonstrations against Israeli authorities known as the intifada, or the “shaking off.” Shortly after, Jordan’s King Hussein renounced all administrative responsibility for the West Bank, thereby strengthening the PLO’s influence there. As the intifada raged on, Yasser Arafat proclaimed an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in November 1988. One month later, he denounced terrorism, recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist, and authorized the beginning of “land-for-peace” negotiations with Israel.
Israel refused to open direct talks with the PLO, but in 1991 Israeli diplomats met with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation at the Madrid peace conference. In 1992, Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin became Israeli prime minister, and he vowed to move quickly on the peace process. He froze new Israeli settlements in the occupied territory and in January 1993 authorized secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO in Oslo, Norway. These talks resulted in several important agreements and led to the historic peace accord of September 13, 1993.
On the South Lawn of the White House that day, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO foreign policy official Mahmoud Abbas signed the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. The accord called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho and the establishment of a Palestinian government that would eventually be granted authority over much of the West Bank. President Bill Clinton presided over the ceremony, and more than 3,000 onlookers, including former presidents George Bush and Jimmy Carter, watched in amazement as Arafat and Rabin sealed the agreement with a handshake. The old bitter enemies had met for the first time at a White House reception that morning.
In his remarks, Rabin, a former top-ranking Israeli army general, told the crowd: “We the soldiers who have returned from the battle stained with blood; we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes; we who have fought against you, the Palestinians; we say to you today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough!” And Arafat, the guerrilla leader who for decades was targeted for assassination by Israeli agents, declared that “The battle for peace is the most difficult battle of our lives. It deserves our utmost efforts because the land of peace yearns for a just and comprehensive peace.”
* 1916 Children’s author Roald Dahl is born.
On this day in 1916, Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and James and the Giant Peach (1961), is born in South Wales.
Dahl’s childhood was filled with tragedy. His father and sister died when Dahl was three, and he was later brutally abused at his boarding school. After high school, he traveled widely, joining an expedition to Newfoundland and later working in Tanzania. In World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force and became a fighter pilot. He flew missions in Libya, Greece, and Syria, and was shot down in the Libyan desert, suffering serious injuries. (He saved a piece of his femur, removed in an operation after the accident, and later used it as a paperweight in his office.)
After he recovered, Dahl was sent to Washington, D.C., as an attachÝ. There, the writer C.S. Forester suggested he write about his war experiences, and 10 days later Dahl had his first publication, in the Saturday Evening Post.
Dahl wrote his first book, The Gremlins, for Walt Disney, in 1943, and the story was later made into a Disney film. He wrote several popular adult books, including Someone Like You (1953) and Kiss Kiss (1959), and began writing stories for his own four children in 1960. James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory became best sellers. He also wrote the screenplay for Charlie (with a title change-the movie was called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), and a James Bond film, You Only Live Twice (1967).
Dahl did most of his writing on the family farm, writing two hours every morning, two hours every afternoon, and tending to the animals in between. He was divorced from his wife, Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal, in 1983, and remarried. He died in 1990 at age 74.
* 1996 Tupac Shakur dies.
Hip hop star Tupac Shakur dies on September 13, 1996 of gunshot wounds suffered in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting.
More than a decade after his death on this day in 1996, rapper Tupac Shakur remains one of the most recognizable faces and voices in hip-hop. A steady stream of posthumous album releases has kept his name near the top of lifetime sales rankings, and artistic efforts like the 2003 film Tupac: Resurrection have kept his image and music current among fans who were far too young to have seen and heard him perform while he was still alive. His recording career came to an end with his death at the age of 25, but like another famous rapper with whom his story is intertwined, Shakur has only grown in stature with each passing year since his still-unsolved murder.
The story of Shakur’s death on September 13, 1996, begins with a failed attempt on his life two years earlier. On November 30, 1994, Tupac Shakur was shot and seriously wounded during a robbery committed by two armed men in the lobby of a midtown Manhattan office building that housed a recording studio where he’d been working on his third album, Me Against the World (1995). For reasons that have been detailed obsessively in works such as Nick Broomfield’s 2002 documentary Biggie and Tupac, Shakur blamed the attack on producer Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and rival rapper Christopher Wallace—a.k.a. “The Notorious B.I.G.” Shakur’s charges, and his subsequent move to the L.A.-based record label Death Row Records, sparked the so-called “East Coast vs. West Coast” feud that defined the hip-hop scene through the mid-1990s.
In Las Vegas on September 7, 1996, for the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon boxing match, Shakur and others in his entourage were captured on tape in the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel engaging in a violent scuffle with a man later identified as a member of the Los Angeles-based Bloods street gang. Hours later, Shakur was riding as a passenger in a car driven by Death Row Records head Marian “Suge” Knight when a white Cadillac pulled up alongside them at a stoplight on Flamingo Road and opened fire. At least 12 shots were fired, four of which struck Shakur and one of which grazed the head of Suge Knight. Emergency surgery at University Medical Center saved Shakur’s life that night, and in the days following, doctors announced that his chances of recovery had improved. On September 13, 1996. however, Tupac Shakur died of his wounds.
Six months later, Shakur’s rap rival, Christopher Wallace, was murdered in similar circumstances in Los Angeles. No arrest has been made to date in connection with either murder.
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* The Canadian Encyclopedia http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-the-plains-of-abraham/
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/