It’s Friday! TGIF! Did you know…
* 1812 – British and Canadians Victorious at Queenston Heights – Gen Brock dies.
The Battle of Queenston Heights was the first major battle in the War of 1812 and resulted in a British victory. It took place on 13 October 1812, near Queenston, Upper Canada (the present-day province of Ontario). It was fought between United States regulars and New York militia forces led by Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer, and British regulars, York and Lincoln militia and Mohawk warriors led by Major General Isaac Brock, and Major General Roger Hale Sheaffe, who took command when Brock was killed.
The battle was fought as the result of an American attempt to establish a foothold on the Canadian side of the Niagara River before campaigning ended with the onset of winter. This decisive battle was the culmination of a poorly managed American offensive and may be most historically significant for the loss of the British commander.
Despite their numerical advantage and the wide dispersal of British forces defending against their invasion attempt, the Americans, who were stationed in Lewiston, New York, were unable to get the bulk of their invasion force across the Niagara River due to the work of British artillery and reluctance on the part of the undertrained and inexperienced American militia. As a result, British reinforcements arrived and defeated the unsupported American forces, forcing them to surrender.
* 1792 White House cornerstone laid.
The cornerstone is laid for a presidential residence in the newly designated capital city of Washington. In 1800, President John Adams became the first president to reside in the executive mansion, which soon became known as the “White House” because its white-gray Virginia freestone contrasted strikingly with the red brick of nearby buildings.
The city of Washington was created to replace Philadelphia as the nation’s capital because of its geographical position in the center of the existing new republic. The states of Maryland and Virginia ceded land around the Potomac River to form the District of Columbia, and work began on Washington in 1791. French architect Charles L’Enfant designed the area’s radical layout, full of dozens of circles, crisscross avenues, and plentiful parks. In 1792, work began on the neoclassical White House building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue under the guidance of Irish American architect James Hoban, whose design was influenced by Leinster House in Dublin and by a building sketch in James Gibbs’ Book of Architecture. President George Washington chose the site.
On November 1, President John Adams was welcomed into the executive mansion. His wife, Abigail, wrote about their new home: “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but wise men ever rule under this roof!”
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the White House was set on fire along with the U.S. Capitol by British soldiers in retaliation for the burning of government buildings in Canada by U.S. troops. The burned-out building was subsequently rebuilt and enlarged under the direction of James Hoban, who added east and west terraces to the main building, along with a semicircular south portico and a colonnaded north portico. The smoke-stained stone walls were painted white. Work was completed on the White House in the 1820s.
Major restoration occurred during the administration of President Harry Truman, and Truman lived across the street for several years in Blair House. Since 1995, Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Lafayette Square has been closed to vehicular traffic for security reasons. Today, more than a million tourists visit the White House annually. It is the oldest federal building in the nation’s capital.
* 1957 Popular sci-fi film reflects America’s ambivalence about nuclear weapons.
Movie audiences in America are treated to the science-fiction thriller, The Amazing Colossal Man. The film revolves around a character named Colonel Manning, who strays too close to the test of an atomic device in the Nevada desert and is bombarded with “plutonium rays.” This was but one of many such movies released in the 1950s, which cannot be dismissed as merely amusing artifacts from that decade. While these weapons were the backbone of the nation’s defense system, many in the United States were uncertain about the atomic and hydrogen bombs: Were they too inhumane; what were the repercussions of radioactivity; could they ever really be used without sealing the fate of all humankind? Hollywood registered these concerns and played upon them. In Them! (1954), ants exposed to radiation grow to enormous size and threaten humanity; The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), tells the tale of a dinosaur, thawed out by an atomic test in the Arctic, that ravages New York City; and, in one of the best of this class of film, a man survives being caught in a nuclear test, only to find himself shrinking away to nothing in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). The Cold War, and the issues it raised among the American people had become part of the nation’s popular culture.
* 1943 Poet Robert Lowell sentenced to prison.
On this day in 1943, 26-year-old poet Robert Lowell is sentenced to jail for a year for evading the draft. Lowell refused to be drafted because he objected to saturation bombing in Europe and other Allied tactics. He served the term in New York’s West Street jail.
Lowell was born to a venerable Boston family whose members included an ambassador to England, a president of Harvard, and a prominent Boston minister who founded St. Mark’s School, which Lowell attended. Lowell rejected the family tradition and history, dropped out of Harvard after two years, and went to Kenyon College in Ohio. There, he studied with poet John Crowe Ransom and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He married novelist Jean Stafford in the 40s and in 1946 published a collection of poems called Lord Weary’s Castle, which won a Pulitzer Prize. The poems included The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket.
In 1948, Lowell divorced his first wife and married writer Elizabeth Hardwick. Plagued by mental illness, he suffered a breakdown in the 1950s. Lowell and Hardwick lived abroad for several years and returned to Boston in 1954. In the late 1950s, Lowell heard readings by Allen Ginsberg and other Beat poets and incorporated their open, confessional style into his own more formal poetry. He wrote about his breakdown, his struggle with mental instability, and the unraveling of his marriages, and released Life Studies (1959), which won the National Book Award. In the 1960s, Lowell became a champion of civil rights and a protester against Vietnam. Believing that the poet had a public responsibility, he was one of a group of writers who led a march to the Pentagon in 1967. He released numerous books throughout his career. He was divorced from Hardwick in 1972, leaving her and their daughter and marrying Lady Caroline Blackwood. For a while, he divided his time between England and Boston. He later returned to Hardwick and remained with her until he died of a heart attack in 1977.
* 2010 Chilean miners are rescued after 69 days underground.
On this day in 2010, the last of 33 miners trapped nearly half a mile underground for more than two months at a caved-in mine in northern Chile, are rescued. The miners survived longer than anyone else trapped underground in recorded history.
The miners’ ordeal began on August 5, 2010, when the San Jose gold and copper mine where they were working, some 500 miles north of the Chilean capital city of Santiago, collapsed. The 33 men moved to an underground emergency shelter area, where they discovered just several days’ worth of food rations. As their situation grew more desperate over the next 17 days, the miners, uncertain if anyone would find them, considered suicide and cannibalism. Then, on August 22, a drill sent by rescuers broke through to the area where the miners were located, and the men sent back up a note saying, “We are fine in the refuge, the 33.” Food, water, letters, medicine and other supplies were soon delivered to the miners via a narrow borehole. Video cameras were also sent down, making it possible for rescuers to see the men and the hot, humid space in which they were entombed. As engineering and mining experts from around the world collaborated on the long, complex process of devising a way to bring the 33 men up to the surface, the miners maintained a system of jobs and routines in order to keep up morale.
Rescuers eventually drilled and reinforced an escape shaft wide enough to extract the men, one by one. (Employees of a Pennsylvania-based drilling-tool company played a role in drilling the rescue shaft.) On October 12, the first of the miners was raised to the surface in a narrow, 13-foot-tall capsule painted white, blue and red, the colors of the Chilean flag. The approximately 2,000-foot ascent to the surface in the capsule took around 15 minutes for each man.
The miners were greeted by a cheering crowd that included Chile’s president, Sebastian Pinera; media from around the world; and friends and relatives, many of whom had been camped at the base of the mine in the Atacama Desert for months. Millions of people around the globe watched the rescue on live TV. Less than 24 hours after the operation began, all 33 of the miners, who ranged in age from 19 to 63, had been safely rescued. Almost all the men were in good health, and each of them sported dark glasses to protect their eyes after being in a dimly lit space for so long.
The rescued miners were later honored with trips to a variety of destinations, including England, Israel, and Florida’s Walt Disney World, where a parade was held in their honor.
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/