John’s Believe It Or Not… November 20th

* 1812 – De Salaberry drives back Americans at first Battle of Lacolle Mills. * 1945 Nuremberg trials begin. * 1947 Princess Elizabeth marries Philip Mountbatten. * 1820 American vessel sunk by a sperm whale. * 1875 Henry James’ first novel is published.

Princess Elizabeth on her wedding day. (

It’s Monday! Did You Know…

* 1812 – De Salaberry drives back Americans at first Battle of Lacolle Mills.

The Battle of Lacolle River was fought on November 20, 1812, during the War of 1812. In this relatively short and fast battle, a very small garrison of Canadian militia, with the assistance of Kahnawake Mohawk warriors, defended a makeshift log guardhouse on the Montreal road at the bridge over the Lacolle River (present-day village of Lacolle, Quebec).

The American invasion force, prepared and led by Major General Henry Dearborn, captured the blockhouse in the early morning, possibly following a brief confrontation with the outnumbered defending forces. In the dark, a second group of American militia attacked the troops at the guardhouse, resulting in a short battle between two groups of American forces. In the aftermath of this confusion, the Canadian forces under the command of Charles de Salaberry launched a counterattack against the shaken American forces, forcing a retreat to Champlain before the American forces withdrew from Lower Canada completely. After this defeat, the demoralized American forces would not attempt this assault again until 1814 in the Battle of Lacolle Mills (1814).

Lacolle River Blockhouse
Lacolle River Blockhouse (

* 1945 Nuremberg trials begin.

Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.

The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace to crimes of war to crimes against humanity. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence, the British member, presided over the proceedings, which lasted 10 months and consisted of 216 court sessions.

On October 1, 1946, 12 architects of Nazi policy were sentenced to death. Seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life, and three were acquitted. Of the original 24 defendants, one, Robert Ley, committed suicide while in prison, and another, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, was deemed mentally and physically incompetent to stand trial. Among those condemned to death by hanging were Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi minister of foreign affairs; Hermann Goering, leader of the Gestapo and the Luftwaffe; Alfred Jodl, head of the German armed forces staff; and Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior.

On October 16, 10 of the architects of Nazi policy were hanged. Goering, who at sentencing was called the “leading war aggressor and creator of the oppressive program against the Jews,” committed suicide by poison on the eve of his scheduled execution. Nazi Party leader Martin Bormann was condemned to death in absentia (but is now believed to have died in May 1945). Trials of lesser German and Axis war criminals continued in Germany into the 1950s and resulted in the conviction of 5,025 other defendants and the execution of 806.

Goering was convicted of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946 and was sentenced to be hanged. However, he took poison instead and died the night his execution
Goering was convicted of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946 and was sentenced to be hanged. However, he took poison instead and died the night his execution. (

* 1947 Princess Elizabeth marries Philip Mountbatten.

In a lavish wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London, Princess Elizabeth marries her distant cousin, Philip Mountbatten, a dashing former prince of Greece and Denmark who renounced his titles in order to marry the English princess.

Princess Elizabeth, the heir to the British throne, was 21 years old. Philip Mountbatten, age 26, had fought as a British naval officer during World War II and was made the Duke of Edinburgh on the eve of his wedding to Elizabeth. The celebrations surrounding the wedding of the popular princess lifted the spirits of the people of Britain, who were enduring economic difficulties in the aftermath of World War II.

On February 6, 1952, the death of King George VI sent Elizabeth to the throne, and Philip ended his naval career to concentrate on his new duties as the consort of the British monarch. Elizabeth and Philip eventually had four children–Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward.

Elizabeth, then 21, smiles for the camera wearing the Norman Harnett-designed dress
Elizabeth, then 21, smiles for the camera wearing the Norman Harnett-designed dress (Daily Mail)

* 1820 American vessel sunk by a sperm whale.

The American whaler Essex, which hailed from Nantucket, Massachusetts, is attacked by an 80-ton sperm whale 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America.

The 238-ton Essex was in pursuit of sperm whales, specifically the precious oil and bone that could be derived from them, when an enraged bull whale rammed the ship twice and capsized the vessel. The 20 crew members escaped in three open boats, but only five of the men survived the harrowing 83-day journey to the coastal waters of South America, where they were picked up by other ships. Most of the crew resorted to cannibalism during the long journey, and at one point men on one of the long boats drew straws to determine which of the men would be shot in order to provide sustenance for the others. Three other men who had been left on a desolate Pacific island were saved later.

The first capture of a sperm whale by an American vessel was in 1711, marking the birth of an important American industry that commanded a fleet of more than 700 ships by the mid 18th century. Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick (1851) was inspired in part by the story of the Essex.

20 November 1820, a giant sperm whale sank the Nantucket whaler “Essex” 2,000
20 November 1820, a giant sperm whale sank the Nantucket whaler “Essex” 2,000 (Pinterest)

* 1875 Henry James’ first novel is published.

On this day in 1875, American writer Henry James publishes his first novel, Roderick Hudson. Earlier in the year, he had published Transatlantic Sketches, a book of travel essays, and a short-story collection titled A Passionate Pilgrim.

James, born in New York in 1843, was the second son of a wealthy and eccentric philosopher. His older brother William became the country’s first distinguished psychologist as well as an influential philosopher. The brothers and their younger siblings were taken abroad by their parents for four years to study European culture during their teens. The family roamed England, Switzerland, and France, visiting galleries, museums, theaters, and libraries.

A back injury exempted James from serving in the Civil War, and he briefly attended Harvard Law School. He began writing fiction in his teens and published his first story when he was 21. He soon became a regular contributor of essays, reviews, and stories to Atlantic Monthly and other important periodicals. In 1873, James moved to England and continued publishing reviews while writing many more novels, including The American (1877) and the popular Daisy Miller (1878). In 1881, he published his masterpiece The Portrait of a Lady. Like many of his other works, it deals with naÝve, young Americans moving among sophisticated European circles. He wrote prolifically, nonfiction as well as fiction, and the prefaces to new editions of his novels have been collected in The Art of the Novel (1834).

The superb portraitist, John Singer Sargent, achieves two versions of his novelist friend, Henry James in one sitting
The superb portraitist, John Singer Sargent, achieves two versions of his novelist friend, Henry James in one sitting.


Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today              

* Wikipedia                                                                 

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.

26 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… November 20th”

    1. What you were taught in history depends on where you’re from. I don’t know why you didn’t study much history. I think the history of every nation in every time period is interesting because it is the story of humanity. Thanks for the comment, Patty.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m happy to meet you too, Patty. To my knowledge, not many – if any other nations encourage the study of Canadian history – not even our American cousins. Yet, most high school and university curricula offer courses in U.S., World, and other national histories. Sigh. So this is one of the reasons I try to include one event from Canadian history in each day’s collection of 5 events.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Radiant is a very good descriptor. Imagine – married 70 years! I wonder just how happy those two have been over the years. “The Crown” depicted Phillip as an egocentric playboy as a young man – if that is true, Elizabeth had a lot to put up with because his male ego couldn’t stand playing second fiddle to his wife. I give the Queen credit – she is extremely discrete – a classy lady! Thanks, Gwen!


  1. Glad the Americans were well organized (Can you imagine?) I have to say I would be cheering for the whale in a man vs whale battle. The Nuremberg trials gave the world an opportunity to see how these monsters thought. Following orders became the excuse of the day. It was too bad Adolf himself wasn’t there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I chuckled about that 1812 story – hard to imagine! Hitler took the cowardly way out – and then there’s the conspiracy theory guys who claim he ended up in South America and cloned himself. Hmm… Agent Orange… you don’t think…? Thanks, John!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy Anniversary to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. I remember the movie, Judgement at Nuremberg. Still hard to comprehend that kind of mind. It’s also hard to comprehend surviving the attack of a sperm whale and resorting to how they survived.

    Liked by 1 person

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