As most know, on April 12, 1912, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank within 4 hours.
The nearest ship to receive her distress signal was the RMS Carpathia, which sped at full speed for two hours to the disaster scene. Upon her arrival, she rescued 705 survivors from the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.
The Carpathia’s crew became heroes, being awarded medals. Her Captain, Arthur Henry Rostron, was knighted and was a guest of President William Taft in the White House.
During WWI the Carpathia served as a troop ship, transporting thousands of American soldiers across the Atlantic to the war in Europe.
One of those doughboys was Frank Buckles, who would become the last surviving American Soldier from WWI before his death in 2011.
He was a prisoner of war in the Philippines during WWII (as a civilian) and a strong advocate for a WWI Memorial, which…led him to be a guest of President George W. Bush in the White House.
On this date in 1918 the Carpathia was sunk by German U-Boat U-55. All but 5 of her crew managed to escape to lifeboats.
They were in turn saved by the Sloop HMS Snowdrop, which arrived and drove off the German sub before it could machine gun the crew in their boats.
Everything is connected in history…you just have to find it. We usually know only a snippet of people’s lives. But they normally touch so much more.
Also on this date, in 1763, John Jacob Astor was born in Germany. He would immigrate to America and become America’s first millionaire. His grandson, John Jacob Astor IV, the world’s richest man, would die during the Titanic disaster.
1863 – The Union and the Confederates first clash at The Battle of Gettysburg, and both send reinforcements. The first day went badly for the Union, but the largest battle in North America had three more days to go, and would become a major turning point in the Civil War.
1898 – The Battle of San Juan Hill becomes a major victory for the US in the Spanish-American War as the US Army’s Fifth Corps takes the heights over Santiago de Cuba. It also set the stage for Colonel Theodore Roosevelt to become President as he became famous for leading his Rough Riders up Kettle Hill (not San Juan).
1916 – The Battle of the Somme in France; after a week’s bombardment with over 250,000 shells, the British launch an attack into no-man’s land. The Germans had retained many machine guns despite the bombardment, and the British soldiers were slaughtered. With 20,000 dead and 40,000 wounded in one day, it was one of the worst defeats for the British military’s history.
1942 – The Battle of El Alamein; In North Africa Erwin Rommel’s army had routed the British and their allies, driving them back so quickly that they had to leave much of their equipment behind. But on today’s date the British Army, resupplied by Americans and reorganized, turned the tide back on Rommel at El Alamein.
Napolean Bonaparte’s French army of 500,000 men had invaded Russia and made their way to Moscow, pushing back a weaker Russian army.
However when they got to Moscow, they found it all but deserted, devoid of food and supplies they desperately needed, and partially afire.
After occupying it for a month, Bonaparte realized the expected surrender was not to be and had to retreat himself as his Grande Armee was starving.
On this date in 1812 the retreat began. The Russian army attacked the retreating French, who were also starving and freezing to death in the Russian winter. By the time they made it back to French soil, approximately 400,000 had perished.
Today in History, October 11, 1809:
We all know of the adventures of Lewis and Clark.
But on this day in 1809, Meriwether Lewis died. The big question is whether it was murder or suicide.
He was, at the time, the Governor of Upper Louisiana, and traveling the Natchez Trace to bring information to Washington, DC about his efforts as Governor and as an explorer.
He was staying at Grinder’s Stand, an inn along the Trace, when the owners and other travelers heard “several” gunshots ring out.
Depending on who you talked to, he suffered through the night, either by gunshots by his own hand or by murderers who stole the money he had with him.
Clark and President Jefferson, who knew him best, were easily convinced that he killed himself.
Others believed he was murdered by one of the many pirates along the trace. I have to wonder about the “several shots” at a time of flintlock pistols. How determined would a suicidal person have to be to shoot himself several times to complete a suicide then, or even now?
The cash he was carrying with him was never found. Those reporting the demise of one of our most significant explorers suddenly came into money.
President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first president to intervene in a labor dispute.
Anthracite coal miners, organized by the United Mine Workers, were asking for fewer work hours and more pay. The mining companies refused and the miners went on a strike that had lasted for months at this point.
American industry and transportation relied almost exclusively on coal at this time in our nation’s development, as did very many homes for heat.
The dispute had already had a significant effect on the country, and winter was coming on. The potential for countless citizens freezing to death was quite real.
President Roosevelt felt he had to act to prevent a national catastrophe. He invited both parties to the White House to mediate an agreement on behalf of the American people.
The miners agreed to negotiate, the Coal companies were not so inclined.
Roosevelt, never shy to take the bull by the horns, promised to have the military take over the industry if a settlement was not reached.
By October 23rd the miners were back to work, with less hours and more pay. The coal companies did not, however, recognize the UMWA, and the story was far from over.
But a disaster had been avoided and Roosevelt’s re-election was assured.