December 13th in History

This day in historyDecember 13 is the 347th day of the year (348th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. You have 11 shopping days till Christmas. There are 18 days remaining until the end of the year.



In 902,  Battle of the Holme: Anglo-Saxon forces are defeated by Danish Vikings under Æthelwold (a son of Æthelred of Wessex) who is killed in battle.

In 1294,  Saint Celestine V resigns the papacy after only five months; Celestine hoped to return to his previous life as an ascetic hermit.

In 1545,  The Council of Trent begins.

Conrad Gesner by Tobias Stimmer.jpgIn 1565,  Conrad Gessner, Swiss botanist and physician (b. 1516) died of the plague, the year after his ennoblement. He was a Swiss naturalist and bibliographer. He was well known as a botanist, physician and classical linguist. His five-volume Historiae animalium (1551–1558) is considered the beginning of modern zoology, and the flowering plant genus Gesneria and its family Gesneriaceae are named after him. A genus of moths is also named Gesneria after him. He is denoted by the author abbreviation Gesner when citing a botanical name. In the words of science writer Anna Pavord, “He was a one-man search engine, a 16th-century Google with the added bonus of critical evaluation.”

In 1577,  Sir Francis Drake sets sail from Plymouth, England, on his round-the-world voyage.

In 1636,  The Massachusetts Bay Colony organizes three militia regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This organization is recognized today as the founding of the National Guard of the United States.

In 1642,  Abel Tasman reaches New Zealand.

In 1643,  English Civil War: The Battle of Alton takes place in Hampshire.

Bronze statue of Selkirk located in a stone alcoveIn 1721,  Alexander Selkirk, Scottish sailor (b. 1676) died, succumbing to the yellow fever. He was buried at sea. He also known as Alexander Selcraig, was a Scottish sailor who spent more than four years as a castaway after being marooned on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean. An unruly youth, Selkirk joined buccaneering expeditions to the South Sea, including one commanded by William Dampier, which called in for provisions at the Juan Fernández Islands off Chile. Selkirk judged correctly that his craft, the Cinque Ports, was unseaworthy, and asked to be left there. By the time he was rescued, he had become adept at hunting and making use of the resources he found on the island. His story of survival was widely publicised when he returned home, and became a likely source of inspiration for the writer Daniel Defoe‘s fictional character Robinson Crusoe.

In 1758,  The English transport ship Duke William sinks in the North Atlantic, killing over 360 people.

In 1769Dartmouth College is founded by the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, with a royal charter from King George III, on land donated by Royal governor John Wentworth.

In 1862,  American Civil War: At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee defeats Union Major General Ambrose Burnside.

Cobbtrr.jpgIn 1862,  Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, Confederate general killed during the battle of Fredericksburg (b. 1823). He was an American lawyer, author, politician, and Confederate States Army officer, killed in the Battle of Fredericksburg during the American Civil War. He is the brother of noted Confederate statesman Howell Cobb. Cobb graduated in 1841 from Franklin College (of the University of Georgia), where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society, and was admitted to the bar in 1842. From 1849 to 1857, he was a reporter of the Supreme Court of Georgia. He was an ardent secessionist, and was a delegate to the Secession Convention. He is best known for his treatise on the law of slavery titled An Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery in the United States of America (1858) and as one of the founders of the University of Georgia School of Law.

During the Civil War Cobb served in the Confederate Congress, where for a time he was chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs. He was also on the committee that was responsible for the drafting of the Confederate constitution. He organized Cobb’s Legion in the late summer of 1861 and was commissioned a colonel in the Confederate army on August 28, 1861. The Legion was assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia. It took heavy losses during the Maryland Campaign. He was promoted to brigadier general on November 1, 1862, but this promotion was not confirmed by the Confederate Congress. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, he was mortally wounded in the thigh by a Union artillery shell that burst inside the Stephens house near the Sunken Road on Marye’s Heights. He bled to death from damage to the femoral artery on December 13, 1862. Some later accounts by veterans claim that the wounding was by rifle fire and that a Confederate soldier may have been responsible. He is buried at Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens, Georgia.

In 1867,  A Fenian bomb explodes in Clerkenwell, London, England, killing six.

In 1934,  Thomas A. Watson, American assistant to Alexander Graham Bell (b. 1854) died of heart disease. His grave overlooks the Fore River Shipyard. He was an assistant to Alexander Graham Bell, notably in the invention of the telephone in 1876. He is best known because, as the recipient of the first telephone call – although coming from just the next room – his name became the first words ever said over the phone. “Mr. Watson – Come here – I want to see you,” Bell said when first using the new invention, according to Bell’s laboratory notebook. There is some dispute about the actual words used, as Thomas Watson, in his own voice, remembered it as “Mr. Watson – Come here – I want you,” in a film made for Bell Labs in 1931 which is referenced below in “The Engines of our Ingenuity.”

In 1937,  Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Nanking – The city of Nanjing, defended by the National Revolutionary Army under the command of General Tang Shengzhi, falls to the Japanese. This is followed by the Nanking Massacre, in which Japanese troops rape and murder hundreds of thousands of civilians.

In 1938,  The Holocaust: The Neuengamme concentration camp opens in the Bergedorf district of Hamburg, Germany.

In 1939,  World War II: Battle of the River Plate – Captain Hans Langsdorff of the German Deutschland-class cruiser (pocket battleship) Admiral Graf Spee engages with Royal Navy cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles.

In 1941,  World War II: The Kingdom of Hungary and Kingdom of Romania declare war on the United States.

In 1943,  World War II: The Massacre of Kalavryta by German occupying forces in Greece.

In 1949,  The Knesset votes to move the capital of Israel to Jerusalem.

In 1959,  Archbishop Makarios III becomes the first President of Cyprus.

In 1960,  While Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia visits Brazil, his Imperial Bodyguard seizes the capital and proclaims him deposed and his son, Crown Prince Asfa Wossen, Emperor.

In 1962,  NASA launches Relay 1, the first active repeater communications satellite in orbit.

In 1967,  Constantine II of Greece attempts an unsuccessful counter-coup against the Regime of the Colonels.

In 1968,  Brazilian President Artur da Costa e Silva issues AI-5 (Institutional Act No. 5), enabling government by decree and suspending habeas corpus.

In 1972,  Apollo program: Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt begin the third and final extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or “Moonwalk” of Apollo 17. To date they are the last humans to set foot on the Moon.

In 1974,  Malta becomes a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.

In 1977,  A DC-3 aircraft chartered from the Indianapolis-based National Jet crashes near Evansville Regional Airport, killing 29, including the University of Evansville basketball team, support staff and boosters of the team.

In 1979,  The Canadian Government of Prime Minister Joe Clark is defeated in the House of Commons, prompting the 1980 Canadian election.

In 1981,  General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland to prevent dismantling of the communist system by Solidarity.

In 1985,  Arrow Air Flight 1285 crashes in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, killing all 256 passengers and crew.

In 1988,  PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat gives a speech at a UN General Assembly meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, after United States authorities refused to grant him a visa to visit UN headquarters in New York.

In 1989,  The Troubles: Attack on Derryard checkpoint – The Provisional Irish Republican Army launches an attack on a British Army temporary vehicle checkpoint near Rosslea, Northern Ireland. Two British soldiers are killed and one badly wounded.

In 2000,  The “Texas Seven” escape from the John B. Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas, and go on a robbery spree, during which police officer Aubrey Hawkins is shot and killed.

In 2001,  Sansad Bhavan, the building housing the Indian Parliament, is attacked by terrorists. Twelve people are killed, including the terrorists.

In 2002,  European Union enlargement: The EU announces that Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will become members from May 1, 2004.

In 2003,  Iraq War: Operation Red Dawn – Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit.

In 2011,  A murder–suicide in Liège, Belgium, kills six and wounds 125 people at a Christmas market.

In 2013,  Arapahoe High School Shooting: Murder-suicide: A female student seeking the librarian is shot dead in a hallway by another student after the librarian had demoted him on the debate team. The shooter takes his own life shortly afterwards.

In 2014,  Landslides caused by heavy rain in Java, Indonesia, kill at least 56 people.

In 2014, ObamaCare ads will now appear on 7-Eleven receipts at more than 7,000 stores nationwide as government health officials expand their outreach in the second year of healthcare sign-ups.

In 2015, New produce safety rules from the government today are intended to help prevent the kind of large-scale outbreaks of food-borne illness that occurred over the past decade linked to fresh spinach, cantaloupes, cucumbers and other foods. Under the rules, the government soon will have new oversight of the farms that grow Americans’ food. That means, for example, making sure workers are trained to wash their hands, irrigation water is monitored for harmful bacteria and animals do not leave droppings in fields.

In 2018,  A high-speed train crashes in Ankara, Turkey, killing at least nine people and injuring 84.

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