1035 BCE — King David first sees Bathsheba

One of the great beauties of the Old Testament (and of antiquity in general), Bathsheba was a woman from the same tribe as King David, whose husband was Uriah the Hittite. Uriah was a mighty warrior, one of David’s 37 Mighty Men, an elite group within his armies. But when David first saw Bathsheba bathing, and lusted after her, the king quickly seduced the beauty. So far, so good – but then Bathsheba got pregnant.

Unable to compel Uriah to sleep with his wife (even a King’s power only goes so far) and thus obscure the date of the conception, David instead contrived to place Uriah in the thick of battle as many times as it took to kill him. The Hittite’s death accomplished, David married Bathsheba, and their child would become David’s heir, Solomon. But not before God sent the prophet Nathan to upbraid David for his deeds.

As mentioned in:
Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen

1979 — Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

One of the most controversial British heads of state since King Charles I, Margaret Thatcher was 64 when she became Prime Minister, and had been in Parliament for twenty years. She rapidly became known for the strength of her convictions – which unfortunately included more than a few she’d developed after drinking the free market kool aid.

Margaret Thatcher would serve as Prime Minister until 1990, presiding over the privatisation of many government services and Britain’s successful prosecution of the Falklands War in 1982. Few world leaders have ever been as hated by the left, or as good at unintentionally recruiting for it.

Referenced in:

Prophets of Rage — Public Enemy

1868 — Tom Dula is hanged for murder

Tom Dula was a former Confederate soldier who was executed for the murder of one Laura Foster. However, there are a number of irregularities in the prosecution’s case, notably that although Laura was murdered in Wilkes County, North Carolina, Dula was tried, convicted, and hung in Statesville.

The evidence against Dula was almost entirely circumstantial: while he had threatened to kill whoever had infected him with the pox, it is not clear that he blamed Foster for this; and while he was found hiding out under an assumed name by the lynch mob, he clearly had reason to fear such a mob. Many of the details of the life of Tom Dula, nowadays better remembered as Tom Dooley from the folk songs about him, remain obscure – in no small part due to the inaccuracies of the folk songs.

Referenced in:
Tom Dooley — Neil Young

1919 — Sir Frank Crisp dies of old age

Sir Frank Crisp was an English lawyer and microscopist. He was an enthusiastic member of the Royal Microscopical Society, generous in his support of the Society: he donated furniture, books and instruments in addition to his work on technical publications.

Professionally, he worked as a solicitor, acting in many important commercial contracts. He counted several foreign railroad companies and the Imperial Japanese Navy among his clients, and drew up the contract for the cutting of the Cullinan diamond. In 1875, he bought Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames, where he entertained the great and the good. He was a keen horticulturalist and developed spectacular public gardens there, including an alpine garden featuring a 20-foot (6-metre) replica of the Matterhorn. He published an exhaustive survey of medieval gardening titled “Mediaeval Gardens”, and received his baronetcy in 1913 for services as legal advisor to the Liberal Party. Crisp died on April 29, 1919.

Referenced in:
Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp – George Harrison

1965 — US Marines occupy Santo Domingo

The Dominican Civil War was not even a week old before Lyndon Johnson decided that it posed a threat to US interests (to be fair to Johnson, the Cuban Missile Crisis was only three years earlier, and Johnson was worried that ‘another Cuba’ was about to form). The US Marines landed near Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic) on April 28, and had captured the city within a day or so – the Constitutionalist forces surrendered the city on the following day.

The Dominican Civil War dragged on until September, and American forces remained in occupation until July of the following year, when somebody the US liked could be elected.

Referenced in:
Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

1805 — The Battle of Derne commences

The first extra-territorial land battle fought by the armed forces of young United States of America. It is the source of the Marine Corps Hymn (“To the Shores of Tripoli”), because the American forces – which consisted mostly of a few hundred mercenaries, backed by three ships – were led by 54 marines. It was the decisive engagement of the First Barbary War (fought between the United States and Sweden on one side and the so-called Barbary States – the Eyalet of Tripolitania and Morocco – on the other).

The battle itself took place after the mercenary forces, led by 8 US marines, attacked the fort at the city of Derne, taking it after heavy fighting against a greatly numerically superior enemy. The surrender of the Barbary forces came a month later, and the US set an early precedent for its poor treatment of its veterans by stiffing the mercenaries on part of their pay.

Referenced in:
Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

April 26, 4120 BCE — Bilbo Baggins is recruited by Thorin Oakenshield as a thief

It was a most Unexpected Party. Bilbo had no idea that he was going to be throwing it, for one thing.

But despite all the misunderstandings that Gandalf had apparently deliberately fostered (who says you can’t have a few laughs while you’re saving the world?), in the end, one bemused middle-aged hobbit with no prior experience at anything more challenging than walking down to the pub had agreed to travel halfway round the world with thirteen dwarves he didn’t know to steal things from a dragon. Because why not?

1915 — Allied forces land at ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli

The idea was simple enough: to reinforce their Russian allies, the British forces needed a sea port, and those on the Black Sea were much less well defended than those on the Baltic Sea. So it was decided by the British high command, prominent among them the First Lord of the Admiralty, one Winston Churchill, that it would be necessary to invade and hold the Dardanelles – the narrow straits between the Black Sea and the greater Mediterranean. Unfortunately, this mean invading Turkey, the seat of the Ottoman Empire, whose capital of Istanbul sat at the far end of the straits.

The invasion was seen primarily as a naval engagement, with British naval forces blockading the straits and its ports. A few land invasions were planned to capture key strategic points – forts and watchtowers – after initial resistance to the British navy proved stronger than intended.

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was at this point largely encamped in Egypt, making them conveniently close at hand to serve as an invasion force. On the morning of April 25, 1915, the ANZAC forces landed at what is now called Anzac Cove. Ottoman resistance again proved stronger than anticipated (it’s almost like the British high command was composed entirely of arrogant racists incapable of learning from experience or something), and although some land was held, it was eventually evacuated in January the following year, and the idea of capturing the Dardanelles was abandoned. Of course, before that point was reached, approximately 250,000 men on each side lost their lives in what was ultimately one of the most pointless military campaigns of the entire Twentieth Century.

As the first major engagement to be fought in by Australian forces, it is still commemorated today as Australia’s national day of remembrance, Anzac Day.

Referenced in:
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda — Eric Bogle

1916 — The Easter Rising commences

In 1916, with the hated English overlords distracted by the First World War, a group of Irish revolutionaries decided that the time was ripe to rise up, overthrow the Sassenach and declare an independent republic of Ireland. However, the Irish forces were massively outnumbered by their colonial rulers, and to add insult to injury, the English also had a massive technological superiority.

The uprising began on Monday, March 24 of 1916 in Dublin – the day after Easter. It would last for a grand total of six days before it was put down. Most of its leaders were captured, and thence imprisoned or executed for their parts in the revolt. However, as the first major uprising since 1798, it reinvigorated the Irish independence movement, and the next – and ultimately successful – Irish rebellion began only three years later.

Referenced in:
Zombie — The Cranberries

1988 — Sherilyn Fenn stars in ‘Two Moon Junction’

“Two Moon Junction” was a fairly forgettable erotic thriller from 1988. It actually had a fairly reasonable cast, featuring Louise Fletcher, Milla Jovovich in her first film role and Burl Ives in his last, but given that it was an erotic thriller, it was naturally the beautiful and desirable Sherilyn Fenn who was front and centre.

The film was neither a great flop nor a great success, although it did well enough to inspire a direct to video sequel some years later. In fact, aside from inspiring Screaming Jay Hawkins to write a song about how much he wanted to have sex with Ms. Fenn as a result of it, the film contributed little to the world. Hawkins did have a point, though.

Referenced in:
Sherilyn Fenn — Screaming Jay Hawkins

1914 — Striking coal miners are massacred in Ludlow, Colorado

Miners had been striking for a number of basic rights – an eight hour work day, the right to shop at stores not run by the mining companies, wage increases and actual enforcement of the laws governing mining – since September 1913. Obviously, this attempt by poor working class men to resist their exploitation by the boards of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, and the Victor-American Fuel Company could not be tolerated. An example would have to be made.

An example duly was, but it wasn’t the one that the rich men expected.

On April the 20th, Colorado National Guard members – actually mostly company hired men wearing the uniforms of such – attacked the site of striker’s camp in Ludlow. They killed a number of the strikers – including two wives and eleven children, along with captives who were summarily executed – that day. Only one conviction resulted – one of the strike breakers was convicted of assaulting a union leader who was later killed while a prisoner that day.

This is because management is the best friend that the working man ever had.

Referenced in:
The Ludlow Massacre — Woody Guthrie

1943 — The first intentional acid trip is taken

It was supposed to be a headache cure.

What Dr Albert Hofmann and his assistants were searching for, in their lab in Berne, Switzerland, was a better cure for the common headache. It was originally synthesized on November 18, 1938, but it seemed a failure, and was put aside. Hofmann barely gave it another thought, but five years later, he decided to give it another look.

Examining it, he accidentally dosed himself with an unknown quantity on April 16, 1943. The effects he experienced are now very familiar, even to those who’ve never directly felt them, and although it took him some time, he figured out what had happened. Three days later, he took the first ever deliberate acid trip, ingesting 250 micrograms, and experienced similar effects. Famously, he rode his bike home from the lab while feeling the effects, which is why this day is sometimes referred to as Bicycle Day by the kind of people who think acid’s pretty cool.

Referenced in:
Oh My Beautiful Problem Child — Intercontinental Music Lab

Happy Bicycle Day, everyone!

1775 — Paul Revere makes his midnight ride

Revere was a silversmith from Boston who would become an important player in the American Revolution. On the night of April 18, 1775, he was the first of a group of riders who spread the news of British troop movements in Charlestown to the towns of Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, finally arriving at Lexington to meet with Samuel Adams and John Hancock at about midnight. In his wake, other riders – perhaps as many as forty – carried the news in all directions.

A number of urban myths have become attached to Revere’s ride, not least its name, the “Midnight Ride”. It’s also untrue that Revere shouted “The British are coming!” – shouting would have attracted the attention of British patrols, and the actual message of Revere was “The Regulars are coming out” (something confirmed by Revere and numerous witnesses).

Referenced in:

Who Will Survive In America — Kanye West