Little Bits of History

March 16

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 16, 2017

597 BC: Nebuchadnezzar captures Jerusalem. The Babylonian Chronicles are stone tablets recording major events in Babylonian history and were written from the reign of Nabonassar up to the Parthian Period (747 BC – 247 BC) or a period of about 500 years. Using these historical records, the date for the capture of Jerusalem was given as 2 Adar, making it March 16. Nebuchadnezzar was the oldest son and successor to Nabopolassar who was the ruler who managed to extricate Babylon from 300 years of servitude to Assyria. His armies along with those of the Medes, Persians, Scythians, and Cimmerians were able to overtake Nineveh. Nabopolassar wanted to control Aram, land belong to Necho II, under Assyrian rule. In 605 BC, he was able to defeat both the Egyptian and Assyrian armies and take control of all Babylon. He died in August and his son, Nebuchadnezzar, became ruler.

Nebuchadnezzar began to conquer lands westward and married the daughter of the Median king to assure peace on that front. He still waged wars/battles in order to bring more lands under his reign. He quashed rebellions and moved into the Levant. On this day he was finally able to take Jerusalem and deposed King Jehoiakim. Zedekiah was installed as the local ruler of Jerusalem shortly after the capture. This worked well for a time, but ten years later there was more rebellion in the region. Nebuchadnezzar returned and destroyed Jerusalem, taking many of the prominent Jews back to Babylon.

Babylon was a major city lying in the Fertile Crescent, the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. It was first settled around 2300 BC and grew in importance with the First Amorite Babylonian Dynasty beginning in 1894 BC. It was one of the holy cities in the region and became even more powerful when Hammurabi created the first Babylonian Empire. For over a thousand years, it was of less importance until the Neo-Babylonian Empire (609-539 BC) when the Hanging Gardens of Babylon grew for Nebuchadnezzar to impress his Median Queen. Or maybe this wonder of the world was always a mythic idealization of eastern gardens.

Whether or not he built great gardens, Nebuchadnezzar did carry out many great building projects to bring back Babylon’s to previous days of glory. He restored old temples and built new one to the many gods of the Babylonian pantheon. He built an underground passage beneath the Euphrates to connect his palace on one side of the mighty river to the buildings on the other. He also bridged the river to create a walking path over it, also connecting the two parts of the city. He built a triple line of walls around Babylon to protect it from attack. All of these building projects took manpower, which was made up of the captured people from his many raids and wars.

While I pride myself on trying to be creative in all areas of my life, I have occasionally gone overboard, like the time I decided to bring to a party a salad that I constructed, on a huge rattan platter, to look like a miniature scale model of the Gardens of Babylon. – Gregory Maguire

Our earliest evidence of government, in the ruins of Babylon and Egypt, shows nothing but ziggurats and pyramids of wasted taxpayer money, the TARP funds and shovel-ready stimulus programs of their day. – P. J. O’Rourke

What has history said of eminence without honor, wealth without wisdom, power and possessions without principle? The answer is reiterated in the overthrow of the mightiest empires of ancient times. Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome! The four successive, universal powers of the past. What and where are they? – Orson F. Whitney

The collapse of the Tower of Babel is perhaps the central urban myth. It is certainly the most disquieting. In Babylon, the great city that fascinated and horrified the Biblical writers, people of different races and languages, drawn together in pursuit of wealth, tried for the first time to live together – and failed. – Neil MacGregor


Better Late Than Never

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 16, 2015
James Mitchell Ashley proposed an amendment abolishing slavery in 1863

James Mitchell Ashley proposed an amendment abolishing slavery in 1863

March 16, 1995: Mississippi ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime. It was passed by the US Senate on April 8, 1864 and the House on January 31, 1965. Slavery existed in all original thirteen colonies in America. The United States Constitution did not use the words “slave” or “slavery” at all in the text. There were provisions for “unfree persons”. For instance, in Article I, Section 2, the Three-Fifths Clause allocated seats in the House based on “the whole Number of free Persons” and “three fifths of all other Persons”. Under what came to be known as the Fugitive Slave Clause (Article IV, Section 2) the fugitive person was one held in “Service or Labour in one State”.

In the Fifth Amendment, which states “No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” it was understood that slaves weren’t people, but rather property. This was brought into legal dispute with Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857. While the Northern states gradually abolished slavery, the Southern states went so far as to secede from the Union rather than give up their slaves. The US Civil War brought the Union back together but then something needed to be done with former property. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 but it was not a national law, it concerned only the states in which he was not President.

A new Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Representative James Mitchell Ashley on December 14, 1863. Representative James F Wilson had a similar proposal. Senator John B. Henderson submitted a joint resolution on January 11, 1864. The Senate Judiciary Committee was chaired by Lyman Trumbull to merge the different proposals. With the new Amendment finally written, it passed both the Upper and Lower Houses and went out for ratification. Illinois was the first state to ratify on February 1, 1865. By the end of the month, 18 states had ratified the new amendment. By the end of the year, Georgia became the 27th state to ratify and thus give the three-fourths of the 36 states in the union at the time. The count included even those states which had been in rebellion at the time.

Secretary of State Seward certified the Thirteenth Amendment had become valid on December 18, 1865. Before the year’s end, three more states added their voice to the ratification process. The following year, Iowa and New Jersey also ratified, even though New Jersey had initially rejected the Amendment on March 15, 1865. Texas finally ratified in 1870. Delaware finally nodded its approval in 1901 after having rejected it on February 8, 1865. Kentucky finally came around in 1976 reversing its rejection of February 24, 1865. And finally, on this day, Mississippi became the 36th and last state to ratify the 13th Amendment after their initial rejection from December 5, 1865 was reversed. The state finally certified their ratification on February 7, 2013 – 148 years later.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, None but ourselves can free our minds. – Bob Marley

All restraints upon man’s natural liberty, not necessary for the simple maintenance of justice, are of the nature of slavery, and differ from each other only in degree. – Lysander Spooner

Talk of the abuses of slavery! Humbug! The thing itself is the essence of all abuse! – Harriet Beecher Stowe

The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United Status will have to be attributed to slavery. – Ulysses S. Grant

Also on this day: Wanting to Win – In 1994, Tonya Harding pled guilty to interfering with an investigation into the Nancy Karrigan attack.
Army Corps of Engineers – In 1802, the Military Peace Establishment Act became law.
Rain, Rain Go Away – In 1952, a record rainfall hit Cilaos, Rèunion.
Aldo Moro – In 1978, the Italian politician was kidnapped.
Space Age Booster – In 1926, Robert Goddard launched a rocket.

Space Age Booster

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 16, 2014
Robert Goddard

Robert Goddard

March 16, 1926: Robert Goddard launches the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket. Goddard was born to a long established New England family in 1882. Electric power was just coming to American cities in the 1880s and sparked an interest in science in the young boy. When he was five, his father showed him how to make static electricity using his feet on the carpet and the child was forever smitten by the scientific world. He experimented with zinc and batteries and with chemicals, creating smoke and explosions in the house. He got a telescope and a subscription to Scientific American as a child and became interested in flight. He also began to write down all his thoughts and experiments in a diary. By age 16, he tried crafting a balloon out of aluminum. His failure did not dampen his interest.

Around the same time, Goddard read HG Wells’ classic, War of the Worlds and became interested in space. On October 19 when he was 17, he was pruning a cherry tree when he looked up and had an epiphany. He forever after celebrated it as his “Anniversary Day”. Even with all this experimentation, he was a frail and sickly boy and fell behind his classmates. However, he was a voracious reader and educated himself. With his reading, he found Samuel Langley’s papers in the Smithsonian periodical. The more he read, the more he learned about aerodynamics and his quest for space continued. His health improved and he was finally able to graduate from high school in 1904 – as valedictorian. He went on to Worcester Polytechnic Institute and earned his degree in physics in 1908. He taught for a year and in 1909 entered Clark University where he got his master’s degree in 1910 and his PhD in physics in 1911.

He had been submitting scientific articles since his teen years and was granted his first patent on November 2, 1915. Patent 1,159,209 was for the use of a vacuum tube to amplify a signal. By 1913 he was developing the mathematics to calculate both the position and velocity of a rocket in vertical flight. This needed to take into consideration the weight of the rocket and the fuel as well as the consumption of the fuel over time and the pull of gravity. And, of course, temperature would also need to be factored in along with the density of the air and the wind speed. All this was needed in order to be able to successfully launch space vehicles.

He began experimenting with liquid-fuel rockets in September 1921 and it took over two years before he was able to successfully test a liquid propellant engine. The following two years were spent developing a high-pressure piston pump which could send the liquid fuel to the combustion chamber. Funding was a problem and he had to abandon the idea. Instead he began using pressure from an inert gas and by 1925 could manage a lift on December 25. He experimented further and on this day, was able to use a gasoline and liquid oxygen fuel to launch a rocket in Auburn, Massachusetts. The rocket rose 41 feet and traveled a distance of 184 feet in 2.5 seconds. Clearly more work was needed, but the space age was beginning.

It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.

Failure crowns enterprise.

[J]ust as in the sciences we have learned that we are too ignorant to safely pronounce anything impossible, so for the individual, since we cannot know just what are his limitations, we can hardly say with certainty that anything is necessarily within or beyond his grasp.

March 17, 1926. The first flight with a rocket using liquid propellants was made yesterday at Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn…. Even though the release was pulled, the rocket did not rise at first, but the flame came out, and there was a steady roar. After a number of seconds it rose, slowly until it cleared the frame, and then at express train speed, curving over to the left, and striking the ice and snow, still going at a rapid rate. – all from Robert H. Goddard

Also on this day: Wanting to Win – In 1994, Tonya Harding pled guilty to interfering with an investigation into the Nancy Karrigan attack.
Army Corps of Engineers – In 1802, the Military Peace Establishment Act became law.
Rain, Rain Go Away – In 1952, a record rainfall hit Cilaos, Rèunion.
Aldo Moro – In 1978, the Italian politician was kidnapped.

Army Corps of Engineers

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 16, 2013
Army Corps of Engineers

Army Corps of Engineers

March 16, 1802: The Military Peace Establishment Act becomes law in the US. Congress approved the formation of a separate Corps of Engineers to be located at West Point, New York. The military academy was to have the Chief Engineer serving as superintendent. Even as the Army was downsizing, the Corps was given permanent status. The establishment of the academy was the culmination of 25 years of effort and finally a place was built to give officers the professional training their positions required.

George Washington knew of the need for engineers in warfare. He appointed the first engineer officer of the Army on June 16, 1775. Engineers have served in combat in every American war. However, the Corps is more than combat ready troops. They have built coastal fortifications, surveyed roads and canals, and constructed buildings and monuments. They were instrumental in exploring and mapping the ever expanding frontiers as the nation moved westward.

While formed as a permanent branch of the US Army, they have always been involved with projects “of a civil nature.” They built lighthouses and mapped not only the lands of the expanding country, but the waterways and harbors, as well. A separate Corps of Topographical Engineers was formed in 1838 and disbanded in 1863. The Corps continues to build the defenses for war and the infrastructure needed by the country.

Today they have 34,600 civilian and 650 military personnel. They continue to build dams, canals, and flood protection but also include public works for the country and Department of Defense as well as projects throughout the world. They are helping build in more than 90 countries worldwide. They are involved in environmental protection and ecosystem restoration projects. They were there to complete the Panama Canal and the Washington Monument. It took 15 months from groundbreaking to completion for the Corps to build The Pentagon. They continue to build both heavy construction projects and goodwill around the world.

“Architecture begins where engineering ends.” – Walter Gropius

“Normal people … believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.” – Scott Adams

“A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.” – Freeman Dyson

“To an engineer, good enough means perfect. With an artist, there’s no such thing as perfect.” – Alexander Calder

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The Army Corps of Engineers has had many important projects under their auspices. As mentioned, they were instrumental in the early days of the country for surveying both lands and waters. They were also the builders of the Bonneville Dam, completed in 1937 and were involved in the Manhattan Project (1942-46). They were part of the Everglades Restoration Plan and helped NASA with some of their projects at both the Manned Spacecraft Center and the John F. Kennedy Space Center. They have been associated with both the Cross Florida Barge Canal and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway projects. Some natural disasters have helped to increase the responsibilities for the Corps of Engineers.

Also on this day: Wanting to Win – In 1994, Tonya Harding pled guilty to interfering with an investigation into the Nancy Karrigan attack.
Rain, Rain Go Away – In 1952, a record rainfall hit Cilaos, Rèunion.
Aldo Moro – In 1978, the Italian politician was kidnapped.

Aldo Moro

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 16, 2012

Aldo Moro

March 16, 1978: Aldo Moro is kidnapped. He was born in 1916 in Maglie, a small town at the very tip of the “heel” of Italy. He studied law at the University of Bari and went on to become a professor there. In 1941 he became the president of FUCI (Federation of Catholic University Students). He and his friends published a magazine, La Rassegna, until 1945. At the end of World War II, Moro became part of the Constituent Assembly and helped write the Italian Constitution. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1948 and served in that establishment until his death.

Early in his career he was a member of Gioventù Universitaria Fascista and later joined the Christian Democrat (DC) party. In the 1970s, with the government in flux and social and economic difficulties throughout Italy, Moro became a supporter of compromise. Enrico Berlinguer led a project called Compromesso Storico (historic compromise). The leader of the PCI (Italian Communist Party) suggested a move towards solidarity between Communists and Christian Democrats. Moro was the President of the DC and worked toward forming a government of “national solidarity.” He was the leader of the parliamentary coalition and was Prime Minister from 1963-68 and again from 1974-76.

The Red Brigade (BR) was a communist terrorist group famous for assassinations and bank robberies. The first group was eventually arrested and a Second Red Brigade emerged in 1978 led by Mario Moretti. Moro was on his way to work when BR attacked his car and killed the driver and five policemen. They took Moro as hostage. They demanded the release of thirteen BR members then on trial in Turin. Their demands were not met. The government refused to negotiate.

Moro was held for 55 days. Moretti wrote in Red Brigade: An Italian Story that he alone was Moro’s interrogator. It was Moretti alone who spoke with the captive man and it was Moretti alone who fired the eleven bullets that killed Moro. Moro’s body was found in the trunk of a car on May 9. While captive, Moro wrote several letters to government officials and even the Pope. They were kept secret for decades. There is speculation Giulio Andreotti (then Prime Minister) was involved with the kidnapping and death of his political rival. Moretti was convicted and sentenced to six life sentences. He was paroled in 1998 after fifteen years in prison. He is now a free man, but speculation remains – who was behind Moretti?

Italy can survive the loss of Aldo Moro. It would not survive the introduction of torture. – Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa after the suggestion to torture a suspect

We had to sacrifice Aldo Moro to maintain the stability of Italy. – Steve Pieczenik

Aldo Moro’s political allies let him die. Why? – Robert Katz

At first, Moro was surprised, then incredulous, nonplussed, then irritated, but always crystal clear in his thinking. He was convinced that the hard-line bloc would be broken if the Christian Democrats would make the first move, Moro was the miracle worker of Italian politics, even in this circumstance. – Mario Maretti

Also on this day:

Wanting to Win – In 1994, Tonya Harding pled guilty to interfering with an investigation into the Nancy Karrigan attack.
Army Corps of Engineers – In 1802, the Military Peace Establishment Act became law.
Rain, Rain Go Away – In 1952, a record rainfall hit Cilaos, Rèunion.

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Rain, Rain, Go Away

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 16, 2011

Cilaos, Rèunion, today (Photo by B.Navez)

March 16, 1952: Seventy-three inches of rain falls on Cilaos, Rèunion in one day. Cilaos was a small town with a population of around 6,000 on the French island of Rèunion situated in the Indian Ocean. It is about 435 miles off the coast of Madagascar, itself off the southeast coast of Africa.

Cilaos comes from a native word meaning “place one never leaves.” The area was first occupied by runaway slaves who felt safe and secure there. However, slave trackers eventually found them and either recaptured or killed the fugitives. The area was resettled in 1850 by the French and a spa station was set up which attracted vacationers. The area is also known for its beautiful embroidery and lace making.

Rainfall varies across the world. Areas receiving less than 10 inches per year are classified as deserts. On the other end of the spectrum, areas with more than 80 inches are called equatorial or tropic since most of these places are along the equator. Saint-Denis, the capital of Rèunion, receives an annual average rainfall of 66.1 inches. Yakutat, Alaska has the most rain in the US with 151.25 inches and Las Vegas, Nevada receives the least with only 4.13 inches. London gets 23.2 inches, Tokyo gets 60 inches, Melbourne gets 22.4 inches, and Baghdad gets 6.1 inches.

All air holds water vapor or water as a gas that is unseen. Warm air can hold more of this water vapor than cold air can. As the air cools, tiny water droplets form from the water vapor. Clouds grow or shrink as they either gather water vapor or that vapor evaporates. As clouds gather more and more water droplets and the air cools further and further, the droplets merge and become large enough to be pulled by gravity. At that point it rains.

“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.” – Langston Hughes

“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” – Roger Miller

“Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.” – Saint Basil

Also on this day:
Wanting to Win – In 1994, Tonya Harding pled guilty to interfering with an investigation into the Nancy Karrigan attack.
Corps of Engineers – In 1802, the Corps was established.

Wanting to Win

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 16, 2010

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan

March 16, 1994: Tonya Harding pleads guilty to hindering the investigation of the January 6 attack on fellow ice skating competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. Both Harding and Kerrigan were vying for spots on the Olympic team. During a practice session of the 1994 US Figure Skating Championships, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked and clubbed in the knee, which limited her involvement in skating until she healed. Harding won the competition.

Shane Stant, hired by Harding’s ex-husband, attacked Kerrigan who whined, “Why me? Why anyone?” Still, a month later, both Harding and Kerrigan were skating in the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Kerrigan took the silver medal. Harding, with problems on the ice, including a broken lace on her skate, came in eighth.

After pleading guilty to her part in the assault, Harding was given three years probation, 500 hours of community service, and fined $160,000. She was also punished through USFSA (The United States Figure Skating Association), who stripped her of her 1994 title and banned her from sanctioned events.

Professional skating was still open to Harding, but no one wished to work with her. The ice queen has been in various minor scrapes with the law since the attack on Kerrigan, mostly involving alcohol. She has since made an adult film that was passed around the Internet and done some women’s boxing without much success.

“I heard Tonya Harding is calling herself the Charles Barkley of figure skating. I was going to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized I have no character.” – Charles Barkley

“Publicity doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. It draws attention to the sport – the good, the bad and the ugly. A prime example is Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. There was nothing beautiful about that. But the attention on figure skating, there’ll never be attention like it again.” – Tom Collins

“I still put on the skates once in a while, but I do not look back. I had a great career. I hope to have a great career in boxing, too. I am not bitter at the way some people may look at me. Sure, I am trying to turn my image around and be a lady. But you can be a lady, and an athlete, too.” – Tonya Harding

“I will always be someone who wants to do better than others. I love competition.” – Jean Claude Killy

Also on this day, in 1802 the Army Corps of Engineers was formed.

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