The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: The St. Scholastica Day Riot

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 10, 2018 at 6:40 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 10) in 1355 the St. Scholastica Day Riot broke out when rude words were exchanged between a tavern owner and two students of Oxford University over the weak drinks he was selling. The students threw the drinks in his face and then assaulted him. The Mayor of Oxford demanded the University arrest the students and was driven off by 200 students. This led to large numbers of people coming in from the countryside to attack the students. 63 scholars and 30 locals were dead before the university supporters were routed. Eventually the king decided that the town, and not the university, was at fault. Each year thereafter on St. Scholastica Day the mayor and town counselors had to march bare-headed through town, attend Mass, and pay a fine to Oxford of one pence per scholar killed. This practice continued until 1825 (470 years) when the Mayor of Oxford flat out refused to participate anymore.

Today in History: The Battle for Port Arthur Concludes

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 9, 2018 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 9) in 1904, the Battle of Port Arthur continued. A surveillance group of 4 Japanese cruisers got within 7500 yards of the harbor without being spotted. They incorrectly assumed that the chaos they were witnessing meant that the Russian fleet had been paralyzed by the surprise attack. Admiral Togo decided to risk an assault to finish off the Russian fleet, but the Russian battleships were prepared to fight and bolstered by the shore batteries convinced Togo to retreat. Technically, Port Arthur is counted as minor victory for the Russians, but because the Japanese ability to repair their vessels was superior to those of the fleet at Port Arthur, it was a strategic victory for Japan. The next day (February 10) Japan and Russia declared war on each other.

Tonight in History: The Battle for Port Arthur Begins

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 8, 2018 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)

On this night (February 8) in 1904, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Russian forces at Port Arthur, China. The attacking force consisted of 10 destroyers, two of which collided with each other on the way to Port Arthur and fell behind the rest of the fleet. The remaining ships spread out and only four attacked in unison. Of the 16 torpedoes Japan launched, only three hit in the opening minutes of the war, but two removed two of Russia’s most advanced battleships from the fight. The battle would continue into the next day…

Today in History: The U.S. Violates the Indian Territory

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 8, 2018 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 8) in 1887 the Dawes Act was passed. This piece of legislation was supposed to lift Indians out of poverty and encourage their assimilation into the rest of America. Instead of accomplishing this goal it (together with two laws which strengthened the Dawes Act) broke up the tribal governments of the Five Civilized Tribes, allocated portions of the land to each individual member of the tribes and declared 90,000,000 acres of the reservations to be “surplus” to the allotments so they could sell it off to non-Indians. Breaking the tribal governments and selling off the reservation lands were critical steps to dissolving the Indian Territory and creating the state of Oklahoma.

Today in History: The Cripple Creek Strike

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 7, 2018 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 7) in 1894, the Cripple Creek Strike began in Colorado. The strike resulted from the Panic of 1893 when the price of silver crashed and silver miners came looking for work in the gold mines giving mine owners an opportunity to reduce wages by requiring the miners to work ten hours a day for the $3 per day they used to receive for working 8 hours. The strike lasted five months. When their first attempt to bring in strikebreakers failed, the mine owners created a private army. For the first and only time in U.S. history, the governor of Colorado called out the state militia to defend the miners. Governor Waite ended up acting as negotiator for the miners and ending the strike by restoring the 8 hour day at $3 per day.

Today in History: Fort Henry Falls

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 6, 2018 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 6) in 1862, Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew Foote gave the Union its first significant victory in the Western Theater of the Civil War when they took Fort Henry in Tennessee. Heavy rains had caused the rising waters of the Tennessee River to threaten the fort. Then highly accurate naval fire from Foote’s ships succeeded in convincing Fort Henry’s commander, Lloyd Tilghman, that he could not resist the land force Grant was leading toward him. So he surrendered the fort before Grant arrived.

Today in History: The 26 Martyrs

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 5, 2018 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 5) in 1597, 26 Catholics (now called the 26 Martyrs) were crucified for their faith in Japan. They were hung on crosses and then pierced by spears. The anti-Catholic action was inspired in part by the pilot of the shipwrecked San Filipe telling Japanese authorities that Spanish missionaries paved the way for military conquest.

Today in History: 46 of the 47 Ronin Commit Seppuku

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 4, 2018 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 4) in 1703, 46 of The 47 Ronin committed ritual suicide on the orders of the shogun. The Ronin’s daimyo, Asano Naganori had been forced to commit suicide for attacking a court official named Kira Yoshinaka after Kira insulted him. As penalty, the shogun required Asano to kill himself. Now leaderless, Asano’s 47 samurai became Ronin and spent two years plotting the assassination of Kira, eventually attacking him at his home but being careful not to kill women and children. When they dragged Kira out of hiding, they offered him the chance to kill himself with the knife Asano had used to commit suicide, but Kira was too frightened to take advantage of what the Ronin saw as an honorable opportunity. So they held him down and cut his head off with the knife, then carried the head ten kilometers to the tomb of their dead lord.


Having avenged the honor of Asano Naganori, the Ronin sent a young member of their company to carry news of their vengeance and the other 46 turned themselves into the authorities. This presented the Shogun with a political problem. He needed to punish the Ronin for having killed one of his officials, but their actions were scrupulously proper under the code of bushido. To make matters worse, Kira had been unpopular and the Ronin were being heaped with praise by his populace. So the Shogun gave the Ronin the honorable option that they had offered to Kira and permitted the 46 to commit seppuku—which they did. Today, the 46 are regarded as folk heroes for their intense loyalty and sense of honor.


Today in History: The Cesena Bloodbath

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 3, 2018 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 3) in 1377, Robert, Cardinal of Geneva, ordered the murder of between 2500 and 5000 people in the city of Cesena as part of his efforts to suppress a rebellion against the papal states. Robert would go on to become the Anti-Pope Clement VII. His massacre shocked his contemporaries who referred to it as the Cesena Bloodbath.

Today in History: Groundhogs Day

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 2, 2018 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Groundhogs Day is the celebration of a piece of weather lore which predicts that if a groundhog comes out of its hole on February 2 on a clear day and sees its own shadow the region will endure another six weeks of winter. However, if it is a cloudy day and no nasty shadow is spied, that is a sign that winter is almost over. The custom comes from German-speaking regions of Europe where the badger—not the groundhog—is the prophetic animal. The first recorded celebration of Groundhogs Day in North America was in 1840 when it was mentioned in the diary of James Morris.


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