Lost Battalion Dispatch #31

A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting Historical
Occurrences with occasional contributions
by Ian S. McCaskie

This Week in History: The Sea Beggars triumph, Oliver Cromwell finally gets his comeuppance, and Chimps in Space

 

The Lost Battalion Dispatch #31 for the Week of January 29, 2023

The Battle of Walcharen (Slag bij Reimerswaal in Dutch)
During the 80 Years War, the Geuzen, a confederacy of Calvinist Dutch rebels sometimes referred to as the Sea Beggars, defeated a Spanish fleet on January 29, 1574, at the Battle of Walcharen. Lodewijk van Boisot, the Dutch commander led 64 ships (many with English and Scottish crews) against 74 Spanish ships commanded by Julian Romero. The Spanish were attempting to relieve the siege of the Spanish-held Dutch town of Middleburg when Boisot intercepted them.

Upon their departure from Bergen, Norway, the expedition began inauspiciously for the Spanish. A salute fired in honor of Grand Commander Romero set fire to one of the Spanish vessel’s magazines, destroying the ship and killing the crew in a massive explosion. The demoralized fleet sailed on toward Walcheren where they mistook Boisot’s fleet for friendly ships. Romero’s first division delivered a broadside that mortally wounded two Dutch captains and cost Boisot an eye. Nevertheless, the Anglo-Dutch ships grappled with the Spanish and prevailed in a brutal two-hour boarding action. Famed Welsh soldiers of fortune Thomas Morgan and Roger Willams played key roles in the fight. They nearly captured Romero who was forced to escape through a porthole.

The defeated Spanish staggered back to Bergen having lost 15 ships and 1200 men. The Anglo-Dutch had two ships sunk and lost 300 men. Middelburg surrendered nine days later, leaving the Geuzen in complete control of the islands of Zeeland and the surrounding seas.

King Phillip II of Spain retaliated by sending a large fleet to the North Sea with the intent of destroying the English and Sea Beggar ships operating there. Within a year, plague, ineptitude, and the death of the fleet commander put an inglorious end to his ill-fated initiative.

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Oliver Cromwell: Died 1658, Executed 1661
On January 30, 1661, the anniversary of the execution of King Charles I of England, Oliver Cromwell’s body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey, dragged through the streets of London, and hung in chains at the present-day site of Marble Arch. At 4 PM his body was pulled down and he was “executed” by decapitation for the regicide of Charles. His head was displayed on a pike in front of Westminster Hall, where Charles had been tried and sentenced to death, for the next 20 years until it was blown down by a storm. The macabre relic then passed through the hands of several private collectors before being reburied at Cambridge in 1960.
Ham the Astrochimp was put aboard a Mercury-Redstone rocket on January 31, 1961. His 16-minute flight was the first by a Great Ape. Ham was trained to push a lever in the spacecraft whenever he saw a blue light flash. His lever-pushing response in space was only a fraction of a second slower than on earth, demonstrating that future astronauts would be able to perform tasks in space. His Mercury capsule suffered a partial loss of pressure during the flight, but Ham was protected by his chimp-sized spacesuit. His only injury was a bruised nose that was apparently suffered during splashdown. Ham’s success paved the way for Alan Shepard’s mission on May 5th.
Ham the Astrochimp
45 RPM Number One Hit for The Beatles
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” became The Beatle’s first number-one hit in the United States on February 1, 1964. Recorded in October of 1963 it was their first record to be produced using four-track recording equipment. It became the Beatles’ best-selling single worldwide, selling over 12 million copies.
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania celebrated its first Groundhog Day on February 2, 1887. The significance of the date February 2nd is that it lies halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. The Celts celebrated it as Ingolic, a festival that marked the beginning of Spring. The Romans, great adopters of other cultures’ gods and festivals. preserved the tradition. When Roman was Christianized, the pagan festival was “baptized” and became Candlemas, a time when candles were brought to the priest to be blessed for the year. Some early Christians believed that a sunny Candlemas was a sign of 40 more days of cold and snow. In Germany, the tradition was that Candlemas was “sunny” only if badgers saw their shadow.

In 1887, Punxsutawney newspaper editor Clymer Freas sold the idea of a Groundhog Day celebration to a group of local businessmen and groundhog hunters called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. The inaugural groundhog saw his shadow in Gobbler’s Knob that year.

Groundhog Day: The Movie
On February 3, 1917. U-53 sank the American freighter Housatonic. She was the first of ten ships sunk under Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare policy against ships supplying Great Britain. The sinkings gave Woodrow Wilson the ammunition he needed to get Congress to approve a declaration of war against Germany, making a mockery of his populist 1916 campaign slogans “He kept us out of war” and “America First.”
He Kept Us Out Of War
Norton I, self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States, was born on February 4, 1818. A native of England who spent most of his early life in South Africa, the eccentric San Fransico resident arrived in the city in late 1849. He made a successful living as a commodities trader and real estate speculator before being financially ruined by trying to corner the rice market. This setback prompted him to “reset” his relationship with the world. He declared himself emperor in 1859 and was treated deferentially by San Franciscans despite, or perhaps because, of his eccentricities. His frequent newspaper “decrees” were roundly ignored but amused the residents. Some establishments he frequented issued private currency in his name. He received numerous informal benefits from his status including free ferry and train passage and favors from admirers such as rent money and free meals. When he collapsed and died at the corner of California and Dupont streets in 1880, 10,000 people lined the streets to pay homage during his funeral procession.
Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico
Spend an Afternoon as Master and Commander

Enemy in Sight lets you relive the Age of Fighting Sail. Send your ships of the line into harm’s way, deliver a broadside that sets the enemy afire, and try to stay off that lee shore. Get a copy today by clicking here.

About the Lost Battalion Dispatch

This weekly newsletter is brought to you by Cher Ami, the homing pigeon whose heroic flight helped bring relief from a barrage of friendly fire to the First Battalion, 308th Infantry of 77th New York Infantry Division and alerted high command that over 500 American troops were holding out against all odds while surrounded in the Argonne Forest during World War One.

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