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Lost Battalion Dispatch #33

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


This Week in History: George Washington starts a World War, Hunley sinks a warship, King Tut is discovered, and the Enterprise flies.

The Lost Battalion Dispatch #33 for the
Week of February 12, 2023

Reconstruction of Fort Necessity near Farmington, Pennsylvania

The first global war ended on February 12, 1763, when Great Britain, Hanover, France, and Spain signed a treaty in Paris. This ended the war known as the French and Indian War in North America and the Seven Years’ War in Europe.

The terms called for to France abrogate claim to all the mainland of North America east of the Mississippi, excluding the French port city of New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi. The two Great Powers also exchanged several West Indies islands that had changed hands during the conflict. French restored British lands conquered in India and the East Indies. Britain handed over Saint Lucia to France and returned some islands near British Newfoundland. France had restored to her the West African colony of Gorée (Senegal), and Belle-Île-en-Mer off Brittany; Britain handed over Saint Lucia to France. Spain recovered Havana and Manila, ceded East and West Florida to the British, and received Louisiana, including New Orleans, in compensation from the French. The French evacuated Hanover, Hesse, and Brunswick.

The conflict began over competing claims between the French and British in the Ohio River valley. Both sides were keen to establish outposts in the area to strengthen their claims. In October 1753 Virginia governor Robert Dinwiddie sent George Washington as an emissary and scout into the disputed territories. Washington reported that the French were aggressively expanding their presence, building forts, and recruiting the local Indians as allies. Dinwiddie responded to this by ordering a fort-building expedition of his own. Washington was promoted to Lt. Colonel in the Virginia militia and put in charge of gathering men and supplies to reinforce 100 men under William Trent who had been sent to build a fort at the Forks of the Monongahela River. It was no easy task for Washington. He managed to gather 159 men, some straight out of the county jails. Few were equipped to the standards of the local militia laws. Many had no guns. Washington wrote to Governor Dinwiddie seeking help:

We daily Experience the great necessity for Cloathing the Men, as we find the generality of those who are to be Enlisted are of those loose, Idle Persons that are quite destitute of House and Home, and I may truly say many of them of Cloaths which last, render’s them very incapable of the necessary Service, as they must unavoidably be expos’d to inclement weather in their Marches &ca; and can expect no other, than to encounter almost every difficulty that’s incident to a Soldiers Life. There is many of them without Shoes, other’s want Stockings some are without Shirts, and not a few that have Scare a Coat, or Waistcoat, to their Backs; in short, they are as illy provided as can well be conceiv’d.

He was disappointed when the governor provided neither money nor supplies.

On April 18, 1754, Washington set out with his ragtag troop. Along the way, he encountered the straggling remains of the fort-building expedition. Confronted by a French force of overwhelming strength, they had fled without firing a shot. Washington pressed on. Finding a spot at Great Meadows suitable for building a small fort, he camped there on March 24th. A few days later, friendly Indians reported a French force was in the area and led Washington to them. Ensign Joseph Jumonville’s detachment was discovered encamped in a glen. Which side fired first is a matter of dispute, but Washington’s men quickly prevailed. Ensign Jumonville was killed. The survivors claimed they were emissaries delivering demands for the British to leave the area.

Washington fell back to Great Meadows and prepared Fort Necessity for the inevitable French onslaught. It came on July 3rd. After an 8-hour bombardment the French, who were clearly winning, called for a parley. Washington sent one of his French-speaking officers, Jacob van Braam, to conduct the negotiations. Van Braam returned with a document that he said required the British to repatriate their French prisoners, not return to the area for one year, and admit to the death of Jumonville after which they could leave unmolested. Washington agreed, not realizing that he had really admitted to assassinating a French emissary on a peace mission.

Thus, in a backwater region of the Ohio Valley, began a war that would soon encircle the globe.

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French 1960 Nuclear Test

On February 13. 1960, The success of the Gerboise Bleue (Blue Jerboa) made France the world’s fourth nuclear-capable power. the plutonium-filled bomb was detonated atop a steel tower with an altitude of 100 meters near Reggane, French Algeria. At 70 kilotons it was the largest bomb detonated to date. France currently controls about 300 modern nuclear weapons.

Beyond the military applications or nuclear power, France quickly embraced it as a source of civilian electrical power. By 1980, 72% of all French electricity was generated from nuclear plants. Propaganda campaigns from environmental groups backed by Russian money pressured the National Assembly to reduce this percentage to 50%. But in light of disruptions in energy due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. France has announced plans to increase nuclear energy production by building up to 14 new plants.

Seven people were killed in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago on the morning of February 14, 1929. All the victims were associated with the North Side Gang run by George “Bugs” Maron, a rival of Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit. When police arrived, they found one of the victims, Frank Gusenberg, was still alive despite being shot 14 times. He was rushed to the hospital and stabilized so that police could question him. In response to their inquiries he replies, “No one shot me.” Three hours later, he died.

The “St. Valintine’s Day Massacre” was apparently ordered by Capone from his home in Florida in retaliation for Moran’s’ gang hijacking shipments of Capone’s bootleg liquor. Public outcry sparked years of state and FBI investigations but none of Capone’s hitmen were ever convicted for their roles in the February 14th killings. One was convicted of a Mann Act violation for taking his girlfriend across state lines to marry her and another for the killing of a police officer in an unrelated incident.

Capone was summoned to Chicago to testify about probation violations but avoided doing so by claiming to be too ill to travel.

Aftermath of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

King George Vi’s daughter Elizabeth at his Funeral Procession

King George VI was buried at St. George Chapel, Windsor Castle on February 15, 1952. George served in the Royal Navy and Airforce during World War I. As King, he remained in London during the blitz and was in Buckingham Palace when it was bombed by the Germans. His willingness to share the hardships of his subjects was a boast to national morale. After the war he presided over the transition from Empire to Commonwealth, serving as the last Emperor of India. His death at the age of 52 brought his daughter Elizabeth to the throne. Only 25 years old at the time, she became the longest-reigning monarch in English history.
On February 16, 1923, Howard Carter unsealed the burial chamber of Pharoah Tutankhamun. The trove of artifacts found within created a worldwide sensation. “King Tut” became the name of products, businesses, and even the pet dog of US President Herbert Hoover. Carter spent 10 years cataloging over 5000 artifacts.

Beginning in 1962 selections of the artifacts toured the world and have been seen by millions. Over 8 million Americans visited The Treasures of Tutankhamun US exhibition between November 17, 1976 and April 15, 1979.

Tutankhamun’s Burial Mask

Steve Martin’s Tribute to King Tut’s Tour of America

The H.L. Hunley became the first submarine to engage and sink an enemy warship on February 17, 1864. Hunley’s target was USS Housatonic a 1240-ton wooden-hulled steam sloop-of-war armed with 12 long cannons which was part of the Union force blockading the Confederate port of Charleston. The submarine rammed her only weapon, a spar torpedo, into the Housatonic at about 10:45 PM. The Union ship sank within five minutes taking along five of her crew.

Some reports indicate that the submarine sent a signal after the attack. But Hunley never returned to port.

In 1995, a team led by author Clive Cussler located the Hunley. They raised the ship and buried the crew in 2000. To learn more and explore the theories about her sinking visit the Friends of the Hunley website.

Hunley in 2022

Space Shuttle Enterprise made her “maiden” flight aboard a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on February 18, 1997. During this flight, ground tests of the orbiter’s systems were carried out in preparation for the first free-flight atmospheric test on August 12. In total Enterprise flew on her own three times to test the craft’s atmospheric maneuver systems. Enterprise was also involved in extensive testing of the mating of the fuel tank and booster rockets. Changes in Shuttle design, while these tests were underway on the prototype, meant retrofitting Enterprise for an orbital mission would be too expensive. So, she never made it into space.

Enterprise “maiden” Flight

Enterprise Roll-out Ceremony with Gene Roddenberry
and the Cast of Star Trek

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