Oct 12, 1492:
Columbus Reaches The New World
~~"After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sights a Bahamian island, believing he has reached East Asia. His expedition went ashore the same day and claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, who sponsored his attempt to find a western ocean route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia.
Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. Little is known of his early life, but he worked as a seaman and then a maritime entrepreneur. He became obsessed with the possibility of pioneering a western sea route to Cathay (China), India, and the gold and spice islands of Asia. At the time, Europeans knew no direct sea route to southern Asia, and the route via Egypt and the Red Sea was closed to Europeans by the Ottoman Empire, as were many land routes. Contrary to popular legend, educated Europeans of Columbus' day did believe that the world was round, as argued by St. Isidore in the seventh century. However, Columbus, and most others, underestimated the world's size, calculating that East Asia must lie approximately where North America sits on the globe (they did not yet know that the Pacific Ocean existed).
With only the Atlantic Ocean, he thought, lying between Europe and the riches of the East Indies, Columbus met with King John II of Portugal and tried to persuade him to back his "Enterprise of the Indies," as he called his plan. He was rebuffed and went to Spain, where he was also rejected at least twice by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. However, after the Spanish conquest of the Moorish kingdom of Granada in January 1492, the Spanish monarchs, flush with victory, agreed to support his voyage.
On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain, with three small ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina. On October 12, the expedition reached land, probably Watling Island in the Bahamas. Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba, which he thought was mainland China, and in December the expedition landed on Hispaniola, which Columbus thought might be Japan. He established a small colony there with 39 of his men. The explorer returned to Spain with gold, spices, and "Indian" captives in March 1493 and was received with the highest honors by the Spanish court. He was the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland in the 10th century.
During his lifetime, Columbus led a total of four expeditions to the New World, discovering various Caribbean islands, the Gulf of Mexico, and the South and Central American mainlands, but he never accomplished his original goal—a western ocean route to the great cities of Asia. Columbus died in Spain in 1506 without realizing the great scope of what he did achieve: He had discovered for Europe the New World, whose riches over the next century would help make Spain the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth."
Oct 12, 1870:
Confederate Leader Robert E. Lee Dies
~~"General Robert Edward Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, dies peacefully at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 63 years old.
Lee was born to Henry Lee and Ann Carter Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia, in 1807. His father served in the American Revolution under George Washington and was later a governor of Virginia. Robert Lee attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He did not earn a single demerit during his four years at the academy. Afterward, Lee embarked on a military career, eventually fighting in the Mexican War (1846-48) and later serving as the superintendent of West Point.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Lee sided with the Confederacy and spent the first year of the war as an advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia when Joseph Johnston was wounded in battle in May 1862. Over the next three years, Lee earned a reputation for his brilliant tactics and battlefield leadership. However, his invasions of the North, at Antietam in Maryland and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, ended in defeat.
After Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in 1865, he returned to Richmond, Virginia, and an uncertain future. With his military career over, he accepted the presidency of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. Under his leadership, the struggling institution's enrollment increased from a few dozen to more than 300 students. He contributed to faculty stability, revamped the curriculum, and improved the physical condition of the campus. He also became a symbol of the defeated South, a dignified and stoic figure who was lionized by North and South alike. Lee suffered a stroke on September 28, 1870, and lingered for two weeks before passing. The school changed its name to Washington and Lee College soon after he died."
Oct 12, 1998:
The Victim Of An Anti-Gay Assault Dies
~~"University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard dies after a vicious attack by two anti-gay bigots. After meeting Shepard in a Laramie, Wyoming, gay bar, The Fireside Lounge, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney lured him to the parking lot, where he was savagely attacked and robbed.
The two attackers then took Shepard, 21 years old and weighing just over 100 pounds, to a remote spot outside of town and tied his naked body to a wooden fence, tortured him, and left him in the freezing cold. Two mountain bikers, who initially thought his mutilated body was a scarecrow, discovered him. Shepard died soon afterward. Henderson and McKinney went on to attack two Latino youths later that same evening, beating and pistol-whipping them. Matthew Shepard's death sparked national outrage and renewed calls for extending hate crime laws to cover violence based on a person's sexual orientation. President Clinton implored Congress to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the wake of the incident.
To avoid a death sentence, Russell Henderson pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murder in April 1999 and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Later that year, Aaron McKinney attempted to use a "gay panic" defense at his own trial, claiming that Sheppard's advances disgusted him. When McKinney sought to introduce evidence that a man had molested him as a child, Judge Barton Voigt would not allow it. He ruled that the defense was too similar to temporary insanity, which is not an option in Wyoming.
McKinney was convicted of Shepard's murder but managed to escape the death penalty largely due to Shepard's parents. In the tense and quiet courtroom, Dennis Shepard told his son's murderer, "I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy." McKinney was sentenced to life in prison. Henderson's and McKinney's girlfriends, who had helped Henderson and McKinney dispose of evidence, were charged as accessories to the murder."
Oct 12, 2000:
USS Cole Attacked By Terrorists
~~"At 12:15 p.m. local time, a motorized rubber dinghy loaded with explosives blows a 40-by-40-foot hole in the port side of the USS Cole, a U.S. Navy destroyer that was refueling at Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed and 38 wounded in the attack, which was carried out by two suicide terrorists alleged to be members of Saudi exile Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
The Cole had come to Aden at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula to refuel on its way to join U.S. warships that were enforcing the trade sanctions against Iraq. It was scheduled to remain in the port for just four hours, indicating that the terrorists had precise information about the destroyer's unannounced visit to the Aden fueling station. The terrorists' small boat joined a group of harbor ships aiding the Cole moor at a refueling, and they succeeded in reaching the U.S. warship unchallenged. Their dinghy then exploded in a massive explosion that ripped through the Cole's port side, badly damaging the engine room and adjoining mess and living quarters. Witnesses on the Cole said both terrorists stood up in the moment before the blast.
The explosion caused extensive flooding in the warship, causing the ship to list slightly, but by the evening crew members had managed to stop the flooding and keep the Cole afloat. In the aftermath of the attack, President Bill Clinton ordered American ships in the Persian Gulf to leave port and head to open waters. A large team of U.S. investigators was immediately sent to Aden to investigate the incident, including a group of FBI agents who were focused exclusively on possible links to Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had been formally charged in the U.S. with masterminding the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Six men believed to be involved in the Cole attack were soon arrested in Yemen. Lacking cooperation by Yemeni authorities, the FBI has failed to conclusively link the attack to bin Laden."
Oct 12, 1997:
John Denver Dies In An Aircraft Accident
~~"To those who bought records like "Rocky Mountain High" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by the millions in the 1970s, John Denver was much more than just a great songwriter and performer. With his oversized glasses, bowl haircut and down vest, he was an unlikely fashion icon, and with his vocal environmentalism, he was the living embodiment of an outdoorsy lifestyle that many 20-something baby boomers would adopt as their own during the "Me" decade. There never was and there probably never will be a star quite like John Denver, who died on this day in 1997 when his experimental amateur aircraft crashed into Monterey Bay on the California coast.
Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., in 1943, not in the mountains of Colorado but in Roswell, New Mexico, John Denver rose to fame as a recording artist in 1971, when "Take Me Home, Country Roads" rose all the way to #2 on the Billboard pop chart. In fact, Denver already had a share in a #1 hit as the writer of "Leaving On A Jet Plane," a chart-topper for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1969. But it was his 1971 breakout as a performer of his own material that made him a household name. Over the course of the 1970s, John Denver earned five more top-10 singles, including the #1 hits "Sunshine On My Shoulders" (1974), "Annie's Song" (1974), "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" (1975) and "I'm Sorry" (1975). Even more impressive, he released an astonishing 11 albums that were certified Platinum by the RIAA, making him one of the most successful recording artists of the 70s, and launching him into a successful career in film and television as well.
By the 1990s, Denver was still a popular touring musician, though he was no longer recording new material with significant commercial success. Over the course of his career, he had become an accomplished private pilot with more than 2,700 hours on various single- and multi-engine aircraft, with both an instrument and a Lear Jet rating. On October 12, 1997, however, he was flying an aircraft with which he was relatively unfamiliar, and with which he had previously experienced control problems, according to a later investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. At approximately 5:30 pm local time, after a smooth takeoff from a Pacific Grove airfield and under ideal flying conditions, Denver apparently lost control of his Long-EZ aircraft several hundred feet over Monterey Bay, leading to the fatal crash.
A movie star and political activist as well as a musician, John Denver was one of the biggest stars of his generation, and is credited by the Recording Industry Association of America with selling more than 32 million albums in the United States alone."