Tuesday, 14 September 2010

3 September 1752 - What's Wrong With This Picture?

There was talk about changing the calendar on that date from the Julian to the newfangled Gregorian Calendar used in Catholic countries. If that had happened, today would be 14 September, not 3 September but it is deeper than that. Imagine living in a society where the government can simply tear 11 days out of a life. It does not bear thinking about.

We might as well live under the Khmer Rouge or Marat and his chums in revolutionary France. Of course, since then we have revised the Julian calendar but without this madness of moving us eleven days into the future.

Monday, 13 September 2010

13 September 1847 - The Battle of Chapultepec

On this day, the Mexican defenders of Chapultepec were crushed by American forces under Winfield Scott. The outcome was not in doubt with Chapultepect Castle being defended by around 100 men, some of them as young as 13. It was the battle at which "the child soldiers" died defending the Castle against overwhelming odds, and it was also at this site where 30 catholic soldiers of the Saint Patrick's Batallion were hanged for having previously deserted the US Army to join the Mexicans. The existence of the St Patrick's Batallion was denied by the army for many years.

American casualties in the battle were light, some 135 with the highest ranked being Major Robert E Lee and Lieutenant Ulysses S Grant. nevertheless, the battle did change history, the examples of six child soldiers who refused to retreat and fought to the death, the last wrapping himself in the Mexican flag and throwing himself from the ramparts, along with the fate of the St Patrick's Batallion, shifted the world's sympathy away from the United States toward Mexico.

This was a battle Mexico could never have won but perhaps, had it been conducted differently, Mexico's fate could have been far worse.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

12 September 1988 - Eve of Destruction

In 1988 it was widely reported that the Category 3 Hurricane Gilbert would make landfall in Jamaica. Jamaica was battered by the storm and a million dollars (US not Jamaican) worth of damage was left in Gilbert's wake, but it could have been so much worse. Suppose the eye had actually made landfall on September 12.

No doubt there would have been deaths and orders of magnitude more damage, leaving the Jamaican economy shattered. Of course, that would have changed the course of the hurricane and, with open sea along its path, perhaps Gilbert would have grown bigger and stronger, becoming category five before reaching Mexico. We were fortunate that day.

Of course, even though Gilbert missed Jamaica on that September day, it could still have been a major disaster. The eye passed between Cuba and Hispaniola, damaging the US Army base at Guantanamo Bay before passing through the Windward Passage then destroying the coral reeves at Mouchoir Bank in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It seems that any deviation from Gilbert's actual path could have led to much greater destruction.

We were fortunate.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

11 September 2001 - A Day of Infamy

This is going to be somewhat different. Instead of a despatch from another world, I'm going to look at this from our world. I could have chosen many other September 11ths (1857 and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, 1897 and the fall of the Kingdom of Kaffa, 1921 and the settling of the first Moshav in Palestine, 1926 and the attempted assassination of Mussolini, 1945 and the Liberation of Batu Lintang, 1973 and the Murder of Allende)... but with this Blog being only a few days old, nothing but 9/11 THE 9/11 makes sense.

So... what might have changed if 9/11 had not happened?

First of all, thousands of people would still have been alive, not only the immediate victims but those caught in the aftermath. Certainly 7/7 would never have happened in London, neither would the war in Afghanistan. But on the other hand, there would not have been a wave of sympathy for the victims that showed many in the world for their fundamental decency.

On the other hand, it seems obvious that neither Libya nor the IRA would have renounced terrorism except in revulsion at the events of 9/11. Colonel Gaddaffi saw immediately that Terrorism had become impossible as a tactic in warfare once this act of mass murder had been committed. He also ended Libya's chemical weapons program and invited inspectors in to see that it was dismantled.

For good or ill the murder of nearly 3000 people that day has changed the world utterly. It is only nine years ago, but we know already that it will be remembered for a long time to come, because an attack on New York City is an attack on the whole world.

Friday, 10 September 2010

10 September 490BC - The Beginning of Persian Hegemony

In retrospect, it seems that the Greeks were doomed from the start. The Battle of Marathon was a battle they could not win against huge numbers of Persian soldiers. It was a battle they had to win to retain their existence as a culture and they lost. After that, the empire began the process of dehellenization.

Even more important though, was the colonization first of Greece, and then of Illyria, Scythia and finally the whole of Europe save the lands of the Celts and those of the Finns. It was not until the coming of the Prophet (pbuh) that the empire was swept away.

Imagine how it might have been in the unlikely event of a Greek victory. The Persian army would have been humiliated and driven back in disgrace. Perhaps the whole of Europe may have become Hellenized, all worshipping the Gods of Olympus (or perhaps all Christian or Moslem after the coming of the Prophet.

Sometimes, when we have no hope at all, we must still stand firm in the face of our enemies. BUt alas, the Greeks had not learned that lesson at Marathon.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

9 September 9 AD - An End of Empire?

The Roman Empire lasted for nearly fifteen hundred years between 709 and 2206 AUC, but things could have been so very different. There are many points at which, had battles gone other ways, had different Emperors been chosen, the Empire could have fallen.

The setbacks at the hands of Arabs and Mongols are well known as is the final fall to the Turks, but few of us remember that the Empire could so easily have fallen as early as 762 AUC. At that time, Germania Magna had barely been in Roman hands for a generation while Britannia, Hibernia, Tulia and Scandia had not even been added to the Empire, let alone the later conquests of Samogitia, Scythia and Colchis.

The Government of Germania Magna was in the hands of Publius Quinctilius Varus, an able general, as it was to turn out, but one of the worst governors in the history of the Empire, having to put down revolts in Africa, in Syria, and after Germania Magna, in Judaea. Those other revolts never threatened the power of Rome, that in Germania Magna did.

The German leader, Arminius ambushed Varus' legions (and of course a civilian train travelling with Varus) in the Teutoberg Forest and on the 9 September 762, routed the Legions and put civilians to the sword. It is this very viciousness that was Arminius' undoing. The confusion gave Varus time to regroup and gave his troops the fire in their belly needed to avenge the deaths of their children and their women. Had Arminius carried on in pursuit of the shattered Legions, he had the strength of numbers to overcome what was, until Varus rallied the troops, a scared and disorganised rabble.

With Varus' legions dead, it seems likely that Germania Magna itself would fall, pushing the frontier back to the Rhine. Now obviously the Rhine is more easily defensible than the Elbe, Oder, or Vistula, the result of the Loss of Germany was, there would be no need to take Britannia or Scandia to supply the German cities via rivers that empty into the Mare Balticum. One problem the Empire often had was an inability to see threats before they arrived. How long would it be before Rome was beset by wave after wave of invasion, not only from Germans and Slavs, but also from Britannia and Scandia, realms then beneath notice.

Arminius' failure to finish off Varus' legions on September 9 not only cost him a German Empire, but might well have saved the Roman Empire from destruction long before it came in our world. And without the Empire, could civilisation have survived the coming of the Mongols? I doubt it. Varus saved us all.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

8 September 1935 If the Bullet Had Killed the Kingfish

We all know that President Long so nearly was not. Although he had announced his intention to run in 1935, the bullet that kept him in hospital for three months in 1935 came within millimetres of ending his life. It seems certain that Roosevelt and his fellow travelling vice president, Henry Wallace would have remained in power if that had happened. No doubt, Roosevelt would have found some pretext to enter the War in Europe rather than simply bankrolling the British War Machine and lending scientific expertise to the Montreal Project which led to the British development of the Atomic Bomb. (Obviously, as Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt was in any case heavily involved in the Montreal Project, but imagine if he had been President... would the Montreal Project be the Manhattan Project?)

Of course, much more important would be Huey Long's domestic policies. Roosevelt supported many of Long's reforms once Long had replaced him as Democratic Candidate and as President but would he have been very different. Would he, for example have been able to use, as Huey Pierce Long did, the threat of an imminent war to force the Bankers to accept his banking reforms. Would he have tried, as Long did, to redistribute wealth from Rich to Poor and if he did, would he have succeeded or would he too have found America spiralling into a second Depression, only to be saved by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

And what of his response to Pearl Harbour. Would Roosevelt, like Long have fought a war against Japan whilst Britain and the Soviet Union fought a separate war against Nazi Germany? A war that Britain was able to win only through the use of Atomic Weapons on Munich and Frankfurt. Or would Roosevelt have embroiled us in the European War and thus delayed our inevitable victory agaisnt the Emperor's forces? Of course, Franklin Roosevelt was supportive of President Long's policies, but that is not the same as saying he would have done the same thing.

I believe we can be sure that in surviving the bullet in September 1935, Huey Long changed the course of History.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

7 September 1812 - another Borodino

We all know what happened that fateful day in September 1812 when General Barclay so ably filled the dying Kutuzov's shoes and turned the tide of the battle magnificently. And of course, that was the limit of Napooleon's expansion. The French Empire ceased expanding and, over the next hundred years, its possessions in Germany and further Eastward were whittled away although Napoleon's legacy is a strong and stable France, might things have been different had he won at Borodino?

Yes and no is my answer to that. If he had won the battle and annihilated Russian forces, then yes, I imagine he might have conquered Russia itself and formed a nucleus for a world-spanning French Empire.

But suppose the Russians were able to retreat in good order and regroup? In that situation, I imagine continuing harrying by Russian forces along with a scorced earth policy might mean that tired, hungry and miserable soldiers of France found themeslves facing enthusiastic and implacable defenders as Moscow or St Petersburg resisted the invasion, and no doubt pursued Napoleon's ragged band of adventurers into oblivion.

Monday, 6 September 2010

6 September 1492 - A Fatal Voyage

Nobody can say for sure what happened to the Spanish-funded expedition led by Genoese sailor Cristopher Columbus. What is known is that the three ships that set out from Gomera in the Canary Islands on 6 September 1492 were never seen again.

The initial theory that Columbus and his crew died of starvation after drastically underestimating the circumference of the earth seems unlikely since, as those following after the discoveries of John Cabot and William Weston three years later eventually discovered, while the Columbus was indeed wrong about the circumference of the world, the route he took should have brought him into contact with the Antilles or the Isthmus of Darien.

It is of course possible that Columbus did reach the continent of Brazil only to encounter hostile natives but with the exception of the Mesobrazilian Quetzalcoatl Prophecy, there is even less evidence of Columbus' voyage than that of a Malian Sultan a hundred years earlier, to which Haroun ibn Battuta alludes in his own writings.

My theory is that Columbus simply pocketed the cash provided by the Spanish dual Monarchy and set sail from Gomera only to circle round and land in Morocco, where he was able to live comfortably. Indeed many remarked on the physical resemblance between the Moroccan leader, Abdul Kadir, who established the Islamic colony at Pernambuco, and the wily Genoese trickster.

The truth is, we will never know whether Columbus reached the continent of Brazil some three years earlier than Cabot.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

5 September 1781

Imagine, if you will, what might have happened had some other Admiral, such as the incompetent Graves been in charge of the British Fleet at the Battle of Chesapeake. Lord Rodney's brilliance in breaking the French Admiral de Grasse's strategy is credited quite rightly with allowing Lord Cornwallis to turn around an awful situation at the Battle of Yorktown/Gloucester, which may have cost the British Empire the whole of the Americas rather than the Nine Independent American States. Who knows, with defeat at Yorktown, perhaps Benedict Arnold's capture of Richmond may have been in vain.

Worse, a treaty might have prevented British Access to the Louisiana Territory, so ably captured from the French by Wellington in the war of 1812. While that might have left Britain free to help the Continental Powers resist Bonaparte's advances on the continent, it may well have left France, rather than England as the dominant power on the High Seas, and for all the aid we gave the Germans and Russians, we may have found ourselves helpless before the might of a resurgent French force. Our fate could have been that of Poland after saving Vienna from the Turk.

Fortunately, of course, it was Lord Rodney, whose statue even today stands high on Rodney's Column in Chesapeake Square, who won the day and with it, gave Cornwallis and Arnold the power to wrest the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia from the rebellious Colonists and retain an Imperial Presence that served as a Springboard for the later conquest of South America.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

4 September 1666 - If the wind died down and the fire went out.

Fire had raged within London's Roman Wall for three days by then and the firestorm was sweeping through the slums. Even the historic Royal Palace of Castle Bayard had gone up in flames, but by the grace of God, James, Duke of York and his brave firefighters were finally able to bring the fire under control and save St Paul's Cathedral and the treasures that had been buried there. By eveningtide, the fire was out save for a few scattered hot spots that James and his men fought long and hard to keep small.

By the next morning, London breathed a sigh of relief as its denizens realised how much worse the Great Fire could have been. Suppose it had crossed the Fleet River or the firebreaks at Cheapside? Or what if it had reached St Paul's Cathedral. A stone building certainly, but, covered as it was in Sir Christopher Wren's scaffolding, no doubt it would have burned to the ground and with it the treasures of London Town, irreplaceable books and papers, and then no doubt the lead roof itself. But James, Duke of York was more than equal to the task and from that moment, was viewed with affection by most of London.

Without the affection in which London held James, one wonders how he could have survived the exclusion crisis of 1677 or the Monmouth Rebellion. Perhaps he would have been deposed and a protestant dynasty might have taken the place of the Stuarts. We might have had a Dutch or German king in place of our beloved King Francis.