This Day In History – March 17



” History is a vast early warning system.” ~Norman Cousins


Plow & Hearth


Ancient History 45 BC – The Last Battle of Julius Caesar, the Battle of Munda Southern Spain

In his last victory, Julius Caesar defeats the Pompeian forces of Titus Labienus and Pompey the Younger in the Battle of Munda.

The Battle of Munda took place on March 17, 45 BC in the plains of Munda, modern southern Spain. This was the last battle of Julius Caesar’s civil war against the republican armies of the Optimate leaders. After this victory, and the deaths of Titus Labienus and Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey’s oldest son), Caesar was free to return to Rome and govern as dictator.

His subsequent assassination began the process that eventually led to the end of the Roman Republic with the reign of his great-nephew and adopted heir, Augustus (Octavius), as the first Roman Emperor.

Caesar inspecting his troops

The conservative republicans had initially been led by Pompey, until the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC and Pompey’s death soon afterwards. However, in April 46 BC, Caesar’s forces destroyed the Pompeian army at the Battle of Thapsus.

After this, military opposition to Caesar was confined to Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal). During the Spring of 46 BC two legions in Hispania Ulterior, largely formed by former Pompeian veterans enrolled in Caesar’s army, had declared themselves for Gnaeus Pompeius (son of Pompey the Great) and driven out Caesar’s proconsul. Soon they were joined by the remains of the Pompeian army.

Read more at Wikipedia


Julius Caesar – 1/6 Ancient Rome The Rise and Fall of an Empire




Engraving depicting the British evacuation of Boston

American Revolution 1776 – British forces are forced to evacuate Boston

On this day in 1776, British forces are forced to evacuate Boston following General George Washington’s successful placement of fortifications and cannons on Dorchester Heights, which overlooks the city from the south.

During the evening of March 4, American Brigadier General John Thomas, under orders from Washington, secretly led a force of 800 soldiers and 1,200 workers to Dorchester Heights and began fortifying the area. To cover the sound of the construction, American cannons, besieging Boston from another location, began a noisy bombardment of the outskirts of the city. By the morning, more than a dozen cannons from Fort Ticonderoga had been brought within the Dorchester Heights fortifications.

Read more at This Day In History

Further reading:
Evacuation Day (Massachusetts)
Siege of Boston – Wikipedia

Evacuation Day – March 17, 2011




The Cavalry Charge, Battle of Kelly's Ford

American Civil War 1863 – The Battle of Kelly’s Ford

On this day in 1863, Union cavalry attack Confederate cavalry at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia. Although the Yankees were pushed back and failed to take any ground, the engagement proved that the Federal troopers could hold their own against their Rebel counterparts.

In the war’s first two years, Union cavalry fared poorly in combat. This was especially true in the Eastern theater, where Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart boasted an outstanding force comprised of excellent horsemen. On several occasions, Stuart embarrassed the Union cavalry with his daring exploits. During the Peninsular Campaign of 1862, Stuart rode around the entire 100,000-man Union army in four days. Later that year, he made a daring raid to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and returned unmolested to Virginia after inflicting significant damage and capturing tons of supplies. In February 1863, a raid by General Fitzhugh Lee (son of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee) left the Federals running in circles in search of the enemy force.

Now, General Joseph Hooker assumed command of the Federal Army of the Potomac. He sought to bring an end to the Confederate raids by stopping Stuart’s cavalry. Hooker assigned General William Averell to attack the Rebel cavalry near Culpeper Court House, Virginia. Averall assembled 3,000 men for the mission, but left 900 behind to protect against a rumored Confederate presence near Catlett’s Station. Averell led the rest of his men towards Kelly’s Ford, a crossing of the Rappahannock River east of Culpeper Court House. Fitzhugh Lee learned of the advance and positioned his cavalry brigade, which was part of Stuart’s corps, to block the ford and dig rifle pits above the river.

Read more at This Day In History

Further reading:
The Battle of Kelly’s Ford – National Park
The Battle of Kelly’s Ford – Wikipedia
The Cavalry Charge – The Battle of Kelly’s Ford

An illustration of the battle from the 1863 Harpers


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Crook's column returning to Fort Fetterman, Leslie's Illustrated News, 1876.

Old West 1876 – The Battle of Powder River, Montana Territory between U.S. Army and Cheyenne Indians

The Battle of Powder River occurred March 17, 1876, in the Montana Territory between the United States Army and a force of Cheyenne Native Americans during Crook’s Big Horn Expedition in the Great Sioux War of 1876.

Major General George Crook, commander of the Department of the Platte, had been ordered to locate the camps of several bands of Sioux and Cheyenne that had left their reservations and appeared to be preparing to go on the warpath. The camps of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were thought to be located in the region of the headwaters of the Powder, Tongue, and Rosebud rivers. Crook was concerned that as spring progressed and the weather improved, hundreds more Indians might leave the reservations to join the war bands, and he wanted to locate and destroy the camps and villages as soon as possible.

Little Coyote (Little Wolf) and Morning Star (Dull Knife), chiefs of the Northern Cheyennes

Accompanied by a handful of newspaper reporters, Crook left Fort Fetterman on March 1 with 883 men from a variety of cavalry regiments, along with civilian and friendly Indian scouts and a herd of forty-five beef cattle. A blizzard on March 5 deposited over a foot of snow and significantly delayed Crook’s progress. Temperatures fell so low that the thermometers of the day could not record the cold. The soldiers had to heat their forks in the coals of their fires to prevent the tines from freezing to their tongues.

Read more at Wikipedia

Further reading:
Battle of Powder River was 1st of 3 that Cavalry lost to the Indians in Montana – Billings Gazette


” A nation is not conquered
Until the hearts of its women are on the ground.
Then it is finished,
No matter how brave its warriors
Or how strong their weapons. ”

— Cheyenne Proverb

Cheyenne Indians on horses, Edward S. Curtis, 1910-500


Legends of America

Other events this day in Old West History

1876- Montana Territory- 6 settlers have been killed and 8 wounded in Indian attacks near Fort Pease since February 22.

Billy the Kid

1879- New Mexico Territory – Governor Lew Wallace meets with Billy the Kid promising that if he surrendered and testified against Matthews and the others in the Chapman killing he would receive a full pardon. Billy said he did not like the idea of surrendering; it would appear that he was a coward. Part of the bargain the Kid made with Governor Wallace was to stand trial for the murder of Brady and Hindman.

1882- Tombstone, Arizona Territory- Lawman Morgan Earp was shot in the back while playing pool in Bob Hatch’s billiards saloon late at night. He died a few minutes after midnight the next day (a few minutes later). Florentine Cruz, Mexican-Indian half-breed, a hanger on of the Clanton’s & Curly Bill (it was said Cruz took nearly as long to pull a gun as he did to pull his pants on), was used by the outlaws around Tombstone when no one else was available. On this date he was employed by the gunman who murdered Morgan Earp.

1883- Arizona Territory- a Wells Fargo box is taken in a stage robbery between Maricopa and Prescott.

1896-. Crawford Goldsby, an Oklahoma outlaw better known as Cherokee Bill, was hung by order of Judge Parker on this date. Judge Parker characterized Bill as a “bloodthirsty mad dog who killed for the love of killing” and as “the most vicious” of all the outlaws in the Oklahoma Territory. Crawford was born at Fort Concho, Texas, on February 8, 1876. He murdered at least seven people and may have killed as many as thirteen. Certainly by the time he reached eighteen he had joined the Bill Cook gang in bank and train robberies. Bill later formed his own gang and also rode with other outlaws like Henry Starr.




Holland stands in the hatch of a submarine - Wikipedia

Science 1898 – First practical submarine demonstrated off Staten Is. N.Y.

In 1898, the first practical submarine was demonstrated by John Holland off Staten Island in New York for 100 minutes. Holland’s sub was not the first underwater boat, but is credited as the first practical one. Today In Science

John Philip Holland (Irish: Seán Pilib Ó hUallacháin / Ó Maolchalann) (29 February 1840 – 12 August 1914) was an Irish engineer who developed the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy, and the first Royal Navy submarine, the Holland 1.

Holland emigrated to the United States in 1873. Initially working for an engineering firm, he returned to teaching again for a further six years in St. John’s Catholic School in Paterson, New Jersey. In 1875, his first submarine designs were submitted for consideration by the U.S. Navy, but turned down as unworkable. The Fenians, however, continued to fund Holland’s research and development expenses at a level that allowed him to resign from his teaching post. In 1881, Fenian Ram was launched, but soon after, Holland and the Fenians parted company angrily, primarily due to issues of payment within the Fenian organization, and between the Fenians and Holland. The submarine is now preserved at Paterson Museum, New Jersey.

Read more at Wikipedia

Further reading
Holland’s First Navy Contract – the Plunger – Undersea Warfare, U.S. Navy

History of Submarine




“History by apprising [citizens] of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.” –Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia


America remember and honor your history – it will give direction,
purpose and security to your future.



Other events This Day In History – March 17


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