Today in History: March 16

Every
Year
March 16 is the 75th day of the year (76th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 290 days remaining until the end of the year.
Every
Year
Day of the Book Smugglers (Lithuania)
1322 The Battle of Boroughbridge (Despenser War)

The Battle of Boroughbridge was a battle fought on March 16, 1322 between King Edward II of England and a group of rebellious barons, near Boroughbridge, Yorkshire. The battle was not in itself a part of the Wars of Scottish Independence, but was significant for its employment of tactics learned in the Scottish wars in a domestic English conflict. Both the extensive use of foot soldiers rather than cavalry, and the heavy impact caused by the longbow, represented significant steps in military developments.

The Royal forces of 4,000 soldiers were led by Andrew Harclay, 1st Earl of Carlisle, and Sir John Peche. The Baronial forces of 1,000 soldiers were led by Thomas of Lancaster, 2nd Earl of Leicester and Lancaster (Edward II’s first cousin and most powerful subject); Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford; and Roger de Clifford, 2nd Baron de Clifford, 2nd Lord of Skipton.

The battle resulted in Lancaster’s defeat and execution six days later. The victory allowed Edward to re-establish royal authority, and hold on to power for another five years.

The battle was part of the Despenser War (1321–1322), a baronial revolt against Edward II of England led by the Marcher Lords Roger de Mortimer, 3rd Baron Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, and Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford. The rebellion was fueled by opposition to Hugh le Despenser, 1st Lord Despenser, also known as “the younger Despenser”, the royal favorite. After the rebels’ summer campaign of 1321, Edward was able to take advantage of a temporary peace to rally more support and a successful winter campaign in southern Wales, culminating in royal victory at the battle of Boroughbridge. Edward’s response to victory was his increasingly harsh rule until his fall from power in 1326.

1751 Born today: James Madison (March 16, 17511–June 28, 1836, age 85)

Colonel James Madison, Jr. was a political theorist, American statesman, and the fourth President of the United States (March 4, 1809–March 4, 1817). He is often called the “Father of the Constitution” for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Madison was the youngest delegate to the Continental Congress (1780–1783) and served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1784–1786) prior to the Constitutional Convention (May 25–September 17, 1787). After the Convention, he became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify it, both in Virginia and nationally. His collaboration with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay produced The Federalist Papers, among the most important treatises in support of the Constitution.

Madison changed his political views during his life. During deliberations on the Constitution, he favored a strong national government, but later preferred stronger state governments, before settling between the two extremes late in his life.

In 1789, Madison became a leader in the new House of Representatives. He is noted for drafting the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and so is known also as the “Father of the Bill of Rights”. He worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Hamilton and the Federalist Party in 1791, he and Thomas Jefferson organized the Democratic-Republican Party. In response to the Alien and Sedition Acts, Jefferson and Madison drafted the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions arguing that states can nullify unconstitutional laws.

As Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the nation’s size. Madison succeeded Jefferson as President in 1809, was re-elected in 1813, and presided over renewed prosperity for several years. After the failure of diplomatic protests and a trade embargo against Britain, he led the U.S. into the War of 1812. The war was an administrative morass, as the U.S. had neither a strong army nor financial system. As a result, Madison afterward supported a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank, which he had long opposed.

1 At the time Madison was born, the Julian calendar (commonly called “Old Style”) was in effect in the U.S., making his birth date March 5, 1751. In the Gregorian calendar (commonly called “New Style”), the equivalent date is March 16, 1751. The U.S., which was part of the British Empire at the time it used the Julian calendar, typically translates notable events that happened prior to the transition into New Style date.

1903 Died today: Roy Bean (c. 1825–March 16, 1903, age 77–78)

The Jersey Lilly, Langtry, Texas (1900)

Judge Roy Bean, the “Law West of the Pecos”, holding court at The Jersey Lilly in Langtry, Texas in 1900, trying a horse thief. Bean is in the center of the photograph, sitting on a barrel and holding open his law book. The thief is sitting on a horse underneath the “Ice Beer” sign, with his hands behind his back. This building was a courthouse and a saloon. [National Archives and Records Administration, ID: 530985]

1916 Born today: Tsutomu Yamaguchi (March 16, 1916–January 4, 2010, age 93)

Tsutomu Yamaguchi (山口 彊, Yamaguchi Tsutomu) was either the luckiest — or the unluckiest — person that ever lived. He survived both the Hiroshima and the Nagasaki atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II. At least 160 people are known to have been affected by both bombings, but Yamaguchi is the only person officially recognized by the Japanese government as surviving both explosions.

Yamaguchi lived and worked in Nagasaki, but in the summer of 1945 he was in Hiroshima for a three-month-long business trip for his employer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, where he had worked as a draftsman designing oil tankers since the 1930s.

On August 6 he was preparing to leave the city and was on his way to the station when he realized he had forgotten his hanko (a stamp allowing him to travel) and returned to his workplace to get it. At 8:15 a.m., he was walking back toward the docks when the American bomber Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb near the center of the city, only 3 km away. He recalled seeing the bomber and two small parachutes, before there was “a great flash in the sky, and I was blown over.” The explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious burns over the left side of the top half of his body.

Yamaguchi returned to Nagasaki on August 7. In Nagasaki, he received treatment for his wounds, and despite being heavily bandaged, he reported for work on August 9. At 11:00 a.m., he was describing the blast in Hiroshima to his supervisor, who told him that he was crazy, when the American bomber Bockscar dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb over the city. Again, his job put him 3 km from ground zero, but this time he was uninjured by the explosion. However, he was unable to replace his now ruined bandages, and he suffered from a high fever for more than a week.

When the Japanese government officially recognized atomic bomb survivors as hibakusha (“explosion-affected person”) in 1957, Yamaguchi’s identification stated only that he had been present at Nagasaki. He was content with this, satisfied that he was relatively healthy, and put the experiences behind him.

At first, Yamaguchi did not feel the need to draw attention to his double survivor status. However, in later life he began to consider his survival as destiny, so in January 2009, he applied for double recognition. This was accepted by the Japanese government in March 2009, making Yamaguchi the only person officially recognized as a survivor of both bombings. Speaking of the recognition, he said, “My double radiation exposure is now an official government record. It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die.”

He died of stomach cancer on January 4, 2010, at the age of 93.

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