It is the twentieth day of the fourth month of the Gregorian calendar. The date 4/20 is of particular note because…
* Today, the territory of Wisconsin was created, in 1836. It’s a beautiful state if you have a taste for sweeping agricultural vistas, and the big north woods. If you’re going to go explore, leave your Mary Janes at home and wear some hardy hiking boots.
* Today, in 1861, Robert E. Lee resigned from the U.S. Army to serve as senior military advisor in the newly established confederacy. His tactical intelligence nearly thwarted the union at several points, but his decisive defeat at Gettysberg marked a turning point. When the new Union Commander, Ulysses Grant took control, Lee’s forces could not sustain their losses, and the North won the war. Many Southern states still have their nose out of joint about that.
* Today, in 1770, Captain Cook allegedly discovered Australia (with a band of interesting fellows who got some ambitious notions about how things ought to go when their Captain tromped off to explore for awhile) Bill Bryson, in his book ‘A Sunburnt Country’ points out that this discovery was a bit less trail-breaking then it sounds:
“At some undetermined point in the great immensity of its past—perhaps 45,000 years ago, perhaps 60,000, but certainly before there were modern humans in the Americas or Europe—it was quietly invaded by a deeply inscrutable people, the Aborigines, who have no clearly evident racial or linguistic kinship to their neighbors in the region, and whose presence in Australia can only be explained by positing that they invented and mastered ocean- going craft at least 30,000 years in advance of anyone else, in order to undertake an exodus, then forgot or abandoned nearly all that they had learned and scarcely ever bothered with the open sea again.
It is an accomplishment so singular and extraordinary, so uncomfortable with scrutiny, that most histories breeze over it in a paragraph or two, then move on to the second, more explicable invasion—the one that begins with the arrival of Captain James Cook and his doughty little ship HMS Endeavour in Botany Bay in 1770. Never mind that Captain Cook didn’t discover Australia and that he wasn’t even yet a captain at the time of his visit. For most people, including most Australians, this is where the story begins.”
Yup. Our intrepid (proprietary) European Might !! sort of takes a hit against the backdrop of historical accuracy.
* On this day in 1889, Adolf Hitler was born. Approximately 50 years later, all of Europe went to pot. Seriously, you couldn’t get a decent latke if your life depended on it. Between 8 and 11 million peoples’ lives did depend upon a reasonable and basically decent political culture. They died while friends, neighbors and family members stood by, paralyzed by fear.
Happy birthday, dolfo. If there’s such a thing as Hell, you’re gonna have trouble blowing out your candles.
* On this day, in 1916, Wrigley field opened in Chicago. Gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. was the team owner at the time. The site of the stadium was previously home to a Chicago Federal League team, the Chicago Whales, but has been home to the Cubs since then. Sometimes they smoke their opponents, and sometimes their opponent smokes them, but it’s generally agreed upon that the hotdogs are decent, regardless.