#TodayInHistory – January 224 min read
January 22 – Some important events on this day
1371 👉🏼 King Robert II of Scotland (1371-90) is crowned, becoming the first monarch of the House of Stewart
1506 👉🏼 The first contingent of 150 Swiss Guards arrive at the Vatican
1510 👉🏼 Jews are expelled from Colmar, Alsace
1584 👉🏼 Parts of Switzerland adopt Gregorian calendar (& parts in 1812)
1689 👉🏼 Prince William of Orange (future King William III of Britain), summons Convention Parliament to discuss ruling jointly with his wife Mary (daughter of exiled King James II)
1857 👉🏼 National Association of Baseball Players founded in New York
1879 👉🏼 Battle of Rorke’s Drift: British garrison of 150 holds off 3,000-4,000 Zulu warriors. Eleven Victoria Crosses and a number of other decorations were awarded to the defenders.
The Battle of Rorke’s Drift took place in South Africa on this day and is remembered as one of the world’s most remarkable military engagements.
Britain was intent on expanding its territory and influence in South Africa in the 1870s and had declared war on the Kingdom of Zululand. Rorke’s Drift was a mission station near the border between the British colony of Natal and the Zulu Kingdom and had been occupied by British troops. When the battle began, though, only 139 soldiers were encamped there, and they had no idea what lay in store.
At 4.20pm on this day a force of 4,000 Zulu warriors began to lay siege to the station. Their intermittent attacks were to last for almost twelve hours.
Fortunately for the British, although some of the Zulus had old muskets and antiquated rifles, most were armed only with a short spear called an assegai and a shield made of cowhide. So in weaponry they were no match for the highly trained soldiers with their (then) sophisticated rifles and firepower. But the manpower advantage lay massively in favour of the Zulus.
By 4am, after nearly 12 hours repulsing wave after wave of attacks involving hand-to-hand combat, a number of British soldiers lay dead. Most of the others were exhausted, rapidly running out of ammunition, and probably in no condition to repel another assault. However, as dawn broke they saw that the Zulus were gone, leaving behind a battleground littered with the dead and dying. Zulu casualties were around 500, while the British sustained 17 dead and 10 wounded.
The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest medal for bravery. Eleven were awarded to the defenders of Rorke’s Drift, the most ever received in a single action by one regiment.
1905 👉🏼 In St Petersburg, Russia, a large demonstration of workers led by Father Gapon, march to the Winter Palace with a petition to the Tsar; troops fire on protesters in what becomes known as ‘Bloody Sunday’.
By 1905, the ageing Russian autocracy was a system in terminal decline. Strikes, unrest and mutiny sprang up across the vast Russian landscape where, for centuries, the bulk of the peasant population had been told that the Tsar was a saintly father figure; inviolable, all-powerful and divinely appointed.
Demonstrations in St. Petersburg on this day helped to shatter this illusion. Tsarist soldiers opened fire on protesters, killing 140-240 people. The crowd had been pro-Tsar, carrying pictures and banners of Tsar Nicholas II, and only wished to present a petition to him. This event, Bloody Sunday, sparked the revolution and helped turn the tide against the autocracy.
By its conclusion the revolution had succeeded only partially in dismantling the complete absolutist system that ruled over Russia. The October Manifesto and the constitution of 1906 established a State Duma and a multi-party system, but the Tsar retained great power for himself.
The reforms quelled the immediate protests, but the House of Romanov would last scarcely another decade before it collapsed in the 1917 revolution.
1908 👉🏼 Katie Mulcahey is arrested for lighting a cigarette, violating the 1-day old “Sullivan Ordinance” banning women from smoking in public, and is fined $5. Appearing before the judge she stated “I’ve got as much right to smoke as you have. I never heard of this new law, and I don’t want to hear about it. No man shall dictate to me.”
1973 👉🏼 Roe vs Wade: US Supreme Court legalizes most abortions
1991 👉🏼 Kuwaiti oil facilities are destroyed by Iraqi forces.
2020 👉🏼 China locks down the city of Wuhan and its 11 million people, in an effort to control COVID-19 with a then official death toll of 17 and over 500 people ill