November 29, 1830– Polish nationalists rise up against the Russian occupiers in one of their many glorious but hopeless efforts to gain freedom. In America, literary figures like Hawthorne, Poe, Longfellow and Morse were terribly moved and wrote epic poems, but not much was done to help. Edgar Allen Poe, in an opium-induced delirium ran out of his Bronx cottage and marched up and down the street with a musket in his hand shouting: "To Warsaw! To Warsaw!" Luckily the local constable was well aware of Mr. Poe’s eccentricities and sent him home to bed.
November 30, 1750 Marshal Saxe dies in his chateau at Chambord. The victorious one-eyed old General was given the beautiful estate of Chambord by Louis XV as a retirement home. An illegitimate son of Polish King Augustus the Strong, Saxe spent the summer nights camping out cossack-style and letting wild steppe ponies gallop the castle grounds. An incurable ladies man, he died after an all night "interview" with eight actresses. The king’s physician wrote as the cause of death ; "Une surfeit des femmes." 1954– Mrs. Elizabeth Hodges of Sylacauga Alabama was hit by a meteorite. It shot through her roof, bounced off a radio and hit her on the hip. It gave her a nasty bruise but not much else.
December 1, 1869 Sir William MacDougal was sent by Ottawa to take over the administration of Prince Rupertland, now the Canadian province of Manitoba. His problem was that the local population of French trappers, Indians and half-breeds had already declared themselves the independent Metis Republic under their leader Louis Riel. MacDougal had to sneak across the border from the U.S. at midnight. Avoiding Metis patrols his party stopped at an abandoned Hudson’s Bay trading post where they raised the Union Jack in the darkness and MacDougal read his Royal Proclamation to an audience of seven aides and two hunting dogs. Then they crept back over the border to the U.S. to a healthy dose of razzing from Yankee cowboys. The British Army arrived next spring and established order but by then MacDougal had been recalled.
December 2, 1896 Most people today remember Wyatt Earp as the marshal of Dodge City and a winner of the 1881 OK Corral gunfight. He was better known to his people of his own generation as the referee of the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey Heavyweight Championship prizefight held on this date. After leaving Tombstone Arizona, Wyatt Earp drifted to San Francisco where his skills as a fight referee were called upon for this last of the big bare-knuckle bouts. He enraged the public when he declared the fight for Sharkey in the 3rd round after Big Bob Fitzsimmons couldn’t stop bleeding. More people were out to kill him over this decision than had ever been out to get him when marshal of Dodge City. He quickly pulled up stakes in San Francisco after the fight, going to the Yukon for the gold rush. He was all but forgotten until a cheap book titled Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal was published in 1920. He died in Los Angeles in 1929 selling real estate and advising movie companies on how to shoot their westerns.
December 3, 1984 An accident at a Union Carbide facility in Bhopal, India fills the air with poison gasses that kill 10,000 people and blind or otherwise injure another 200,000. No one was ever tried or convicted for the tragedy. Saintly Mother Theresa showed a more complex side of her nature when she publicly encouraged Indians to accept the disaster as "God’s Will". She never criticized large corporations that gave grants to her mission.
December 4, 1915 HENRY FORD’S PEACE SHIP-The great industrialist was a livelong pacifist and was horrified by the carnage of the Great War. On this day he equips a large yacht with neutral diplomats and other famous personages like Thomas Edison and sets sail for Europe. Pundits have fun mocking his homespun naivete and local lunatics like Urban Ledoux, aka Mr. Zero, jump into New York Harbor and swarm alongside the ship "to ward off hostile torpedoes." Ford eventually docked in Oslo harbor, hoping to use his influence to get the Kaiser, the Tsar and the other crowned heads to a bargaining table like some kind of board of directors. Nobody would meet with him. Young N.Y. politician Fiorello LaGuardia noted: "The only boy he managed to save from the trenches was his own son."
December 5, 1484 Pope Innocent VIII raises the practice of Witchcraft from a minor sin to a major heresy. Included in the definition of witchcraft is any remaining vestiges of local pagan customs, herbalism or treating illnesses with home grown medicines. He ordered the Holy Office of the Inquisition to look into all cases. From 1484 to 1750 as many as 200,000 people die in Europe and America as a result.