History, Holidays & Observances on January 2, the 9th Day of Christmas

9th Day of Christmas; Feast of Sts. Basil & Gregory, the Reconquista of Christian Lands, 2nd Battle of Trenton, Big Bottom Indian Massacre, Barbarian Migration into Rome, Luna I Spacecraft, the Yorkshire Ripper, and more.

Holidays and Observances on January 2

Today is the 9th Day of Christmas

Feasts of Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, a Memorial

Today is celebrated the Feasts of two Saints, Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen. Both lived in 4th century in what is today Turkey. Both are “Doctors of the Church,” people who made seminal philosophical and academic contributions to the Church.

St. Basil was a 4th century bishop in Caesarea. He argued strenuously and successfully in support of the Nicean Creed at a time when its acceptance was under attack. His work with the poor and underprivileged became legend.

Perhaps his most lasting influence was on monasticism. Having stayed in several monasteries, he rejected their severe austerity and developed his own doctrine for monastic life. “Not only is Basil recognised as the father of Eastern monasticism; historians recognize that his legacy extends also to the Western church, largely due to his influence on Saint Benedict.”

St. Gregory Nazianzen was a 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained speaker and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials.

Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of Trinitarian theology among both Greek- and Latin-speaking theologians, and he is remembered as the “Trinitarian Theologian”. Much of his theological work continues to influence modern theologians, especially in regard to the relationship among the three Persons of the Trinity. Along with the two brothers, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, he is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers

Major Events on January 2

1492 – Ferdinand and Isabella complete the Reconquista

Muslim invasions of Europe to impose Islam by the sword had begun early in the 8th century and continued for a millennium. The longest lasting of those invasions was the Umayyad conquest of Spain and Portugal in 711. The Arab invaders renamed the land al Andalus and imposed Sharia law, treating non-Muslims in their lands as dhimmi and subjecting them to a special tax, the jizya.

The Christian natives’ efforts to reclaim their land – the Reconquista – began with the Battle of Covadonga in about 722. It proceeded slowly after that, but by 1248, the Muslims had been driven from all of Spain and Portugal but for the Emirate of Granada.

In 1481, the Sultan of Granada launched a surprise attack against the Christian town of Zahara, looting the town and enslaving the population. Among the Christians surrounding the area, a great clamor arose to punish the Muslims. A local militia seized Alhama, then held the town against a siege by Muslim forces.

What started as a punitive expedition turned into the final act of the Reconquista when King Ferdinand arrived in Alhama in 1482 and formally took command. By 1490, all that remained of the Muslim holdings was the city of Granada. Muslim appeals for help from the Muslim world fell on deaf ears, as those other Muslim kingdoms were involved in their own wars. Eight months after the siege began, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain surrendered in 1491. The Treaty of Granada gave the Muslims until this date in 1492 to formally relinquish the city, completing the Reconquista.

1777 – American Revolution: 2nd Battle of Trenton (Battle of the Assunpink Creek)

In the aftermath of the Continental’s game-changing victory Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, Washington and his officers surmised that the British would immediately try a strong counterattack to erase the American victory.

Before he could respond to a British counterattack or dream of getting to New Brunswick, Washington’s immediate practical problem was the same as it had been on Christmas Day. The majority of his army was on one year enlistments and their term of service would end on January 1.

On December 30, Washington gathered together his army. The same group of men who, beaten and battered, had survived into December on pure determination alone, had regained confidence with their victory at Trenton. But where they willing to still carry on beyond their enlistments?

Washington made a plea to these soldiers. He first asked his men to stay under arms for one month longer for a bounty of ten dollars. Not a man moved. Washington then wheeled his horse around and rode in front of his troops. Records of what he said next have passed down:

“My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay only one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty and to your country which you probably never can do under any other circumstances.

That did it. After a short pause, the men of Washington’s Continental army stepped forward virtually en masse. They would stay and fight.

Washington and his officers were correct. When news of the calamity of Trenton reached the British Commander Lord Howe, he immediately dispatched Lord Cornwallis from New York City with 9,000 men to launch a counterattack against the Continentals.

Washington, with his army intact, sent out a covering force of riflemen under Col. Edward Hand to harass and slow the British advance. Meanwhile, Washington put his main body in a defensive position dug in along Assunpink Creek, near to Trenton and protecting a bridge along the road into the town.

Cornwallis, passing through Princeton, divided his force, leaving a 1,400 man rearguard to stay between Washington and New Brunswick. From that point on, Washington’s covering force did its job admirably, firing upon the British, forcing them into battle formation, and then withdrawing to new positions. It slowed the British march significantly. By 3 p.m. this day, Hand’s troops had taken up a final position just outside of Washington’s main body

As Hand’s troops came to the creek, the Hessians charged at them with bayonets fixed, causing chaos among the Americans. Washington, seeing the chaos, rode out through the crowd of men crossing the bridge, and shouted that Hand’s rear guard pull back and regroup under the cover of the American artillery.

As the British prepared to attack the American defenses, cannon and musket fire was exchanged between the opposing sides. The British moved across the bridge, advancing in solid columns, and the Americans all fired together. The British fell back, but only for a moment. The British charged the bridge again, but were driven back by cannon fire. The British charged one final time, but the Americans fired canister shot this time, and the British lines were raked with fire. One soldier said, “The bridge looked red as blood, with their killed and wounded and their red coats.”

Cornwallis halted when he came upon the scene and called a council of war.

Cornwallis’ quartermaster general, William Erskine, urged Cornwallis to strike right away, saying “If Washington is the General I take him to be, his army will not be found there in the morning.” But Gen. James Grant disagreed, and argued that there was no way for the Americans to retreat, and that the British troops were worn out, and that it would be better for them to attack in the morning after they had rested. Cornwallis . . . decided that it would be better than sending his troops out to attack in the dark. Cornwallis said, “We’ve got the old fox safe now. We’ll go over and bag him in the morning.” Cornwallis then moved his army to a hill north of Trenton for the night

Erskine was right. Washington had no intention of staying in that defensive position. It had served to bloody the British and stop their counterattack, but the creek was fordable upstream, something Cornwallis surely would have found by the morning and then sent a force to flank the Americans.  Still, during the night, Washington called a council of war and asked officers whether they should stand and fight, attempt to cross the river somewhere, or take the back roads to attack Princeton.  They agreed that the best option was to attack Princeton.

Washington left two of his cannon and several hundred men in position along the creek. Throughout the night, the cannon fired towards the British while the line soldiers appeared to be digging in trenches. Washington, meanwhile, withdrew with his main body, wrapping the wagon wheels with rags so the British would not hear them. Near dawn, the cannon and other soldiers withdrew as well, following the main body.

When Cornwallis sent his soldiers on the attack the next morning, they found the American defenses empty. Washington’s army had slipped by them in the night. Washington was headed towards Princeton..

1791 – Lenape and Wyandot warriors massacre settlers at Big Bottom, starting the Northwest Indian War.

After the Revolutionary War, the fledgling United States reduced its massive war debt by selling to settlers title to land west of the Appalachian mountains that the U.S. had secured by war and treaty from the Indians and Britain. One such area was in the Ohio Country. One group of settlers that had purchased land in the area moved into the Ohio Valley, but had ended up setting up camp in an area a few miles outside of the correct area.

On this day in 1791, a group of Lenape and Wyandot warriors fell upon that group of settlers in what became known as the Big Bottom Massacre. They murdered at least eleven men, one woman, and two children and captured three settlers, with at least one dying later, while four others escaped into the woods.

Before the massacre, President Washington had sent two military expeditions into the Ohio country to deal with a renegade Indian activity. After the massacre, Washington dispatched to the area an army under General “Mad” Anthony Wayne to fight a full-scale war that became known as the Northwest Indian War. The Indians gained support from the British in Canada. After a series of battles, Wayne decisively defeated the Indians in 1794 at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Notable Events on January 2

366 – Early in the Migration Period of barbarian tribes invading into the Roman Empire, ushering in the Dark Ages, the Alemanni, a group of Germanic tribes, crossed the frozen Rhine this day in large numbers.

1942 – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obtains the conviction of 33 members of a German spy ring headed by Fritz Joubert Duquesne in the largest espionage case in United States history—the Duquesne Spy Ring. No word yet from the MSM on whether they were operating on behalf of the Trump administration.

1959 – The Soviets launch their spacecraft Luna 1. It becomes the first spacecraft launched by humans . . of earth . . . to reach the vicinity of the Moon and to orbit the Sun.

1975 – For hundreds of years, courts in England, Britain, and then the U.S. applied common law rules to regulate what evidence could be admitted in Court. These rules were codified on this date when the United States Congress approved the Federal Rules of Evidence. Don’t anyone tell Democrats, but hearsay evidence standing alone, such as I heard someone say about the President’s phone call . . . is not allowed in any trial.

1981 – One of the largest investigations by a British police force ends when serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, the “Yorkshire Ripper”, is arrested in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Miss BWR was a student at Leeds in 1981, only a short time after Sutcliffe’s arrest. She was living in the same apartment complex where Jacqueline Hill had lived and just around the corner from where Sutcillife, in 1980, had killed Hill. Miss BWR informs me that she inadvertently once walked down the road on which Hill died and found it so eerie she never again went near it.

Born on January 2

1727 – James Wolfe, a gifted English General whom Prime Minister William Pitt the Commoner controversially picked to command in North America during the French & Indian War. In 1759, Wolf led the British in a successful assault on Quebec, defeating the French in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

1909 – Barry Goldwater was the politician who sparked the American conservative movement in the 1960’s. He was a principled man who lost the 1964 election against the very unprincipled LBJ. Having said that, Goldwater could on occasion be his own worst enemy. In 1964, at the height of the civil rights movement, Goldwater came out against the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the Constitutional grounds of federalism. He was may have been right about that, but was surely as politically tin-eared. His stance drove blacks, who still remembered the Democrat Party’s slave and racist history, fully into the radical embrace of the modern Democrat Party.

Died on January 2

1904 – James Longstreet, a gifted general of the Confederate Army and one of the few Confederate officers rehabilitated during his lifetime. Longstreet was a professional soldier. When the Civil War started, he resigned his commission and was given a commission as a general in the Confederate Army. Longstreet served throughout the war ably in many of the major battles of the war. After the war, he became a Republican and served the U.S. government and his old friend, President Ulysses S. Grant as a diplomat and civil servant.

2000 – Elmo Zumwalt, an admiral who rose to be the Chief of Naval Operations during the Vietnam War. After the war, his son became ill in the 1980’s and required a bone marrow transplant. Zumwalt’s daughter was able to donate, but Zumwalt, seeing how difficult it was for others to find bone marrow transplants, actively and successfully lobbied Congress to establish the National Marrow Donor Program.

Header image: Detail from Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West, 1770.