This Day in History – November 11th

1813 – A group of British regulars and Canadian militia defeat a larger American force near Cornwall, Ontario in the Battle of Crysler’s Farm – In summer 1813, the War of 1812 was still raging between the British and the United States. New York Senator and Secretary of War John Armstrong, Jr. devised a plan to end the war by cutting Canada in two. They would take Montreal in Lower Canada (as Quebec was then called), and the more sparsely populated Upper Canada (Ontario) would fall. His plan involved two waves of US troops approaching Montreal: from the southwest via Sackets Harbor, New York, and from the southeast via Plattsburgh, New York. His plan was not without its problems. First, the generals in charge of both divisions, James Wilkinson and Wade Hampton, didn’t like or trust one another. Furthermore, their troops were ill-prepared and under-supplied. So dysfunctional were Hampton and Wilkinson that Armstrong left Washington to lead the command from Sackets Harbor himself. In mid-October, while Wilkinson’s forces to the west were still not at the ready, Hampton began the slow trek north. As about 1,000 of his troops were launching a flanking attack, Hampton received a letter from Armstrong, who had seen firsthand how unprepared the US Army was for the attack. The letter said he was returning to Washington, Wilkinson was now in charge and Hampton should probably build a fort for the winter. For Hampton, it was too late to retreat, and the result in the east was a victory by the Canadian militia and their Mohawk allies at the Battle of the Chateauguay on Oct. 26, 1813. Autumn rains were stopping up what rough roads there were and, depleted of supplies, Hampton retreated to Plattsburgh. As a result, there were no reinforcements for Wilkinson, who suffered over 400 casualties (102 killed, 237 wounded and 120 captured) at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm against 900 British soldiers and Canadian militia in eastern Ontario on this date in 1813. Wilkinson’s nearly 8,000 troops retreated, and the threat to Montreal was ended.

1918 – Germany signs an armistice with the Allies outside Compiègne, France – By the end of September 1918, Imperial Germany’s Army commanders could see the writing on the wall: Germany, which was in the early stages of a political revolution, had no hope of victory in France. German General Erich Ludendorff saw it was only a matter of time before their lines were breached and called on his leader Kaiser Wilhelm II to approve a ceasefire with the “Triple Entente” of the British Empire, the Russian Empire and France (whose allies also included the United States, Italy, Japan and Romania). In early November, German representatives travelled by train to the isolated forest of Compiègne in Northern France. There, French Commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch arranged for a regal train car that had once belonged to Napoleon III to be the site of the signing of the armistice, on this date in 1918. The symbolism was clear: French military might from the previous century had returned once more. Demands the Germans agreed to included a retreat to within their own borders and complete demilitarization. Although the armistice, signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations before the Treaty of Versailles officially ended the war on June 28, 1919. Meanwhile, Wilhelm went into exile in the Netherlands. The train car where the armistice was signed remained in place for over 20 years, a monument to when “succumbed the criminal pride of the German Reich… vanquished by the free peoples which it tried to enslave.” When Nazi Germany invaded France during World War II, Adolf Hitler insisted that the French sign a surrender armistice in the same location, on the same train car, on June 22, 1940. The monument was largely destroyed by the Germans, however after the conclusion of World War II, it was restored once more and Clairière de l’Armistice, or, Armistice Clearing, still exists to this day.

1992 – Church of England votes to allow women priests – The Anglican Church of Canada has moved somewhat faster than its Church of England counterpart when it comes to permitting women to be ordained a priests. The Canadian Anglican Church ordained its first female priest in 1976. On this date in 1992, a year before the Canadian church decided to permit women to become bishops, after a five-and-a-half hour debate, the Church of England narrowly decided to allow female priests by a margin of only two votes. The Church of England had previously only allowed women to serve as deacons, meaning they could perform baptisms, marriages, and burials, but not give communion or administer any of the other sacraments. Dr. George Carey, then the Archbishop of Canterbury, who supported the change, said, “what binds us together in God’s love as a Church is vastly more important than a disagreement about women’s ordination.” However, many opponents to the change vowed to leave the church and form breakaway groups in response. Government minister Ann Widdecombe was a vocal opponent to the change who converted to Roman Catholicism in response. She said the Church of England was “promoting political correctness above the very clear teachings of Scripture.” The Church of England ordained it first female priests in March 1994 and within six years there were about 1,700 women working as Anglican priests within it.

2004 – Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat dies in Paris – On this date in 2004 it was announced that longtime Palestinian leader and Nobel laureate Yasser Arafat had died of an apparent stroke in a military hospital near Paris, France, at the age of 75. For most of his last three years, he had essentially been a prisoner held under house arrest by Israeli authorities in his partially-destroyed compound in Ramallah. Arafat, who had led the people of Palestine for over 40 years, had been moved from Ramallah, Palestine to France towards the end of October 2004 as his health deteriorated. He fell into a coma on Nov. 3 and then suffered a brain haemorrhage on Nov. 9. Some Palestinian military groups claimed he had been poisoned by Israel, however both Israel and doctors rejected those claims. Since the 1950s, Arafat had been the public face of Palestinian opposition to Israel. His funeral took place in Cairo on Nov. 12, and he was later buried back in Ramallah. Authorities in the Palestinian territories announced 40 days of mourning in response to the news of Arafat’s death, while longtime PLO deputy Mahmoud Abbas claimed leadership of the organization. French President Jacques Chirac called Arafat “a man of courage and conviction who for 40 years incarnated the Palestinians’ fight for recognition of their national rights.”

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