On this day in 456 – (1,560 years ago) – in the ancient Italian city of Ravenna, the army general Remistus, who had become one of the most powerful political figures in the Western Roman Empire under the emperor Avitus, was captured and assassinated by agents of his own subordinate, a lieutenant named Ricimer, who coveted his high position. It was just one of the many brutal power struggles so common in the late years of the empire. Only a month later, the emperor Avitus himself was also killed.
On this day in 1862 – (154 years ago) – more than 3,600 soldiers died in the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of fighting in the American Civil War. Another 17,000 were wounded. Meanwhile, on that same afternoon — just outside Pittsburgh, about 140 miles away — more than 150 young women in the main building of the Allegheny Arsenal were working at top speed, hand-manufacturing rifle cartridges for Union troops. As a horse-drawn cart arrived at the arsenal with a new shipment of gunpowder, one of the horses apparently scratched its iron horseshoe against a curbstone or a metal wagon wheel. It created a spark that ignited loose gunpowder in the road, which in turn detonated the barrels of powder on the cart, creating a series of explosions that could be heard miles away. The blast and fire destroyed the arsenal building and killed seventy-eight women workers, many of whom were recent Irish immigrants. Today, the area is a public park that hosts 10K runs and outdoor movies. The actual site of the explosion is now a softball diamond.
On this day in 1908 – (108 years ago) – at Fort Myer, Virginia, a twenty-six-year-old US Army lieutenant named Thomas Selfridge became the first person in the world to die in an airplane accident. Selfridge was an aviation enthusiast who had flown dirigibles, human-carrying kites, and early experimental airplanes, so when Orville Wright came to Fort Myer to demonstrate his newest plane for the Army Signal Corps, Selfridge agreed to be his passenger. Wright and Selfridge were passing over the army post at an altitude of 150 feet when the right-hand propeller suddenly broke. Wright lost control; the plane went into a nosedive and crashed. While Wright was seriously injured with numerous broken bones, Selfridge suffered a broken skull and died a few hours later. Doctors concluded that he could have survived had he worn a crash helmet. Selfridge Air National Guard Base, near Detroit, is named after him.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi