This Day in History – April 12 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight


NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.




1204 – Constantinople sacked.

Crusaders from the 4th Crusade laid siege, captured, and looted another Christian city. The original intent of the 4th Crusade was to liberate Jerusalem from Muslim control, but the riches of the Byzantine capital lured them instead, ostensibly to pay for the crusade. There was mistrust between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic religions, despite the fact that they should have been allies due to Constantinople standing as a bulwark against any invading Muslim armies from the east.

After the capture of the city, three days of carnage followed. Thousands of civilians were brutally killed, many women, even nuns, were raped, churches were destroyed and religious relics stolen. Their lust and greed satisfied, the momentum of the 4th Crusade dissipated. The quest to free Jerusalem was abandoned as the 4th Crusade marched home with their riches. Eight hundred years later Pope John Paul II issued an apology to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Hey, one can’t reasonably expect a holy quest to stand in the way of getting rich.


1862 – The Great Train Chase.

One of the more inspired and creative episodes of the Civil War. James Andrews was a house painter and singing coach turned Union spy. He concocted a plan to steal a Rebel train and drive it from Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee where a Union army was poised to attack. Along the way he would destroy tracks and bridges preventing the Rebels from resupplying the besieged city. Andrews and twenty-four men, many of them professional railroad workers, dressed in civilian clothes, infiltrated the South in small groups. Their cover story, if asked, was they were going to Atlanta to enlist. Several, after telling their story, were taken to local recruiting stations and had to join the Confederate army. The remaining raiders reconvened at a small station in Georgia, chosen because it had no telegraph line. While the crew and passengers were having breakfast in a cafe, they uncoupled the passenger cars and took off with the train, named the General. There was the engine, a tender, and a boxcar filled with raiders.

There was disbelief back at the cafe and two members of the original crew took great umbrage at this dastardly theft. They gave chase on foot, then found a handcar and continued pursuit with that. The chase would go on for eighty-seven miles over seven hours. Things began to go wrong for the raiders. They were heading north and encountered more traffic than expected. Pulling onto sidings to allow southbound trains to pass allowed the pursuers, who had commandeered another engine, the Texas, to gain on them. They did not have the proper tools to uproot the tracks behind them, nor enough time to burn bridges. When they stopped to refuel with wood and water for the steam engine, they said they were delivering gunpowder for Gen. Beauregard. Their story was met with skepticism so they could not tarry long enough to take on adequate supplies.

Soon the pursuers, joined now by Rebel soldiers, were within rifle shot. Out of options, the raiders abandoned the General and tried to escape into the countryside but all were rounded up. James Andrews and seven of his men were hung as spies. The rest were put in prison and some later escaped and the rest were released through prisoner exchanges.

Although not successful in the manner intended, it still goes down as one of the most adventuresome raids of the Civil War.


1945 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies.

After  slightly over twelve years in office, at the start of his 4th term, FDR, while in Warm Springs, Georgia, suffered a stroke and died. He had served through the difficult days of the Depression and WWII and the strain had taken its toll on his already handicapped body.

Roosevelt served as president longer than anyone else, and his reputation has reached near mythical status, so it’s stunning to realize he was sixty-three years old when he died. It just seems he should have been much much older.

Quiz time: FDR had three different Vice Presidents. Which one of these was not his VP?

  1. John Garner
  2. Henry Stimson
  3. Harry Truman
  4. Henry Wallace


1975 – Strand Bar bombing.

The bar in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was frequented by Catholics. The attackers were from a Protestant loyalist paramilitary group. The bar was filled with a mostly elderly crowd that evening when a bomb was thrown inside and the building sprayed with bullets. The explosion killed six and wounded fifty, many of them seriously. The IRA and Brits had entered into a truce, negotiations had begun, and the loyalists were afraid of what they had to lose. The strategy worked, as the IRA retaliated with its own bombing of Protestant bars and the Troubles were back on. It wasn’t until 1998 that a peace agreement was accepted by the warring factions.

“Great pub night or day, the service is excellent, food served all day and the pizzas are fantastic, we always have a great night.” Current review of the Strand Bar. I don’t know if this was a Catholic or Protestant reviewer, however.



1928 – Brooklyn Supreme.

Brooklyn Supreme - Draft Horse Comparison - Composite - Postcard with Sari ONeal - Shutterstock

Belgian stallion (photo left). Believed to have been the world’s largest horse. It stood 19 and 1/2 hands high and weighed 3,200 pounds.

Contrast the size of Brooklyn Supreme with the second photo of a normal size draft horse (above).

My grandmother’s farm still used a team of draft horses, King and Maude, when I was very young. We called them work horses.

draft horse - gary jenneke

That’s me on King, while not as large as Brooklyn Supreme, still seemed pretty big to me. My uncle holds him, with my father walking alongside.


1947 – David Letterman. Late night talk show host.

Have to admit that I never watched him. Nothing against him, I just never have gotten into late night talk shows. Too many commercials, too much wasted time for the occasional gem or reward. The last time I watched the Tonight Show was when Tiny Tim got married on it. Coincidentally, born in 1932, Tiny Tim shares a birthday with David Letterman.


Answer to quiz. Henry Stimson. Republican politician who served in both Republican and Democrat administrations.



At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at



The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers:


We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (Brooklyn Supreme Postcard) – Composite of Postcard Photos from eBay auction; Postcard Purchased by NewsWhistle, eBay Item No. 132956973559, “‘Brooklyn Supreme—World’s Largest Horse” RPPC-Sized Photo OGDEN Iowa—Antique”

* FDR Dies, 1945 (video) – The Newsreel Archive /

* Composite: Brooklyn Supreme / Draft Horse Drinking (photo) – Photo of Brooklyn Supreme Postcard (for eBay Auction), Postcard Purchased by NewsWhistle, eBay Item No. 132956973559, “‘Brooklyn Supreme—World’s Largest Horse” RPPC-Sized Photo OGDEN Iowa—Antique”; Belgian Draft Horse Drinking Stock Photo – Sari ONeal /

* Draft Horse Family Photo – Gary Jenneke

* David Letterman (video) – NBC, CBS & /

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio /