This Day in History – June 11th – 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.




1864 – Battle of Trevillian Station.

This was the largest all cavalry battle in the Civil War. Union forces led by General Sheridan were to destroy rebel railroad facilities and to distract from General Grant’s move south. They were opposed by Confederate cavalry led by Generals Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee. No infantry was involved at all in this two day clash of forces. Being that Sheridan didn’t achieve his objective it was viewed as a Confederate victory, although the battle did detract from Grant’s movement. At one point during the fight, after capturing a supply train, the unit led by Brigadier General George Custer found itself surrounded. Other Union forces arrived to help them fight their way free.

Not the last time Custer would find himself surrounded.


1955 – Le Mans road race.

This annual 24-hour race began in horror. Three hours into the race, a driver trying to make a pit stop swerved in front of another car causing it to brake suddenly. A car behind that, a Mercedes driven by Pierre Levegh at 125 miles per hour, hit it and was catapulted into the crowd. The only barrier between the race track and spectators was straw bales. Levegh was killed instantly as the car broke into three sections, the engine, hood, and chassis, with each section scything through the crowd. The carnage was horrific as the chassis exploded and burned. Besides the driver, the official death toll for spectators was 82, with over a hundred more injured. Spread out as the Le Mans course is, many other spectators were unaware of the accident so race officials decided to continue with the race. Their rationale was they wanted to avoid panic and keep the roads open for the ambulances arriving. The driver of the car that swerved, setting off the accident, Mike Hawthorn, was the eventual winner. An official inquiry absolved any drivers of blame and instead said the course was antiquated for the speed of current cars.

The initial rationale not to cancel the race because of panic was sound, but to continue it another 12-15 hours after that seems callous.


2018 – Immigrant ruling.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions imposed new limits on who can get asylum in the United States. Refugees fleeing from domestic abuse or gang violence would no longer qualify. The woman at the center of the case, who has lived in the U.S. for four years, feared for her life if returned to El Salvador, as do many other abuse victims refugees. Sessions’ intent, he said, was that this message would reach Central America and discourage other such asylum seekers. 

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” If you’re merely being beaten up and in danger for your life, you are not enough of a wretched refuse.   



1572 – Ben Jonson.

Playwright and poet. Not to be confused with  Ben Jonson the film actor or Ben Johnson the disgraced Olympic sprinter. Jonson was an English writer whose popularity rivaled that of Shakespeare. He wrote satirical comedies about the powers that be that often got him into trouble. Born into poverty, he briefly worked as a bricklayer and then served a stint in the army. Fortunately he had received a good education, paid for by an anonymous friend. Jonson had an explosive temper and was always in pen and ink quarrels, and sometimes physical ones. He reportedly killed two men in duels. Although they were friends, Jonson could be critical of Shakespeare, but conceded he had the magic touch. Jonson’s satire twice landed him in prison but his fortunes changed when he became a favorite of King James I. Jonson continued writing until the end of his life in 1637. 

I wonder who the first satirist was. Going back to Greek times? Or some brave soul who dared to poke fun at Nero?


1864 – Richard Strauss.

Composer. Considered a successor to Richard Wagner, Strauss is one of Germany’s leading composers. Born into a musical family (his father was a member in a Munich Orchestra), he wrote his first composition at age six and spent his whole life in music. His work consisted of many types of classical composition but some of his greatest success was in operas. Strauss lived long enough to fall under the influence of the Nazi regime. He was criticized for seemingly collaborating with them. But he had a Jewish daughter-in-law and half-Jewish grandchildren and used his connections to save them. Instead of a concentration camp, members of his family survived the war under house arrest. Even though he personally drove to Theresienstadt concentration camp he was unable to save his daughter-in-laws’ mother and twenty-five other members of her family who were all killed. After the war a tribunal removed all stains from his record. Strauss died in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1949.

It’s always fascinating when I learn something more about a personality than their generally known fame.


1905 – Richard Loeb.

Murderer. Loeb, with his friend, Nathan Leopold, were young men in 1924 when they embarked on a thrill killing. A brilliant child, Loeb finished high school at age 14 and at age 17 was the youngest graduate ever from the University of Michigan. He returned to his home in Chicago and while doing graduate work at the University of Chicago, met another child prodigy, Leopold. Conspiring to commit the perfect crime, they kidnapped and killed fourteen year old Bobby Franks. They were apprehended a week later and confessed. The story became sensationalized and garnered nationwide coverage and fascination. Clarence Darrow defended them and was successful in that he got them off with life sentences rather than the death penalty. Loeb was stabbed to death in prison after he made sexual advances toward another prisoner. Leopold served his sentence until 1958 when he was released on parole.

Brilliant minds derailed. Maturity never had a chance to catch up with them.



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 like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (Conductor’s Baton)  – 18percentgrey / -“Conductor conducting an orchestra isolated on black background.”

* Le Mans Race Report (video) – Parrilla /

* Le Mans Motor Racing Disaster (video) – British Pathé /

* Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (video) – IlaryRhineKlange /

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