On This Day … 21 May


  • 293 – Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian appoint Galerius as Caesar to Diocletian, beginning the period of four rulers known as the Tetrarchy.
  • 878 – Syracuse, Sicily, is captured by the Muslim Aghlabids after a nine-month siege.
  • 1403 – Henry III of Castile sends Ruy González de Clavijo as ambassador to Timur to discuss the possibility of an alliance between Timur and Castile against the Ottoman Empire.
  • 1659 – In the Concert of The Hague, the Dutch Republic, the Commonwealth of England and the Kingdom of France set out their views on how the Second Northern War should end.
  • 1660 – The Battle of Long Sault concludes after five days in which French colonial militia, with their Huron and Algonquin allies, are defeated by the Iroquois Confederacy.
  • 1758 – Ten-year-old Mary Campbell is abducted in Pennsylvania by Lenape during the French and Indian War. She is returned six and a half years later.
  • 1809 – The first day of the Battle of Aspern-Essling between the Austrian army led by Archduke Charles and the French army led by Napoleon I of France sees the French attack across the Danube held.
  • 1851 – Slavery in Colombia is abolished.
  • 1856 – Lawrence, Kansas is captured and burned by pro-slavery forces.
  • 1863 – American Civil War: The Union Army succeeds in closing off the last escape route from Port Hudson, Louisiana, in preparation for the coming siege.
  • 1864 – Russia declares an end to the Russo-Circassian War and many Circassians are forced into exile. The day is designated the Circassian Day of Mourning.
  • 1864 – American Civil War: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House ends.
  • 1864 – The Ionian Islands reunite with Greece.
  • 1871 – French troops invade the Paris Commune and engage its residents in street fighting. By the close of “Bloody Week”, some 20,000 communards have been killed and 38,000 arrested.
  • 1871 – Opening of the first rack railway in Europe, the Rigi Bahnen on Mount Rigi.
  • 1879 – War of the Pacific: Two Chilean ships blocking the harbor of Iquique (then belonging to Peru) battle two Peruvian vessels in the Battle of Iquique.
  • 1881 – The American Red Cross is established by Clara Barton in Washington, D.C.
  • 1911 – President of Mexico Porfirio Díaz and the revolutionary Francisco Madero sign the Treaty of Ciudad Juárez to put an end to the fighting between the forces of both men, concluding the initial phase of the Mexican Revolution.
  • 1917 – The Imperial War Graves Commission is established through royal charter to mark, record, and maintain the graves and places of commemoration of the British Empire’s military forces.
  • 1927 – Charles Lindbergh touches down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 1932 – Bad weather forces Amelia Earhart to land in a pasture in Derry, Northern Ireland, and she thereby becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 1939 – The Canadian National War Memorial is unveiled by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
  • 1946 – Physicist Louis Slotin is fatally irradiated in a criticality incident during an experiment with the demon core at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • 1961 – American civil rights movement: Alabama Governor John Malcolm Patterson declares martial law in an attempt to restore order after race riots break out.
  • 1966 – The Ulster Volunteer Force declares war on the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland.
  • 1982 – Falklands War: A British amphibious assault during Operation Sutton leads to the Battle of San Carlos.
  • 1991 – Mengistu Haile Mariam, president of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, flees Ethiopia, effectively bringing the Ethiopian Civil War to an end.
  • 1994 – The Democratic Republic of Yemen unsuccessfully attempts to secede from the Republic of Yemen; a war breaks out.
  • Day of Patriots and Military (Hungary).
  • Navy Day (Chile).

People (Births)

  • 1775 – Lucien Bonaparte, French soldier and politician (d. 1840).
  • 1837 – Itagaki Taisuke, Japanese soldier and politician (d. 1919).
  • 1895 – Lázaro Cárdenas, Mexican general, president (1934–1940) and father of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (d. 1970).
  • 1932 – Leonidas Vasilikopoulos, Greek admiral and intelligence chief (d. 2014).

People (Deaths)

  • 1524 – Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, English soldier and politician, Lord High Treasurer (b. 1443).
  • 1650 – James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, Scottish general and politician (b. 1612).
  • 1762 – Alexander Joseph Sulkowski, Polish and Saxon general (b. 1695).
  • 1879 – Arturo Prat, Chilean lawyer and commander (b. 1848).
  • 1915 – Leonid Gobyato, Russian general and engineer (b. 1875).
  • 1965 – Geoffrey de Havilland, English pilot and engineer, designed the de Havilland Mosquito (b. 1882).
  • 1973 – Ivan Konev, Soviet Marshal and general (b. 1897).
  • 1995 – Les Aspin, American captain and politician, 18th United States Secretary of Defence (b. 1938).

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