Column: This week in history

The statue of William Wallace in Baltimore. (Paul Simpson/Flickr, Creative Commons)

This week in history we will see the anniversaries of battles, tragedies and discoveries that helped shape the world we live in. Here is a quick rundown of notable events:

On Sept. 11, 1297, Scotsman William Wallace lead his army to victory over the British at the Battle of Stirling Bridge during the First War of Scottish Independence. Wallace allowed a small number of British forces to cross the narrow bridge before he ordered his infantry to descend from high ground and attack.

Trapped by the river and unable to reinforce their position, the British forces were slaughtered and had to retreat south to avoid further calamity. Emboldened by his success, Wallace led several raids into England before confronting King Edward Longshanks at the Battle of Falkirk where he was subsequently defeated.

William Wallace resigned his title as Guardian of Scotland afterwards and was captured and killed by the English in 1305. Scottish independence remained a dream until the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where a small army lead by Robert the Bruce managed to overcome King Edward II and secure political authority over Scotland.

On the same day in 2001, four American commercial planes were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists and used as weapons against the United States. Two planes were crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City and another into the Pentagon in Virginia.

The fourth plane, United Airlines 93, was heading for Washington D.C., but after the passengers
on board stopped the hijackers it crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attacks
resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and lead to the invasion of Afghanistan by
American Forces.

Al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama Bin-Laden, claimed responsibility for the attacks in 2004 after initially denying any involvement. He was tracked down and killed by American Special Forces in Pakistan in May of 2011.

On Sept. 12, 1940, the Lascaux Cave Paintings were found by 18-year-old Marcel Ravidat outside of Montignac, France. Over 600 paintings cover the complex cave system and are estimated to be over 17,000 years old.

They represent some of the oldest known human artwork and gave anthropologists and historians an inside look at life during the Paleolithic area. The caves are now a popular tourist attraction and were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1979.

Lastly on Sept. 13, 1759, The Battle of the Plains of Abraham took place between English and French forces on a plateau outside of Quebec during the Seven Years’ War. The battle represented the end of a three-month siege by the British and was one of the last major engagements of the war.

Montreal fell shortly afterwards and marked the end of French control over the Canadian area. The British forces were commanded by a young general named James Wolfe, whose meteoric rise through the ranks saw him becoming a colonel at just 23-years-old and who ushered in an age of new military tactics and training reform.

Wolfe was mortally wounded during the battle and died before victory could be assured. His actions earned him a spot in British military lore, and the famous painting “The Death of Wolfe” by painter Benjamin West now sits in the National Gallery in Ottawa, Canada.


Seamus McKeever is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at seamus.mckeever@uconn.edu.