This Day in History: April 28
1503: Battle of Cerignola: Although gunpowder had been used by the Chinese for several hundred years, it was not until this battle that gunpowder arms actually won a battle. Gunpowder as a weapon during this time was unreliable and served more to scare the opposite side and their horses than inflict actual damage. This battle was fought between Spanish and French troops in Southern Italy during the Italian wars. Italy at this time was a patchwork of independent states, many with ties to other royal families of Europe. Two specific families, the Habsburgs of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, and the Valois of France fought dynastic disputes. The gunpowder weapons that won this battle would set the stage for guns, cannons and explosives becoming the primary weapon of the battlefield.
1789: Mutiny on the “Bounty”: A group of British sailors had set sail two years prior in the HMS “Bounty” to collect breadfruit from Tahiti and bring it to the Caribbean. After staying for five months in Tahiti, many of the crew had grown accustomed to a leisurely Polynesian lifestyle and had begun relationships with the local women. During the three weeks back at sea, tensions between Lieutenant Captain William Bligh and the crew reached a breaking point. Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian led the mutiny and set Bligh and his supporters adrift on a lifeboat. Bligh eventually reached England, and the HMS “Pandora” was sent on a bounty mission. 14 were captured and tried in England, of which four were acquitted, three pardoned, and three executed. Christian and his band went undiscovered on the island of Pitcairn, where all but one were killed by each other or the native Polynesians.
1945: Il Duce Executed: After almost 20 years as the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini was killed by members of the Italian Resistance movement. Taking power with the help of the black shirts and their infamous march on Rome, Mussolini was the first leader of a new political movement called fascism. Emphasizing violence, nationalism, and a strong central leader, Mussolini’s fascist state would find allies in the eventually more powerful Nazi Germany, Japan and Spain. Fascist movements sprang up across Europe, and Germany’s eventually became the most dominant, turning the once-powerful Mussolini into Germany’s puppet. After hiding out from encroaching Allied forces from the north and south, Mussolini was eventually found and executed by firing squad and later hung by his feet. This would spell the end for Germany and Japan in the months to come.
1996: Port Arthur Massacre: The third-deadliest shooting perpetrated by a lone gunmen in history, Martin Bryant killed 35 people in Tasmania, Australia. Bryant was considered troubled from childhood, with a low IQ and behavior problems. He left school and lived on a disability pension with his parents, but worked as a handyman and gardener. This is where the story becomes bizarre. He began working for the wealthy Mary Elizabeth Harvey, heiress to a large fortune. They eventually moved in together to a mansion on a farm. Harvey died in car accident, and left all the money in her will to Bryant. He began acting more erratically and struggled in forming or keeping any social relationships. He also began drinking heavily. All of this eventually came to a head in 1996 when he committed this mass murder. After this, Australia severely tightened their gun laws.
2001: Road Trip … To Space: Dennis Tito, a multimillionaire, funded his own mission to space and became the first space tourist. Arranged by the space tourism company Space Adventures Ltd., Tito accompanied the cosmonauts on the Russian ship Soyuz TM-32. He orbited Earth 128 times, spending seven days in orbit. He spent 20 million dollars on his mission, and set the stage for the future of space travel, possibly in the hands of private citizens and companies.