In 1238 – (779 years ago) – a hastily mustered Russian army led by Grand Prince Yuri II of Vladimir-Suzdal was attacked by an army of the Mongol Hordes led by the general Burundai at the Sit River, near what is now Sonokovo, Russia — some three hundred miles southeast of modern-day St. Petersburg. The Mongols had already sacked Prince Yuri’s capital, after which he and his brothers pursued a counterattack, only to find that they were surrounded. Yuri and his army tried to flee, but made it only as far as the Sit River, where the entire force was taken out in a bloody battle in which the Mongols also suffered heavy losses. This key event inaugurated two centuries of Mongol domination of modern-day Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
In 1519 – (498 years ago) – the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés made his first landing on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, accompanied by some eleven ships, five hundred men, thirteen horses, and plenty of cannon, guns, and other weapons. Here, after claiming the land for the Spanish crown, Cortés began his campaign of conquest, forming key alliances with certain locals in order to vanquish the natives more generally. Cortés’s campaign would lead him up through Veracruz and then west to the great Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Arriving in that city with a large army, he met with the imperial ruler Moctezuma and established friendly relations with him in order to learn his weaknesses — the better to wipe him out two years later, destroy his city, and take possession of the empire, which he personally ruled for three years.
In 1986 – (31 years ago) – after playing a gig in Winter Park, Florida, with his bandmates in The Band, the singer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Manuel returned to his hotel room at a nearby Quality Inn, drank a bottle of Grand Marnier, entered the bathroom, and used a belt to hang himself from the shower curtain rod. An autopsy would later reveal cocaine in his bloodstream. In the Seventies, Manuel had suffered from depression and struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism, which had curbed his songwriting and damaged his singing voice. But in the Eighties, spending time in rehab had seemed to help. He died at the age of forty-two.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi