On this day in 1840 – (176 years ago) — the populated areas in and around Natchez, Mississippi, were struck by the second deadliest tornado in US history, a huge funnel cloud that formed southwest of Natchez and moved north along the Mississippi River. The twister flattened homes and businesses along the riverbanks, and destroyed hundreds of steamboats and flatboats. It was so powerful that a chunk of one riverboat was later found to have been blown thirty miles from the river. The tornado also devastated plantations for hundreds of miles in Mississippi and Louisiana. It ripped big trees out of the ground by their roots, and destroyed countless acres of crops. After the storm, the official death toll was given as 317. But the real number of people who died in the calamity was probably much higher, since it happened in a time and place when official death tolls issued by local governments normally did not count slaves.
On this day in 1915 – (101 years ago) — as World War I raged in Europe, the British civilian luxury liner RMS Lusitania was sailing from New York to Liverpool with almost two thousand passengers and crew. New York newspapers had published German warnings about the state of war in the North Atlantic, but many of the Lusitania’s passengers had taken the risk lightly, and its captain had assured them that the ship was fast enough to evade any attacks. But, some twelve
miles off the coast of Ireland, the ship was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine. The torpedo was quickly followed by a second explosion that ripped open the Lusitania’s starboard side. The great ship sank beneath the waves in just eighteen minutes. It had forty-eight lifeboats, but in all the chaos and panic, the crew managed to lower only six of the boats successfully. Other lifeboats were ripped to pieces as they banged and scraped against the sides of the ship. Still others capsized as they hit the water, throwing their screaming occupants into the sea. Almost 1,200 people died, with 761 survivors. Most of the dead were either British or Canadian, while 114 were Americans. The German attack caused outrage not only internationally, but also among Germany’s own political left. And it was the first in a chain of events that led to the United States entry into World War I.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi