by Timothy Lane 6/28/16
June 28 is most noted for a pair of Balkan events. On June 28, 1387 (I don’t know how this date is affected by still using the Julian calendar, but that’s the date that comes down to us), the Ottoman Turks decisively defeated the medieval Serbian kingdom, setting the stage for their defeat of Hungary a few decades later. The battlefield known as Kosovo Polje (the Field of Blackbirds) remains important in Serbian memory, and is one of the many reasons they wanted to retain control of Kosovo.
Of course, these medieval kingdoms relied on a feudal structure, consisting of aggregations of fiefdoms that rarely matched any sort of linguistic or cultural boundary. So some Serbs fought for the Ottomans due to their feudal obligations. Only later would this become a national concern.
But this date resonated again in 1914, when it was probably unwise for Franz Ferdinand to visit Sarajevo on June 28. Bosnian Serbs already wanted to join Serbia, and after the fall of the pro-Austrian Obrenovic dynasty in 1902, the Serbs were eager to acquire all they could from the South Slavic crownlands. So a coterie of Serb officers organized a plot to assassinate Franz Ferdinand (who, ironically, was a supporter of trialism, in which the Slavic regions would join Austria and Hungary as separate monarchies under the whole).
The plot proved to be a farcical failurre — they threw a bomb that did no harm to the archduke’s party, and then fled before they could be taken by his security. But some people were injured by the bomb, so Franz Ferdinand decided to alter his itinerary to visit the hospital. His driver took a wrong turn, and stopped (no doubt to get his bearings) — right in front of one of the fled assassins, Gavrilo Princip. And the rest is very bloody history.
As usual, there are other notable events that happened on this day. On June 28,1863, George G. Meade replaced Joseph Hooker in command of the Army of the Potomac. Exactly 2 years later, the final combat action of the War of the Rebellion involved the Confederate raider Shenandoah capturing and burning 11 whalers in the Bering Sea. (The “save the whales” people should honor the raider’s memory.) In those pre-radio days, news could spread slowly into the world’s more distant reaches.
Finally, the main German offensive in 1942 began on June 28. The goal was to conquer Stalingrad and the Caucasus. They fell a bit short in the end.
Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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