1532 — Pizarro traps Incan emperor Atahualpa
On November 16, 1532, Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish explorer and conquistador, springs a trap on the Incan emperor, Atahualpa. With fewer than 200 men against several thousand, Pizarro lures Atahualpa to a feast in the emperor's honor and then opens fire on the unarmed Incans. Pizarro's men massacre the Incans and capture Atahualpa, forcing him to convert to Christianity before eventually killing him.
Pizarro's timing for conquest was perfect. By 1532, the Inca Empire was embroiled in a civil war that had decimated the population and divided the people's loyalties. Atahualpa, the younger son of former Incan ruler Huayna Capac, had just deposed his half-brother Huascar and was in the midst of reuniting his kingdom when Pizarro arrived in 1531, with the endorsement of Spain's King Charles V. On his way to the Incan capital, Pizarro learned of the war and began recruiting soldiers still loyal to Huascar.
Pizarro met Atahualpa just outside Cajamarca, a small Incan town tucked into a valley of the Andes. Sending his brother Hernan as an envoy, Pizarro invited Atahualpa back to Cajamarca for a feast in honor of Atahualpa's ascendance to the throne. Though he had nearly 80,000 soldiers with him in the mountains, Atahualpa consented to attend the feast with only 5,000 unarmed men. He was met by Vicente de Valverde, a friar traveling with Pizarro. While Pizarro's men lay in wait, Valverde urged Atahualpa to convert and accept Charles V as sovereign. Atahualpa angrily refused, prompting Valverde to give the signal for Pizarro to open fire. Trapped in tight quarters, the panicking Incan soldiers made easy prey for the Spanish. Pizarro's men slaughtered the 5,000 Incans in just an hour. Pizarro himself suffered the only Spanish injury: a cut on his hand sustained as he saved Atahualpa from death.
Realizing Atahualpa was initially more valuable alive than dead, Pizarro kept the emperor in captivity while he made plans to take over his empire. In response, Atahualpa appealed to his captors' greed, offering them a room full of gold and silver in exchange for his liberation. Pizarro consented, but after receiving the ransom, Pizarro brought Atahualpa up on charges of stirring up rebellion. By that time, Atahualpa had played his part in pacifying the Incans while Pizarro secured his power, and Pizarro considered him disposable. Atahualpa was to be burned at the stake — the Spanish believed this to be a fitting death for a heathen — but at the last moment, Valverde offered the emperor clemency if he would convert. Atahualpa submitted, only to be executed by strangulation. The day was August 29, 1533.
1959 — "The Sound of Music" premieres on Broadway
Did the young Austrian nun named Maria really take to the hills surrounding Salzburg to sing spontaneously of her love of music? Did she comfort herself with thoughts of copper kettles, and did she swoon to her future husband's song about an alpine flower while the creeping menace of Nazism spread across central Europe? No, the real-life Maria von Trapp did none of those things. She was indeed a former nun, and she did indeed marry Count Georg von Trapp and become stepmother to his large brood of children, but nearly all of the particulars she related in her 1949 book, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers," were ignored by the creators of the Broadway musical her memoir inspired. And while the liberties taken by the show's writers, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, and by its composer and lyricist, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, caused some consternation to the real Maria von Trapp and to her stepchildren, according to many later reports, those liberties made "The Sound of Music" a smash success from the very night of its Broadway opening on this day in 1959.
With a creative team made up of Broadway legends and a star as enormously popular and bankable as Mary Martin, it was no surprise that "The Sound of Music" drew enormous advance sales. But audiences continued to flock to "The Sound of Music" despite sometimes tepid reviews, like the one in The New York Times that said the show "lack(ed) the final exultation that marks the difference between a masterpiece and a well-produced musical entertainment." Reviewer Brooks Atkinson did, however, single out the "affecting beauty" of the music from "The Sound of Music" as saving it from a story verging on "sticky."
Sticky or no, "The Sound of Music" was an instant success, and numerous songs from its score — including "Do Re Mi," "My Favorite Things" and "Climb Every Mountain" — quickly entered the popular canon. Indeed, the original cast recording of "The Sound of Music" was nearly as big a phenomenon as the show itself. Recorded just a week after the show's premiere on this day in 1959 and released by Columbia Records, the album shot to the top of the Billboard album charts on its way to selling upwards of 3 million copies worldwide.
— This Day in History is courtesy of History.com.