Today we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader who, with nonviolent protest, reminded our country and the world that “all men are created equal”and should be treated as such. Here in the Washington, D.C. area there will be special events and celebration of Dr. King’s life at the new memorial dedicated to him.

What if Dr. King had not lived? How would the course of the civil rights movement been changed? What if his life had not been so tragically cut short? What other great accomplishments might he have made?

That’s my theme today. What if? Regency-style.

Today is also the anniversary of the death of Sir John Moore. On this date in 1809, the British army in Spain was in retreat from French forces, reaching the sea in Portugal where transport ships were due to arrive to take the soldiers back to England. Sir John Moore commanded the British forces and gained a tactical advantage over the French which enabled the British army to escape. During the fighting, Moore was struck by cannon shot and, after several hours of suffering, died from the wounds.

Moore had a distinguished army career that began with the American Revolution, included the Irish Rebellion and establishment of several army reforms, culminating with the Napoleonic war in Spain.

But it seemed to me that his death was also one of those pivotal events in history. If Moore had not been killed, the course of history might very well have been altered.

Moore was commanding in Spain at that time, because three senior commanders had been recalled for inquiry after allowing the defeated French army to evacuate their troops, with all their materials, supplies, and plunder, without further conflict. One of those recalled was Sir Arthur Wellesley, who was commanding forces at Vimeiro. Wellesley, who would, of course, become the Duke of Wellington, had been vehemently against the evacuation and he was ultimately cleared of any wrong doing.

After Moore’s death Wellesley was appointed to head all the forces in Portugal. What if Moore had not been killed? Would he have retained the command? Could he have accomplished all that Wellesley accomplished in Spain? Would Moore have been in command at Waterloo? Could he have brought about that victory?

One more interesting note about Sir John Moore. While he was dying, he is supposed to have said to his friend, Stanhope, “Remember me to your sister.” The sister was Lady Hester Stanhope, the colorful and adventurous Middle Eastern traveler. Some thought Lady Hester and Moore might have married. What if that would have happened?

Can you think of other pivotal moments in history? Do you ever wonder “What if?” about an event in your life?

Check my Diane Gaston blog today for my January 15 website contest winner.

And spare a moment today to think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.