May 5, 1998

I Saw the Vision of Armies

by Walt Whitman


Today's Reading: "I Saw the Vision of Armies" by Walt Whitman.

It is CINCO DE MAYO, the anniversary of the 1862 Battle of Puebla, when the Mexican army defeated an army of French invaders. A national holiday in Mexico.

It's the birthday in Richmond, Virginia, 1899, of FREEMAN GOSDEN, of the radio comedy team, "Amos 'n' Andy." He grew up in Richmond and got a job after WWI writing scripts for amateur shows. In one of the shows he met Charles Correll, and together they created the roles of two southern blacks; one honest, hardworking and a church-goer, and the other easygoing and gullible. They named them "Sam 'n' Henry," and started on radio station WGN in Chicago. When the station refused to allow them to syndicate the series, they moved to a different station and changed the name to "Amos 'n' Andy"; Gosden played the role of Amos. It was the biggest radio show of the Depression; nearly 40 million people tuned in every night.

It was on this day in 1891 that CARNEGIE HALL opened, the concert hall at Seventh Avenue and 57th Street in New York, named for Andrew Carnegie who built it and was its first owner. Tchaikovsky was the guest conductor during the hall's opening week.

It's the anniversary of the BATTLE OF THE WILDERNESS, in the Civil War, in 1864. The Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, led 115,000 soldiers across the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, Virginia early in May to capture the Confederate capitol at Richmond. On the fifth, General Robert E. Lee's troops attacked Grant's men and caught them in what little open space there was, mowing thousands of them down. The next day the two sides fought with bayonets and swords and hand-to-hand -- to a standstill. Some of the worst casualties came after the battle was over: the brush was so thick the wounded couldn't be evacuated quickly, and fire broke out in the brush killing many of the men where they lay. Nearly 30,000 were lost and neither side could claim victory. Grant, who was not a man given to overstatement, said that "more desperate fighting has not been witnessed on this continent than that of the 5th and 6th of May."

It's the anniversary of the HAYMARKET SQUARE RIOT, in Chicago, 1886, one of the labor movement's early struggles for recognition. In May that year, workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company went on strike to get an eight-hour workday. On the 4th, a scuffle broke out between strikers and strike-breakers; police moved in to break it up, and one of the strikers was killed. The next day, on the 5th, the strikers held a big meeting at Haymarket Square to protest the police action. When the police arrived to break this meeting up, someone -- no one knows who -- threw a bomb and seven policeman were killed. The police opened fire and the strikers shot back. Four men were hanged for starting the riot.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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