Jul. 3, 1998

A March in the Ranks hard Pressed on the Road Unknown

by Walt Whitman


Today's Reading: "A March in the Ranks Hard Pressed on the Road Unknown" by Walt Whitman.

It's the anniversary of the WWI BATTLE OF THE SOMME, 1916. The British and French tried to break through the German defenses along the River Somme in northern France. On the first day of fighting, German machine guns cut down 19,000 British soldiers as they climbed out of their trenches. The battle kept up all summer and into the fall with well over a million casualties on both sides, and no victor.

It's the birthday in Prague, 1883, of FRANZ KAFKA, author of The Trial, and The Castle and other books. Kafka worked as lawyer at an insurance office for many years — a job he hated. He lived for reading and writing. When he died from tuberculosis in 1924, he hadn't published much of his work and few people had ever heard of him. He left two notes for a friend: the first dictating that his unpublished works be destroyed, and the second, that his few published works never be re-published. His friend ignored both.

It was on this day in 1863, that the BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG ended; nearly 45,000 men killed or wounded. The battle's first two days had been a stalemate, and on the hot, muggy afternoon of the third Confederate General George Pickett led nearly 15,000 soldiers — spread out in a line nearly a mile long — against Union cannons. Pickett's ranks were torn to shreds. The battle ended and the Confederate Army retreated. The next day, Vicksburg fell to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, opening the Mississippi River to northern shipping again, and slicing the Confederacy in half. Up until this time the South had won victory after victory in the Civil War — but in that first week of July, 1863, everything changed.

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