Nov. 19, 1999
Taking a Break
Poem: "Taking a Break" by David Lee from A Legacy of Shadows published by Copper Canyon Press.
It's the birthday in Graz (grahts), Austria, 1722, of LEOPOLD AUENBRUGGER (OW-en-BRUG-er) the physician who devised the technique of "percussion" the art of striking a part of the body with short, sharp taps to diagnose the condition of parts within the body, a technique still used today.
It was on this day in 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln spoke in front of about 15,000 people at a new 17-acre national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg was the pivotal battle of the Civil War, with 45,000 casualties over three days in early July that year. After the battle, a Gettysburg man named David Wills had the grisly task of identifying and burying the dead. Wills wrote Lincoln and asked him to attend the cemetery's dedication ceremony, because, he said, Lincoln's presence would: "…kindle anew in the breasts of the Comrades of those brave dead who are now nobly meeting the foe, a confidence that they who sleep in death on the Battle Field are not forgotten by those highest in Authority . . ." It was a foggy, cold morning, and Lincoln arrived about 10. Around noon the sun broke out as the crowds gathered on a hill overlooking the battlefield. A military band played a dirge, a local preacher offered a long prayer, and orator Edward Everett spoke for over two hours. Around 3 p.m. Lincoln got up to speak. He spoke for only two minutes, and by the time he sat down most of the people in the back of the crowd didn't know he'd even spoken, and Lincoln thought his speech, THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS, was a failure.
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