“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.”
So begins the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The most beautiful and rousing hymn of the Union Army during the Civil War. No battle harkens the depth of these lyrics as Gettysburg.
Gettysburg. July 1, 1863. 150 years ago today the largest and most bloody battle ever fought by US forces began on the western approach to Gettysburg, PA. The Union Army of the Potomac opened fire on an advanced guard of Confederate soldiers as they where resting on the side of the road.
Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle in the history of the United States. In three days, there were some 51,000 casualties. The carnage was extreme. Many of the battles hand to hand. Bayonet to bayonet, man to man.
Today, many view Gettysburg as a Northern victory. In its time, the North regarded it as a victory. General George Meade, who became commander of the Army of the Potomac only 3 days before Gettysburg, was widely viewed as too meek. General Meade was criticized in the press and by Lincoln for not attacking Lee on July 4th. There was a belief that had Meade pursued Lee into Maryland the war would have ended that July. However Meade had done something no other Commander of the Army of the Potomac had done before him. He held his ground. The first day of the battle had not gone well for the Union. The Union Army had retreated south of Gettysburg proper, which they abandoned. Meade held his ground and built his defenses on the high ground around the Emmitsburg Road and to the east, building out a fishhook shaped defensive line.
The Civil War was fought about slavery and its abolition. Make no mistake. I was taught in High School that the War was not really about slavery, but about States Rights and an agrarian Southern economy versus an industrialized North. The story was that freeing the slaves would destroy the South’s way of life as it would no longer be able to compete in the global cotton trade by having it’s COGS be too high. In 1860, the single largest asset in the United States was its slave population. Current economists have given a valuation of $1 Billion in 1860 money as the valuation of the slave population. Slavery was in part, all about money. As an amateur student of history I attended a Webinar several years ago about the latest research about the historiography (study of the writing of history) of the Civil War. That was very telling. In an effort to heal the nation the reasons for the War were quickly changed in the collective memory of all involved. That included the historians of that era as well. Based on an analytical study of the historiography prior to the war and following the war, there can be no more doubt.
The Civil War was fought about slavery. The men who wrote our Declaration of Independence knew when they were writing that historic document that ultimately there would be a War over slavery. Read their words:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As we enter this July 4th week, we salute all who fought and died for this great country. Forged out of a desire to not pay taxes to the English King, the United States is the leader of the free world. Curious for a nation that never desired that role and looking at it from afar, remains uncomfortable in that position. We have no choice. The Russians aren’t going to enforce world peace. The Chinese certainly aren’t. We’re left trying to make a better world without being too partial to our own interests.
This week we give thanks and remember our fallen service men and women. Lest we forget that despite our war weariness after 12 years of war, our soldiers remain in harms way across the globe. The Peace of the World has been secured by American blood, treasure and determination.
God Bless America! Let us remain free to pursue life, liberty and a better world for all.
Happy July 4th Week from Toltec Global Services!