“In great deeds, something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate the ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them….” Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
I am in Gettysburg this weekend as part of a Staff Ride with members of my Joint Forces Staff College course. I have been to Gettysburg many times but each time I go my appreciation for what occurred there 150 years ago grows. As I muse about the battle, as well as the entire war my thoughts are often drawn to the words of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Colonel of the 20th Maine at Little Round Top.
In a few weeks the nation will mark the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and I am staying not far from where Lincoln delivered the speech.
On Saturday and Sunday we will tour the battlefield and discuss the battle. I will be taking a good number of photos and probably do some writing about what I see and my thoughts on the events of the battle over the next few days.
However even though I will be thinking about the battle, I will also be thinking of the sacrifice made there to preserve the Union and defeat a rebellion that at its heart was based on maintaining a social and economic system that enslaved a race of people and treated them as less than human. If course the defenders of that revolt point to it being about “states rights” but those rights were fundamentally about preserving and expanding the practice of slavery and subjugating the black race in order to maintain the economic and political power of slave owners and traders.
Until then I will leave you with the immortal words of President Lincoln.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.