I do a special post on Memorial Day each year not to be jingoistic or political, but because the
ultimate sacrifice made by so many members of the military throughout the American experiment is so easy to forget in a world in which war can be waged with sacrifice falling on the backs of a literally microscopic minority.
This years marks the 150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg, a July 1863 battle in rural Pennsylvania that marked the turning point of the American Civil War, but also the war’s bloodiest battle. After three days of fighting, the North suffered 23,055 casualties (3,155 killed) and the South lost 23,231 (4,708 killed).
Four months later, at a memorial dedication for the fallen and with the Civil War still raging, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the following two minute address:
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 battlefield 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.
Consider a visit to Gettysburg if you have not already been–it makes history come alive, which is perhaps one of the greatest joys of traveling.