On the morning of July 4th, 1863, stillness ruled in two small American towns where chaos had existed just a few hours before. Not a peaceful stillness, but an exhausted one. In the tiny Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, just a few miles above the Maryland border, a titanic battle to determine if the northern states could show the guile and fortitude to withstand the “invasion” of the forces of the southern rebellion and hurl them back, juxtaposed with the mirror opposite in the river town of Vicksburg, where union forces sought to prove to the south it could be permanently cleaved in half. In Gettysburg the violence was massive and acute; in three days over 50,000 casualties resulted draining both sides further will to conclude the ultimate question of the times. In Vicksburg, the theatre was on a much more geographically strategic scale, took many months, and thousands of more lives. In the first, a perfect general, Lee. had proved himself to be human. In the second, a human and complex man, Grant, proved he was a general.
In Washington, a man who had suffered through over two years of defeat and ridicule holding up not a physical treasure, but ideals for his immediate world to fight and die over, finally had The Day he had been waiting for. Abraham Lincoln, to whom the concepts of individual freedom and equality expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the more perfect union expressed in the constitution, and the special purpose of a free people under a deity from the bible, never left his focus in all the preceding hard times. He finally had the day he had been waiting for, and would express it all in words several months later that will never lose their power:
” It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who have fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is, rather, for us here to be 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.”