Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I sat down to write this piece about 3:30 pm here in the eastern time zone of the United States.  We're on Daylight time of course and while I was trying to think of material for what was a shortened and rather dull day in the markets it came to me that in the history of this country, these first four days in July play a role possibly often overlooked or unknown by many of our citizens and certainly by the rest of the world.  These four days are filled with enormous events and truly history shaping conclusions.  We all know about July 4, 1776, a day which we call Independence Day but for the new nation created by that proclamation signed in Philadelphia there would be no independence until the world's then-most powerful nation could be defeated on the battlefield as a result of a declaration of war so preposterous, so audacious that even a number of the signatories believed it doomed to failure.  As the poet put it, "You know the rest in the books you have read..."  Indeed we do, but it was not of tomorrow that I was thinking.

3:30pm, but 150 years ago there was no Daylight time.  After two days of battle, at 2:30 local time nearly 15,000 men stepped out from a small stand of trees near a town in southern Pennsylvania of which no one had ever heard and into history.  They were mostly from Virginia and North Carolina with a few from Tennessee and Mississippi thrown in.  Pressed ranks, four deep and almost 2 miles wide heading for a little copse of trees 3/4 of a mile away across a wheat field and up a small hill; tough, veteran soldiers knowing the next 30 minutes would probably be their last on earth and yet prepared to give their lives for a cause--unjust though it might have been--and a way of life that like them could not possibly survive.

Those that somehow survived streamed back down that little rise to retreat and defeat.  The Civil War ended at 3:30pm on July 3, 1863 just south of a little town called Gettysburg but no one knew it.  We Americans kept on killing one another for almost another two years until 660,000 of us lay dead and within a week the greatest President in our history joined the carnage.  But we enjoyed, ...A new birth of freedom..." as he put it two months after the battle.  Let no one say we didn't pay the price for our freedom.

Have a frantic Fourth but at some point during the day, stop and think of those who preserved that dream all these years, and if you are so inclined a short prayer might be greatly appreciated.

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