Discover more from Letters from an American
February 28, 2022
It’s a picture night, folks. The news is a firehose, but too many late nights mean I simply must get some sleep.
The spot in this photo, the Angle, was the high-water mark of the Confederacy. It was here, on a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863, that United States soldiers stopped the Confederate soldiers of Pickett’s Charge, turning back the men who were fighting to establish a nation based on the proposition that men were created unequal and that some men should rule the rest.
Although the war would continue for well over another year, that moment broke the back of the Confederacy.
Four months later, on November 19, as the war was dragging on and Americans seemed ready to give up, President Abraham Lincoln reminded them why they were fighting. In a speech at the dedication of a national cemetery at Gettysburg, where more than 3000 U.S. soldiers were killed, he recalled the inspirational idea at the heart of the United States. “Four scores and seven years ago,” he said, “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,” Lincoln said. “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here” had “nobly advanced” the unfinished work of defending democracy, Lincoln said, but the task was not done. He urged the living to “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.”
I happened to be at the Angle on Saturday, February 26, 2022, the third day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That was the day on which it became clear that Ukrainian resistance to Russian president Vladimir Putin, supported by the cooperation of the U.S. and European allies and partners in strangling Russia’s economic system, was forging a global alliance against the authoritarianism that has been growing in power around the world.
It was an odd thing to be walking the Gettysburg battlefield on that day, constantly checking Twitter to follow the news, seeing, perhaps, the modern-day echo of the Angle, as people dedicated to a government of the people, by the people, for the people, begin to repel those who would gather all power to themselves.
[Photo of The Angle by Buddy Poland.]