Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 12, 1861 - April 9, 1865

The Civil War lasted 1,457 days. Roughly as many Americans died in the Civil War as died in all of the other wars that the U.S. participated in. Some 365,000 Union soldiers, and 260,000 Confederate soldiers died, with some 412,000 wounded on both sides. Ten percent of all males aged 20-45 in the Union were killed, as were 30% of all Southern males aged 18-40. At the end, the first U.S. President to be assassinated was killed on April 15, 1865, shot in the back of the head by an angry coward.

With the Emancipation Proclamation in October 1862, President Lincoln changed the face of the U.S. forever. Although it would take almost another 100 years for African Americans to realize their freedom, there was no turning back on the promise of freedom. Secession was defeated, and the Union was preserved and America grew stronger. As Lincoln said in his 1862 address to Congress:
"The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."
We can't afford to let reactionaries rewrite history to their own liking, whether out of political advantage or of bigotry, or both. Too many died on those many battlefields to toy with the basis for their ultimate sacrifice.

(photo: A fence divides the field at Gettysburg battlefield)

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