“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.” General George Pickett’s reply when asked some years after the war as to why his assault on Cemetery Ridge failed.
Recently, I found myself once again patiently absorbing that all to familiar diatribe from one of my patrons about the imminent fall of America because of the current state of our politically divided house. As a bartender in fairly good standing with the profession, I am expected to patiently listen and not offer much in dissent, ascribing to that time-honored philosophy that states that the customer is always right. But as is usually the case, I opted to give up the high ground and take a step down onto my ever handy soapbox.
When confronted with the pessimistic view of the future of our republic, I normally counter with a quick history lesson that begins with those contentious compromises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and ends on the fields of Gettysburg in 1863. This year marks the 150th anniversary of that defining battle of our Civil War.
On the third and final day of the battle, July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee ordered Confederate forces under the command of General James Longstreet to attack the Union center lodged on Cemetery Ridge. After an impressive, yet mostly unproductive exchange of artillery fire, Longstreet gave the reluctant nod. And under the blistering heat of the afternoon sun, three divisions of Southern infantry led by Maj. Gen. George Pickett, Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble began the ill-fated ascent toward death and destruction. Of the 12,500 men that followed their general’s lead on that day, over four thousand would be wounded by Union steel and fire, and another nearly twelve hundred sons of the South would soon join their other fallen comrades under the blood soaked soil of Pennsylvania farmland.
On July 4th , Robert E. Lee remained readied on the battlefield assuming his Northern counterpart, General George Meade would attack–but the guns remained silent. While many historians cite Meade’s cautious nature when explaining his inclination not to press his advantage in the aftermath of Pickett’s Charge, I would like to believe that there may have been a more transcendent reason for the quieting of hostilities on that particular day, something akin to the Christmas truce of 1914. There are those sacred days that serve to remind us of the possibility of achieving that greater potential for good as both men and nations. And those days should always be honored as intended by those that have gone before us.
America still holds the high ground.
Have a joyous 4th of July!!!
Posted by: Chris Poh