The High Water Mark

It is no secret that I am deeply troubled by the deterioration of discourse, debate and compromise for a common good in our bitterly divided land. I found myself yesterday with time on my hands on a gorgeous autumn day to remedy a personal travesty - in the quarter century that I've lived here I had never visited Gettysburg. I am glad that I can no longer say that. I'm not sure what I was looking for, to be truthful. Perhaps the reminder that we have survived times of bitter political and philosophical division, and at times the cost has been great and dear indeed.

In these pastoral rolling fields, an army bound by one philosophy marched a mile wide and 12,000 strong intent on conquering and destroying an army flying the Stars and Stripes. They failed. By nightfall, nearly half of them lay dead and wounded on this same field. In the end, what purpose did their sacrifice achieve?

There are those today who claim affinities for elements of that defeated philosophy, that one group of men might be superior to others simply by their appearance. That notion rightly should have perished on this battlefield with them. Sadly it has not.

The day after the epic battle at Gettysburg was July 4th, and this young bloodied nation turned 87 years old. Our uneven and often unseemly lurching towards that elusive more perfect union where all are created equal continues, in the footsteps of a weary and determined army bound to finish its mission in the fields at Appomattox, and of Dr. King and the marchers crossing the bridge at Selma.

We are not there yet, and it is evident by the times we live in that we have yet some distance to travel. I too am weary, but I am determined. The alternatives are unacceptable.


The copse of trees marks the "High Water Mark" of the Confederacy; the point at which Pickett's 12,000 or so chargers had crossed this nearly milelong open field in the July heat and raining death, and finally yielded to slaughter and exhaustion.

The view from Little Round Top down into the Devil's Den. Had the Confederate army's surprise assault on Little Round Top succeeded, the outcome of the bloody war might well have been different.

The view of the Gettysburg battlefield in its pastoral October calm. Remove a few small vestiges of the modern world from this image, and it might have looked much like this in autumn 1862. It is horrifying to think of how it appeared on Independence Day, 1863.

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