By Mark Carpenter –
Those who know me best know of my love for the study of the Civil War. All the proof you need is one scan of the titles on the numerous bookshelves at my home. As Memorial Day 2017 approaches, I cannot help but think of the 600,000 men who gave their lives in that brutal war. On Memorial Day, we take pause to remember all of those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms that we so cherish today, and my mind drifts back to the battlefields of 1861.
“What a horrible sight it was! Here, a man grasping his musket firmly in his hands, stone dead; several with distorted features, all horribly dirty. Many were terribly wounded, some with legs shot off, others with arms gone. So badly wounded they could not drag themselves away, slowly bleeding to death. We stopped many times to give some a drink and soon saw enough to satisfy us with the horrors of war.”
The horrors of war, they are the reason for us having a Memorial Day-to honor and remember those who were part of the horrors of war. From the soldiers entrenched for the winter in Valley Forge, to the heroic men of the 20th Maine at Gettysburg, to those who followed the lead of “Black Jack” Pershing, to those who stormed the beaches at Normandy, to those who faced the Chinese at the Chosin Reservoir, to those who were taunted and rejected when they returned home from the jungles of Southeast Asia, to those who gave their lives in a new kind of warfare in the “gulf”-we can only take time on Monday to say “thank you” for your sacrifice.
The best way to study any war is to see it through the eyes and ears of those who served. In July 1861, a Union soldier named Sullivan Ballou wrote a letter home to his wife which has become one of the most iconic pieces of correspondence from the Civil War.
“Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly to the battle field.”
“But Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and the darkest nights, always, always… and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.”
One week later, Sullivan Ballou was killed in the First Battle of Bull Run. On Monday, take time to thank all of the Sullivan Ballous in our history. You have the ability to do so, thanks to all of them