"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, July 1, 2013

17 miles of wounded soldiers, oh the tears

The wagon train carrying the wounded stretched for 17 miles in the rain through southern Pennsylvania.
Somewhere in Pennsylvania
Along the way, some would die and be buried in unmarked graves. Behind them, more than 3,000 of their brothers were already known dead, and thousands more just "missing."
Gettysburg, 150 years ago, where about 50,000 Americans had been killed or wounded or were  missing in the first three days of July.
Today, there is the soldier's cemetery at Gettysburg, home to thousands killed that day, wearing blue, including 141 unknown. It would be almost seven years before people began trying to relocate the remains of Southern soldiers, who had to be buried in hasty shallow graves because of the rot and smell. Confederate cemeteries are few and filled with unmarked graves.
Confederate graves at Gettysburg
I can't fathom the courage and the horror both armies faced in that hot, humid July. I've been there, walked among the monuments, walked part of the way over open ground in the track of the awful "Picket's Charge."
But I do know, deep down inside, the emotions of the men, of the anguish and loss of parents and loved ones, many of whom never knew what happened to their children.
I know also that all across this country and Oklahoma, in cemetery after cemetery, you can find the distinctive gray-white tombstones that mark the final resting places of veterans, both blue and gray, who survived the war. I particularly can't imagine the feelings of those aging Confederate veterans who  lived out their lives, having lost a war they so passionately believe in.  
A year ago, I wrote more about the battle. Here's the link to those thoughts and photos. Gettysburg thoughts
And I know America is better for it all, as a nation, as a people, but oh the cost, oh the tears.


Lincoln said it best.
"Four score and seven years ago 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. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. "It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we 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."
The cost of Gettysburg




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