Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Friday, May 6, 2011

American Wars: 1861 and 2011

The piece which I have posted below was published 150 years ago today in the New York Times. It is an evaluation of the status of Union movements and efforts to quell the rebellion, and it heaps praise upon the early efforts of the Lincoln administration. I found this piece fascinating for several reasons, but the main one is that, through its exceptional discussion of the Union's cause, it speaks to what our nation is enduring today in our War on Terror. Now, I am always very hesitant to draw direct correlations between events in history and events in the present, as differing circumstances can make such discussions quite suspect. In this case, I find the way in which this article defines the cause of the Union to be highly relevant to the events in which America is now engaged. The death of Osama bin Laden this week has evoked strong feelings of patriotism and pride for many Americans, and rightfully so. Bin Laden's death was an immense victory for this nation, but just as it was when these words in the New York Times were written 150 years ago today, we are far from the end of the war. No one knows if it will last for another four years, but we can say for certain that there is still work to be done. Just as Americans did in 1861, Americans in 2011 must maintain a firm grasp on why we are engaged in a global struggle against terrorism. The words which I have underlined towards the end of this piece are especially pertinent in their meaning for Americans in 1861, 2011, and in the future. I hope you enjoy this selection.

However it may have been in the past, whether the people were right or wrong in imputing to the Administration a want of activity, too strong a disposition to act only on the defensive, -- the fact seems now to be that the President and his Cabinet are awake to the necessities of their position and the requirements of the country. They have caught the inspiration of the hour, and have roused to an earnest and vigorous exercise of the powers vested in them for the defence of the Government. Talk about the defence of the Capital alone is no longer heard. The concentration of troops there has rendered its safety no longer doubtful. Columns of troops are said to be moving upon Baltimore in aid of the loyal citizens of Maryland, and to open a straight path to Washington. The frontier is being lined with a cordon of loyal soldiers, not alone to defend the approaches of the enemy, but ready to march forward at the tap of the drum. The blockade is extending Southward, and in a few weeks every port of the Secession States will be sealed from the commerce of the seas. The Mississippi, too, will be guarded, so that supplies for the enemy will find no ingress through that channel. The President has called for 42,000 additional volunteers, and 22,000 regulars, and the call will be answered in a week. The State of New-York alone would furnish the regiments in a fortnight. In addition to these, 18,000 seamen are demanded, and these will be enlisted by the time the vessels are ready for sea. With these forces the Government will be provided with the means, as it will have the disposition to enforce its sanctions, and crush out rebellion wherever it may exist. It can render effectual aid to the loyal people of the Border States, and overawe treason and rebellion there. It can quell the mad spirit that is making the South a desolation, and scattering anarchy, confusion and suffering, where, a few months ago, all was order, prosperity and peace. It is a sad thing to contemplate the ruin of States already wrought, and the greater ruin impending over them in consequence of the wicked and restless ambition of bad men. It is a melancholy necessity which impels this aggregation of armies; -- but a government like ours, and a country like these United States, must be upheld and supported at every hazard and at any cost. The hard alternatives of disintegration, or war for their preservation, has been presented and the choice made. It has been determined, in view of duty, of all the obligations of patriotism with reference to the security of the present, the hope of the future and the stern requirements of everlasting justice and right. The war initiated is not one of conquest, not one of aggression. It is not of our own choosing. It has been forced upon us in defence of free institutions, and in the perpetuation of popular rights. It involves not alone the destiny of this country, but it is to solve the great problem whether self government, popular freedom, are among the possibilities of an enlightened civilization. Such are the momentous issues to be settled by the results of this war, to the exigencies of which the Administration are now thoroughly awake. Let them sleep no more. Let it be prosecuted earnestly, vigorously, firmly, but humanely to the end. The country will sustain them. The popular sentiment of the world will sustain them. To hesitate or halt hereafter will be at once a cruelty and a crime.

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