Now scrolling: The Gettysburg Address

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.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Three Worst Quotes of the Civil War and Why Lincoln Never Said Any of Them

Eloquence is made perfect by time, but so is folly. Take a look at the following quotes and see if time hasn’t added a certain irony to all of them:

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance"- Union General John Sedgwick spoke these words just moments before being shot dead by a confederate sniper at Spotsylvania.

Uh-oh. Just when you think it’s safe to brag. Now Lincoln would never have made a statement like this. Though he took risks, coming under sniper fire at least once at a fort in Washington, he knew his tall frame was an easy target and usually kept silent about the abilities of the enemy to shoot straight.

"Why not bury the dead in Lee’s backyard?" - Gen. Montgomery Meigs made this statement in a last spiteful effort to keep the Lees from returning to Arlington. His goal was to populate Mrs. Lee’s rose garden with the bodies of Union soldiers, making the grounds unlivable. What made him think that by burying corpses, he wasn’t helping out with the rose garden?

Lincoln would never have made this statement because he understood the ways of botany. Meigs himself supervised the burial of 26 Union soldiers in Mrs. Lee's rose garden. In October of 1864, Meigs' own son was killed in the war, and he too was buried at Arlington.

"That old man had my division massacred at Gettysburg." -George Pickett said these words about Robert E. Lee to John S. Mosby shortly after paying Lee a visit in Richmond. Perhaps the best answer to this was Mosby’s – "Well, it made you famous."

Lee was distraught over the failure of Pickett’s charge and blamed himself. Pickett’s effort to pass along more blame somehow doesn’t sit well. Lincoln would never have said this quote about his top general, because for a great part of the time his top general was George McClellan, who never had anybody massacred. In fact, when McClellan excused his lack of action in the fall of 1862 due to tired horses, Lincoln contributed his own infamous quote:

"Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?"

McClellan was removed from command shortly thereafter.