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Freedom is not free. It is paid with every drop of blood, sweat, and tears of our men and women who serve or has served in the armed forces.

Moments from History: Letters of Patriots

Many are familiar with the civil war battle of Gettysburg. Most of the stories surround the events of the battle and who fought who. Seldom do the personal stories of those who fought are told.

Civil War General Meade - Gettysburg - A Letter Home on July 5, 1863

"I hardly know when I last wrote you, so many and such stirring events have occurred...It was a grand battle, and in my judgement a most decided victory, though I did not annihilate or bag the Confederate Army. This morning they retired in great haste into the mountains, leaving their dead unburied and their wounded on the field...The men behaved splendidly; I really think they are becoming soldiers. They endured long marches, short rations, and stood one of the most terrific cannonadings I have ever witnessed. Baldy (Meade's horse) was shot again, and I fear will not get over it...The army are in the highest spirits." (quoted in The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. II)

Civil War General George E Pickett - Gettysburg - A Letter Home on July 6, 1863

"On the Fourth -- far from a glorious Fourth to us or to any with love for his fellow-men -- I wrote you just a line of heart-break. The sacrifice of life on that blood-soaked field on that fatal third was too awful for heralding of victory, even for the victorious foe, who, I think believe as we do, that it decided the fate of our cause. No words can picture the anguish of that roll call -- the breathless waits between responses. The 'Here' of those who, by God's mercy, had miraculously escaped the awful rain of shot and shell was a sob -- a gasp -- a knell -- for the unanswered name of his comrade. There was no tone of thankfulness for having been spared to answer to their names, but rather a toll, and an unvoiced wish that they too, had been among the missing. Even now I can hear them cheering as I gave the order, 'Forward!' I can feel the thrill of their joyous voices as they called out all along the line, 'We'll follow you, Marse George. We'll follow you -- we'll follow you.' Oh, how faithfully they kept their word -- follow me on -- on -- to their death, and I believing in the promised support, led them on -- on -- on -- Oh God! I can't write you a love letter today, my Sally, for....the overpowering thought of those whose lives were sacrificed -- of the broken-hearted widows and mothers and orphans." (The Heart of A Soldier, p. 101-102)

 

Snap Shots in Time

A Soldier's Voice from World War I

"During the third day before Soissons there was a tiny knoll that, they told me, was taken and retaken six times, at the end remaining in out lines. Toward nightfall there was a lull in the storm; one could go forward with comparative safety. Just at dusk I cam to the slope leading up to that knoll. And everywhere I looked the trampled wheat was dotted by recumbent figures. There was one field, two or three acres, on which it seemed you could not have stood ten feet from one of those figures. They might have been wearied troops that had thrown themselves down to sleep. They slelpt indeed, the sleep no earthly reveille could disturb. I wish you could have seen that silent company under the summer twilight. It was not gruesome then, and it was not all tragedy. There lay the best of America, not dead nor sleeping, but alive so long as we will it to live. For America, if it is anything lasting, means what they showed -- free, unswerving loyalty to an ideal. Who shall say that they who died there lacked vision of that ideal, even though on their unschooled tongues it could never have become articulate? They paid to the uttermost for their faith. And an even greater thing was found a little beyond -- the thin line of the survivors; too weary for words, for four days and nights sleepless, without food save the crusts they had gleaned from the packs of the enemy dead, souls lacerated by their ordeal. They had just been told that the expected relief was not at hand, that in the morning they were to leapfrog the first wave and go over again; most of them, they knew it, to join their comrades in sleep. An not a quiver, not a doubt, not a fear, not a regret. They were ready. While that spirit endures, America shall live." ( Henry Russell Miller, The First Division)

General Pershing's comments about the 38th Infantry Division

"On this occaision, a single regiment of the Third Division wrote one of the most brilliant pages in our military annals. It prevented the crossing at certain points on tis front, while on either flank the Germans who had gained a footing pressed forward. Our men, firing in three directions, met the German attacks with counter-attacks at critical points and succeeded in throwing two German divisions into complete confusion, capturing six hundred prisoners."

Fighting at St. Mihiel -- A Captain's Perspective

"Then at one o'oclock in the morning of September 12, the artillery bombardment began. At an instant the sky...burst into a sheet of flame when every gun of the Armeridcan Army fired in unison the opening shot of this, the first American offensive, while platoon leaders who had spent a month looking up at Mont Sec wondered when the Germans from that eminence would begin to pour a deadly return of fire into them...Then at 5 o'clock a.m...before daylight on that foggy, rainy morning, the rolling barrage began. Up, out of the mud where they had lain for hours, came the stiff infantrymen. The major looked at his watch, then at the barrage, then at his watch again and gave the signal to advance. In the darkness the lines moved forward until the German barbed wire was reached. Here, under cover of the intense American artillery barrage, the infantry cut their way through the belts of barbed wird. These tactics were new. Never before in the whole four years had, by heavy concentration, cut the enemy wire. The American artillery, during the five hours' preparation, had not played on the wire, but instead had smothered the German batteries...The wire was soon cut, and the infantry moved forward in wave after wave toward the German front line." (The History of the A. E. F.)

 

Sacrifice for free is not duty but an honor.

 

 

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