Today in History
Now that our sons, our brothers, our grandchildren are fighting all over the
world it is especially fitting that we celebrate this
In the tradition of our Founding Fathers they are fighting for freedom. Ask
any of them. They will tell you, "It is freedom we want for our country
and for all men."
As I write these words I am reminded of the very first battles fought for
our country (in the seventeen hundreds) and of the men who fought and died
in those battles.
Today when we think of our fighting forces we visualize planes and
helicopters, city-size ships and armored vehicles, machine guns and rockets,
well trained troops and attractively uniformed men.
Yesterday (only 233 years ago!) the American troops wore buck skins (when
they could get them), their muskets were loaded one shell by one shell; the
cannons had to be dragged (literally) over mountain trails. In the winter
season of the year the fighting ceased while the troops (ours-not the
British) were preparing for the next skirmish.
Have you read of "Valley Forge"? Of course you have! Let us read
again about that time of the deepest trials of our soldier boys in that
first great war that made possible our present great U.S. fighting forces.
THE CONTINENTAL ARMY-A MEMORIAL
by Henry Armitt Brown, an outstanding orator of his day 1
The wind is cold and piercing on the old Gulf Road, and the snowflakes have
begun to fall. Who is this that toils up yonder hill, his footsteps stained
with blood? "His bare feet peep through his worn-out shoes, his legs
nearly naked from the tattered remains of an only pair of stockings, his
breeches not enough to cover his nakedness, his shirt hanging in strings,
his hair dishevelled, his face wan and thin, his look hungry, his whole
appearance that of a man forsaken and neglected." On his shoulder he
carries a rusty gun, and the hand that grasps the stock is blue with cold.
His comrade is no better off, nor he who follows....and the ruts of the
rough country road are deep and frozen hard. A fourth comes into view, and
still another....(M)ore... come....A thousand are in sight, but they are but
the vanguard of the motley company that winds down the road until it is lost
in the cloud of snow-flakes that have hidden the Gulf hills.
Here is one in a faded blue, faced with buckskin that has once been buff.
There is another on a tall, gaunt horse, wrapped "in a sort of
dressing-gown made of an old blanket or woollen bed cover." A few of
the men wear long linen hunting shirts reaching to the knee, but of the rest
no two are dressed alike-not half have shirts, a third are barefoot, many
are in rags. Nor are their arms the same. Cowhorns and tin boxes they carry
for want of pouches. A few have swords, fewer still have bayonets. Muskets,
carbines, fowling-pieces, and rifles are to be seen together side by side.
Are these soldiers that huddle together and bow their heads as they face the
biting wind? Is this an army that comes straggling through the valley in
the blinding snow? No martial music leads them in triumph into a captured
capital. No city full of good cheer and warm and comfortable homes awaits
their coming. No sound keeps time to their steps save the icy wind rattling
the leafless branches and the dull tread of their weary feet on the frozen
ground. In yonder forest must they find their shelter, and on the northern
slope of these inhospitable hills their place of refuge. Perils shall soon
assault them more threatening than any they encountered under the windows of
Chew's house or by the banks of Brandywine. Trials that rarely have failed
to break the fortitude of men await them here. False friends shall endeavor
to undermine their virtue and secret enemies to shake their faith; the
Congress whom they serve shall prove helpless to protect them, and their
country herself seem unmindful of their sufferings; Cold shall share their
habitations, and Hunger enter in and be their constant guest; Disease shall
infest their huts by day, and Famine stand guard with them through the
night; Frost shall lock their camp with icy fetters, and the snows cover it
as with a garment; the storms of winter shall be pitiless-but all in vain.
Danger shall not frighten nor temptation have power to seduce them. Doubt
shall not shake their love of country nor suffering overcome their
fortitude. The powers of evil shall not prevail against them, for they are
the Continental Army, and these are the hills of Valley Forge! (End)
What a memorial! And they arenít over yet. Memorials will always be where
free men gather to honor the God who makes them possible and then recognize
the exploits of their countrymen. But when did "Memorial Days"
begin? You may be surprised when you begin to think about the fact that
there have been memorial days from the beginning of time! In fact, we have
actually been commanded to have "Memorial Days" and the specific
time was often stated along with the command, And thou shalt remember....,
As we celebrate "Memorial Day" this year it is good for us not
only to remember but, as our God has told us, teach our memorable events:
Diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in
thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and
when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
And here is a patriotic
poem about our flag to read on Memorial Day.
Footnote to oration: Brown, Henry Armitt, quoted in The Christian
History of the American Revolution (aka: C&P); Foundation for American
Christian Education (FACE), publishers, Chesapeake, Virginia, p. 58, col. 1,
para. B & col. 2
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