Sunday, July 3, 2022

Somebody's Father -- July 3, 1863 Gettysburg

A confederate soldier's sad memory:  C.R. Graham does not give the name of the soldier who shared this memory with him.  It appears in a section titled “Random Tails by Confederates”, so we can assume that it is a memory of a southern soldier who was at the battle of Gettysburg:

    I think that one of the saddest incidents of the war which I witnessed was after the battle of Gettysburg.  Off on the outskirts, seated on the ground, with his back to a tree, was a soldier, dead.  His eyes were riveted on some object held tightly clasped in his hands.  As we drew nearer we saw that it was an ambrotype of two small children.  Man though I was, hardened through those long years to carnage and bloodshed, the sight of that man who looked on his children for the last time in this world, who, away off in a secluded spot had rested himself against a tree, that he might feast his eyes on his little loves, brought tears to my eyes, which I could not restrain had I wanted.  There were six of us in the crowd, and we all found great lumps gathering in our throats, and mist coming before our eyes which almost blinded us.  We stood looking at him for some time.  I was thinking of the wife, and baby I had left at home, and wondering how soon, in the mercy of God, would she be left a widow, and my baby boy fatherless.  We looked at each other and instinctively seemed to understand our thoughts.  Not a word was spoken, but we dug a grave and laid the poor fellow to rest with his children’s picture clasped over his heart.  Over his grave, on the tree against which he was sitting I inscribed the words: “Somebody’s Father, July 3, 1863”  [Under Both Flags. A Panorama of the Great Civil War as Represented in Story, Anecdote, Adventure, and the Romance of Reality   1896 pages 84-85]

Deo Vindice = God is our vindicator
CS grave marker
Summary facts about Gettysburg:  Casualties at Gettysburg totaled 23,049 for the Union (3,155 dead, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing & captured). Confederate casualties were 28,063 (3,903 dead, 18,735 wounded, and 5,425 missing & captured), more than a third of Lee's army.
    The Confederate dead were not buried in the Soldier’s National Cemetery.  Within a few months after the battle most of the Union dead were dug up from their shallow graves and reinterred in the Soldier’s National Cemetery, which was for those who fought to preserve the Union.  But the Confederate dead were left wherever they were buried scattered across the fields and farms of the area.  In the 1870s an effort was made by organizations in the southern states to find and relocate the corpses of the southern soldiers to sites down south.  But it is a known fact that not all of these shallow grave burials were discovered.  And from time to time a grave has been uncovered.  So, we do not know if this man’s body was ever returned home to family.
    In the ‘broad roll of human history’ come moments which remind us that it is those whom God has put in our lives as “family” that are far more important than fame or fortune.  These relationships of love are God’s great gift to us no matter what is rolling along in the big picture of history.

Children’s project discussion questions:
1.  Would you hope your father’s dying thoughts would be on your family, or would you want him to be thinking about how successful he was or how rich he was or how athletic he was?
2.  If you would want him to be thinking of you and your family circle, then are you trying to learn good traits from your parents, or are you too busy with friends your own age to care about building a positive family circle?

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