On my father’s side my family fought against each other in the American Civil War. Protecting ideals, a way of life, family and one’s community was on the forefront of their minds and hearts. With such a burgeoning nation, Americans were beginning to live far from the original thirteen colonies. Their was expansion to the west towards the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and south towards the Floridian panhandle. Life was quite differentiated across different swaths of the United States. In the north, the yankees were focused on growing trade and communication with the world, expanding the military and beginning to more seriously address the sin of slavery.
Slavery was a topic of discussion gaining popular ground. In the south, life was much more tranquil. Plantation owners controlled huge parcels of farm land and developed their crops for sale in America and beyond its shores. Their farm lands were worked by human beings who were owned and directed to work for their masters. These humans had no rights and were bought and sold at whim. Sometimes, even families could be split apart if it was the prerogative of the slave owner.
In the late 1850’s, not even one hundred years after the declaration of independence, America was about the burst at the seams and split in twain. The union would be no more and in its stead two countries would be born, possibly three with Texas setting up its own republic. The issues at hand for President Abraham Lincoln were epic. His shoulders were charged with maintaining the union, bringing peace and settling the issue of enslaving men, women and children in a sea of noise that did not share his desires for reunification and what amounted to a restart for America.
General Ulysses S. Grant, a rugged stalwart general in Lincoln’s Union army led the northern union troops, while General Robert E. Lee led the southern confederacy. General Lee’s father, Colonel Henry was a cavalry leader in the American Revolution and cited for praise by General George Washington for his leadership in battle. A graduate of West Point Military Academy, Lee went on to marry Mary, the the great grand daughter of George and Martha Washington and parented seven children, including four daughters.
After turning down an offer from President Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant to lead the Union armies, Lee went back home to his farm to retire. Within two years he nonetheless went forward and took sole command of the Southern Confederate armies.
What drove him to fight a war focused on the issue maintaining the countries geo-political integrity and slavery? It has been noted that he had strong reservations about fighting for such goals. Even so, he took command of the Southern Confederacy and war ensued between brothers and sisters. Though Lee’s West Point military skills helped him be victorious in early battles, he suffered major losses in a few pivotal battles, including the Battle Of Gettysburg were their was over 14 thousand lost on Lee’s side alone. In the end, General Lee surrendered in person to General Grant. His surrender in person was incredible and set the stage for the reunification of brothers and sisters. The physical war was over. Regrettably, this freedom came at a heavy price for the country as a whole. In the end, the union of the United States of America was kept intact and strengthened as it successfully put behind it one of its heaviest anchors, slavery.
We no longer physically enslave humans in America, but we still hold each other down with social and economic forces. We still hold segments of the population down from being educated… from being empowered. Can things change? What will it take to keep progressing towards a stronger union?
When we go forth with lovingkindness and stick to it as a compass, even in the darkest dark we can find our way and rise together. This I know. We are all different from each other, yet we all have within us the potential to bring about the change we wish to see in the world by first us being that change. America is special in this regard. A mindset of unbounded opportunity and freedom percolates in our communities and across OUR land. In fact, this growth mindset is sown into the fabric of the United States of America.