What we can take away from the story of the men of Co. F, 151st Pennsylvania

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Above, a sunset on the battlefield at Gettysburg, including the memorial constructed in honor of Pennsylvanians who fought in the battle.

Over nine weeks now I’ve shared everything I’ve learned about the men of Co. F, 151st Pennsylvania.

But what does it matter?

Well, on the surface, the story of these men is simply a good story.

There are triumph and loss. There’s unimaginable horror. There’s raw human emotion.

All of the elements of a great story can be seen in these men and in just three days of their lives in July 1863.

It’s easy to forget that men over time face similar struggles, experience similar emotions and largely think the same way that we do today.

It’s easy to forget that these men were, in fact, men.

I’ve been blessed with numerous opportunities to stand where the men of both sides stood all over the Gettysburg battlefield and when I let my mind wander from the strategy and movements of the struggle, I can’t help but ponder this question: If I was there, what would I have done? Could I have possibly endured what they endured?

There’s no way to really know.

But maybe we can get a glimpse by pondering what these men did and how they lived their lives.

Every once in a while, I’ll see an article that says Americans are more polarized than at any time since the Civil War.

That may be true, especially politically.

The edges of the political spectrum are so loud – and often irrational – that there is little space left in the middle for rational, nuanced civil discourse.

But that makes the story of these men all the more important in our times.

It’s our history.

It’s our shared experience.

And when we actually take the time to look at our shared experiences, I firmly believe that we’ll find we have more in common than many of us would care to acknowledge.

Our history is American history. Not Republican history. Not Democratic history. It’s the story of us.

The words of Abraham Lincoln in his famed address are just as applicable to our society today as they were when he delivered them in the midst of civil war.

“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.

It’s been nearly 155 years since those immortal words were said and that “great task” hasn’t been completed.

And the future of the republic requires that we not lose sight of that.

If the legacy of Gettysburg and of the Civil War, generally, is good for anything in the 21st century, I hope that’s it (or at least part of it).

But I must admit some selfish intention in crafting these stories.

I’m not native to Warren County but Warren County is where my wife and I have chosen to live and raise our family.

Every one of the stories that I have written in this space over the last few years has been a learning experience for me.

If Warren is going to be home for me, then I feel like I need to learn these stories. And I’ve been blessed with a forum to share them.

We have such a rich history that I know I’m just scratching the surface of all the stories I could tell.

So…

I guess we’ll see what’s next!

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