Chairman of the Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee Brian James Egen delivered these altogether fitting and appropriate remarks today during the commemoration at the Gettysburg National Cemetery; his words speak for all Michiganders:
On behalf of the Michigan Historical Commission and the Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, I would like to welcome and thank each of you for attending this very fitting tribute ceremony. Our Commission President, Jack Dempsey, sends his regards as he was unable to attend – he is very much with us here in spirit. At this time I would like to thank and recognize the Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial History Partners (especially Bruce and Marcia Butgereit, Keith Harrison and Thom Berlucchi) and the various organizations for producing this special commemoration event.
From 1861 to 1865 Michigan SACRIFICED nearly 15,000 of her brave and loyal citizen soldiers in defense of the great experiment - the United States of America. Additional thousands bore, as mute testimony, the scars of irrevocable deeds and great acts of selfless courage.
Michigan’s tenacious and determined contributions of troops, supplies, civilian soldier’s aid relief, political leadership and moral support were vitally instrumental in sustaining and preserving a more perfect Union.
As a principal defining moment, this monumental conflict put into motion a series of events that has brought us to where we are today as a people and as a nation. Their story - their sacrifice – has woven yards of American whole cloth for a tapestry that continues to be made. Marked by such an indelible impression on our identity, their actions must not be forgotten.
For many of us and countless thousands more, Gettysburg is a special place – whether a fond childhood memory of a family vacation or an affectionate discovery as an adult, this PLACE has become an uplifting, peaceful and exciting Mecca – a destination to which adherents of history aspire. This PLACE - steeped in such deep and rich history the past emanates from the pours of the sublime landscape, the architecture of the old town – history so thick you can breathe it in the air.
150 years distant, this PLACE, to so many, equated intense suffering, sorrow and SACRIFICE as the tidal wave of grief reverberated from here as the cascade Gettysburg carried not excitement, not fulfillment, not joy – but unimaginable pain and loss back to Michigan and to the people of this land. The SACRIFICE, made by not only those who bore the brunt of battle but for those loved and dear ones at home who would never again see that familiar countenance - hear that comforting voice – feel the fellowship of a handshake – tender the warmth of an embrace, is singularly the purpose of our gathering today.
Think of your most cherished loved one back home in Michigan or elsewhere. Undoubtedly your parting exchange was similar, if not exact to – “goodbye, I love you, see you when I get home!” – these men never made it home. These men forfeited their sacred inalienable right to the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for their families, their communities, their nation. These men laid down their lives for you – for each one of us who they would never know.
Let us invoke the considerate judgment of all citizens to commemorate the immortal and extraordinary sacrifice made by Michigan during the American Civil War. The redolent and atavistic nature of their actions, underscored by the magnitude of that sacrifice, compels proud inheritance of and stewardship to their perpetual memory. Let their names be freshly remembered and representative of all Michigan’s sons upon this field who toil and aguish in conflict no more. Please allow today, if not this moment, the 173 Michigan men beneath this sod, to represent all soldiers that bravely followed in their footsteps in defense of our nation. “May life cease to exist if these memories be not cherished in our hearts as things ‘sacred forever’.”
And now, on behalf of Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, I am pleased to present this State Proclamation, issued from his office earlier this month, for today’s commemoration.
In closing, I would like to also announce that in recognition of Michigan’s Civil War service, the Michigan House of Representatives on November 14, 2013 adopted House Resolution No. 270 – A resolution to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863 and to honor the sacrifice made by the 90,000 Michigan soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War.