At a time when the fascination with JFK is centered around the 50th anniversary of his death, it seems more proper to think of his life, of his love for history, how his books sought to understand the present in the context of the past, rather than engage in forgetfulness. I've lost the citation for the item below, but think it came out of the JFK papers, online. I've changed reference to "winners" for I've learned that MOH recipients prefer to think of how they did not win anything, as if in some athletic contest -- though they clearly have won the hearts of those who never forget their sacrifice.
Remarks to a Group of Descendants of Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients
April 28, 1962
Ladies and gentlemen:
I want to tell you how proud I am as President of the United States to welcome you all - those of you who are descended from those who won this Nation's highest decoration and those of you who carry it now - those of you who are interested and concerned about the great war which we had here a hundred years ago.
Whichever side our interests may lie with, or sympathy, I must say all of us are staggered by the courage and casualties which were shown in so many struggles during the Civil War. When you read about companies and regiments going into the battle - at Sharpsburg or in the Wilderness, Petersburg, and the others - and to see the numbers that came out, gives you, I know - and gives me as an American a source of satisfaction to realize that we are the inheritors of that great martial tradition - and particularly those who won this medal, which is of course most coveted and most rare.
So I must say I am delighted that you are keeping alive this tradition. I don't think that there is any feat of arms that is more dramatic than the Andrews Raid - and all the actions of the Civil War, the Indian Wars that followed, and the wars in this century.
And I believe that Americans still have that same spirit and courage. So you're most welcome here. Your credentials to come into the White House are second to none, and we are very glad to have you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 9:45 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. Among the guests were a group of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, the President of the Medal of Honor Society, Luther Skaggs, Jr., officers of the D.C. Civil War Centennial Commission, and members of the national Civil War Centennial Commission.
Prime Minister Macmillan, in Washington on a state visit, was also present and spoke to the group following the President's remarks.
On Thursday, Nov. 14, the Michigan House of Representatives adopted the following resolution. Appropriate, poignant, beautifully written, it extols the underlying sacrifice that Lincoln spoke of nearly 150 years ago:
Reps. Darany, Barnett, Brown, Crawford, Denby, Driskell, Durhal, Geiss, Heise, Howrylak, Kelly, Lamonte, LaVoy, O'Brien, Roberts, Slavens and Stanley offered the following resolution:
House Resolution No. 270.
A resolution to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863.
Whereas, It was one hundred and fifty years ago on the afternoon of November 19, 1863, that Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of these United States delivered what has been noted as one of the most eloquent speeches in the annals of American oratory. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery, established in the aftermath of the bloody battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania July 1-3, 1863. Almost five thousand men from the Great Lakes State fought on that hallowed ground and over one thousand Michiganians became combat casualties in the horrific battle; and
Whereas, Thirteen regiments and units from Michigan participated in the great struggle on the charred battlefield of Gettysburg and the blood of Michigan men and boys helped to make that ground sacred. From the 16th Michigan Infantry’s defense of Little Round Top, where the regiment’s colors were shot from the staff and fell “enveloping the fallen with their silken folds like a funeral pall”, to Battery I of the First Michigan Light Artillery Regiment and the 7th Infantry’s defense against Pickett’s charge on Cemetery Ridge where their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Amos Steele of Mason, Michigan died, to the Michigan Cavalry Brigade’s heroic fight on the extreme right of the union line, where their commander Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer of Monroe, Michigan led his men into battle by extorting them to “Come on you wolverines”; and
Whereas, We also recognize and honor the 3rd Michigan Infantry’s defense of the Peach Orchard, the 5th Infantry’s stubborn defiance in the woods near the wheat field, the 4th Infantry’s tenacious hold of the wheat field, where their colonel, Harrison Jeffords of Dexter, Michigan died by bayonet while defending the colors of the regiment, at the loop between the wheat field and the Emmitsburg road the First Michigan fought with valor. We also remember the four companies of Michigan sharpshooters who fought and bravely died with Berdan’s U.S. sharpshooters at the wheat field and Little Round Top; and
Whereas, We must also pay tribute to the tremendous sacrifice paid by the Wayne county boys of the 24th Michigan of the famed Iron Brigade. Of the more than 400 union regiments engaged at Gettysburg, the 24th had the distinction of suffering among the highest casualties, by the end of the battle 80% of the regiment had been killed, wounded, or were listed as missing in action, including 9 men who died carrying the colors of the regiment; and
Whereas, These few, simple, and admittedly meager words shall not resurrect from the cold, shallow, hastily dug, graves of Pennsylvania, the flower of Michigan’s long ago martyred youth. However, by remembering these “honored dead” we can, in some small way, make their sacrifice worth the immeasurable price that was paid. Perhaps by paying homage to the words that President Abraham Lincoln said there we can honor “what they did there” and in the words of the great emancipator, remember those boys in blue, including those from the peninsular state, who “gave the last full measure of devotion”; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives, That the members of this legislative body commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863. We also honor the sacrifice made by the 90,000 Michigan soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War, and the 15,000 Michigan men who lost their lives, including those who were casualties on the battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We declare “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”.
By Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, Aug. 5
LANSING — It started out as a conversation about some vintage War of 1812 cannon balls that were retrieved from the floor of Lake Erie.
But it ended up as a historic restoration project between two state senators from different parties — Mike Kowall, a Republican from White Lake Township, and Steve Bieda, a Democrat from Warren.
The two history buffs are hoping to raise $75,000 this year to replace the two Civil War-era cannons that sat on the lawn of the state Capitol from 1879 to 1946.
The two cannons were used by the highly regarded First Michigan Light Artillery Battery, better known as the “Loomis Battery” because of the military leader Cyrus O. Loomis.
They fought in many battles, including the Battles of Perryville in Kentucky, Stone Rivers in Tennessee and Chickamauga in Georgia. All three were key skirmishes that led to the Union victory over the Confederates. The Michigan unit’s participation was part of the reason that President Abraham Lincoln famously stated, “Thank God for Michigan.”
What was left were the two cannons used by the Loomis men: one pointed toward what now is the governor’s office in the Romney building at the corner of Michigan and Capitol; the other was pointed toward Lansing City Hall across the street.
But the cannons disappeared, Bieda said, most likely the victims of the need for scrap metal during World War II.
“My first instinct was to track down the original cannon or at least try to find some other Civil War cannons,” Bieda said.
When that didn’t work, they found a company, Steen Cannons in Kentucky, that makes weapons replicas that are used in ceremonies or Civil War re-enactments. Now all they need are donations to commission the replicas.
The two sent out a fund-raising letter last month with the hopes of raising the money this year and bringing the cannons to Michigan in time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s end. They will be placed on the old stone footings that still are on the Capitol lawn.
“We looked at the old pictures of the Capitol building, and they’re out front,” Kowall said. “Michigan played a very important part in the Civil War. And this will help in putting back our history in the Capitol.”
The two politicians sit next to each other in the Senate chamber, which is undergoing its own renovation this summer. When Kowall got his hands on the two War of 1812 cannon balls, he gave one to Bieda for his birthday.
“Fortunately, there wasn’t any gunpowder in it,” Bieda said.
The cannons will be functional and could be used for historic ceremonies. But they will remain plugged and unarmed to avoid any attack on Lansing.
“If we’re going to hold to real true standards, they should be workable guns,” Kowall said. “But I don’t think you’ll see any cannons flying down Michigan Avenue.”
Perhaps you think the title refers to a certain Confederate general? Nay, nay! It refers to the Michigan Historical Marker for the 17th Michigan Infantry, which won its nickname as the Stonewall Regiment at the Battle of South Mountain, Sept. 14, 1862, and its now-permanent position in the field over which the Michiganders charged that difficult day. Commissioner Egen and yours truly were privileged to visit the site last weekend, and extremely gratified to find it erect and steadfast, a finer location (in one humble opinion) than buried along the foliage of the Appalachian Trail where it formerly stood. You decide:
Here is the text of remarks delivered by Brian James Egen, Michigan Historical Commissioner, and Chairman of its Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, at the dedication of a Michigan Historical Marker at the Monterey Pass Battleground on July 5, 2013:
"The State of Michigan sent over 90,000 soldiers, nearly one-quarter of the State’s male population, to defend the Union during the American Civil War. Nearly 15,000 of her brave and loyal citizen soldiers would not return to see their beloved Michigan. Additional thousands bore, as mute testimony, the scars of great and irrevocable deeds done and blood shed upon the lands and seas of the United States.
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.
Today we have brought to memory the extraordinary service and paramount sacrifice of the common individual soldier who drew from that large reservoir of bravery and courage to continue onward in spite of almost certain death. Thousands of soldiers lie unknown in graves. To their families and to their generation they were known, for the pain and loss of a loved one was felt directly and with absolute certainty. To us they are unknown in name only as their actions will live forever.
Our hearts must never forget and always appreciate their struggle, efforts and sacrifice, for they shaped the nation we have inherited. 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 determination and perseverance wove yards of whole cloth creating a foundation for America’s tapestry that continues to be created. We must always sustain and uplift the memory of those contributions that made such an indelible impression on our identity.
It is through commemoration and the preservation of historic sites and stories that we secure from the clutches of obscurity the sacrifices and memory of those who struggled and perished long ago. The cultivation of these cherished stories frames the foundation of our freedom and subsequent liberties today, transcending to future generations.
On behalf of the Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, I would like to thank, with deep appreciation and gratitude, John and Alicia Miller and the Friends of Monterey Pass Battlefield for remembering and honoring the actions of our State’s Wolverines 150 years past. The work of John and the Friends in the preservation of this region’s history is a benchmark of excellence. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Michigan Civil War historian David D. Finney whose passion for and study of Civil War history has inspired countless numbers of people, not only throughout Michigan, but across the nation and was the original driving force behind this marker.
Let us invoke the considerate judgment of all citizens to commemorate the immortal and extraordinary sacrifice made by Michiganders during the American Civil War. The redolent and atavistic nature of their actions, underscored by the magnitude of their sacrifice, compels proud inheritance of and stewardship to the memory of those deeds done for us. Custer, Alger, Kidd, Elliot -- let their names be freshly remembered and representative of all Michigan’s sons upon this field who toil and anguish in conflict no more. Please allow today, if not this moment, the Wolverines of Michigan, to represent all soldiers that have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation."
Let it be so ...
And for those not able to attend, here is the brochure: Download Monterey Pass Marker Dedication Program-1
The story is here: Ellen Creager
On this third Memorial Day during the Civil War Sesquicentennial, reading the article "The Union Dead" in the NYT Disunion blog yesterday, which included an account of the disgusting behavior of the U.S. Secretary of War about the graves of those soldiers (and having recently visited and taken some photos of Michigan dead in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, with the stones carved as described in the article), and also reading an item in today's Freep about a couple who have made it their mission to visit and care for the graves of every Michigan soldier lost to the Vietnam conflict, one comes away with mixed feelings. The Freep also recounts the story of a woman pilot from Michigan who died in service during WW2 whose sacrifice only recently was recognized by her country. There is also a story about WW1 memorials that are coming down, with one person commenting how that conflict and the service of our soldiers doesn't mean much to today's Americans.
The confusion comes because, against human avarice and neglect of our history, there are so many examples of individuals and institutions not letting us forget. The Henry Ford in Dearborn MI is a great example: this is yet another Civil War Remembrance weekend, designed to commemorate and educate today's citizens, young and old, about the events and people of one hundred fifty years ago. Does that war mean much today? The answer has to be: yes, given the continuing deluge of CWS events here in Michigan and around the country. Perhaps they don't get the same kind of publicity as current news events, but it doesn't take one too much effort, like simply reading the NYT, to continue their contact with the American Civil War in order to try to glean lessons from it applicable to our lives today.
Having recently lost a loved one to old age, all this hits particularly close to home. Perhaps as a nation we should embrace as a solemn commitment, both as leaders and as followers, the words of a military officer in the recent PBS Death and the Civil War:
"There is no more sacred obligation I don't think that the United States of America has than to those who have borne the burden and sacrificed so much -- not just the military members but is also the family members because they too have sacrificed so much. The Civil War is the foundation for this.
When I am at a graveside, at a funeral and I engage a family who's lost a son or a daughter or a brother or a sister, I always say that 'I promise you, we will never forget.' I want them to know that sacrifice was meaningful and will never be forgotten. We should never forget as a country those who served and those who sacrificed and ultimately those who've paid the ultimate sacrifice." - Admiral Mike Mullen, 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff