A Day We Must Remember

It was enough to make something colored blue and gray to sell it in the United States during the early 1960s. It was the centenniall of the Civil War, and everyone seemed interested in the most pivotal period in American history.

Now, not so much, as they say. Though it doesn’t seem to me there has been as much media coverage of the Civil War sesquicentennial as there was of the 100-year observance, some people think it’s too much. “Enough with a war that happened 150 years ago,” I heard a woman remark upon hearing a radio broadcast about the Battle of Antietam.

Enough? No, not enough.

Let’s look – for just a few seconds, if that’s not too long – at the Battle of Antietam. It occurred 150 years ago last week in Maryland, just a stone’s throw from what now is West Virginia.

But first let’s think about the past decade, and the war against terrorism. In 10 years, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed slightly more than 6,600 American lives.

About 3,600 Americans perished during a single day at Antietam. Nearly 20,000 more were wounded, without the benefit of modern medicine to minimize their injuries or rehabilitate them.

About 620,000 Americans, north and south, were killed in the Civil War. That is nearly as many as have perished in all our other wars combined.

Why should we continue to be interested in a war that occurred 150 years ago?

Because it was a terrible example of what can happen when blind partisanship, not just of the political party variety, rules the passions of a nation.

Looking at what happened at Antietam, where the equivalent of a medium-sized Ohio Valley town was shot down in one day, reminds us of what can happen when we make foolish mistakes.

It’s easy now to see errors were made, leading to war. But as Abraham Lincoln once pondered aloud, both sides were convinced they were right.

“Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God,” he noted during his Second Inaugural Address.

Enough? No. Not nearly enough – or we risk making similar bloody mistakes again.

Myer can be reached at: Myer@news-register.net.