In his Proclamation of October 20, 1864, establishing a national day of Thanksgiving, President Lincoln opened with “It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year...” It had been a year of terrible losses, including those at Cold Harbor and Petersburg. Yet yet there was a feeling that a corner had been turned with Lieutenant General Grant leading Union troops who advanced despite the losses. My great, great grandfather, Ziegler Barkey, fought with an Illinois artillery regiment at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia that summer.
Many today talk of the feeling of divisiveness in our nation. However, our great national struggle from 1861-64 must offer some context. It reminds us that America has survived great struggles before and we will again. We will survive by focusing on what unifies us as Americans and Coloradans — selfless service, whether it be military service, duty as a first responder, or hours donated as a civic volunteer.
As Katharine Lee Bates wrote in the third stanza of “America the Beautiful”
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life