“Many of us came because it was the right thing to do.”
The speech given by Union Colonel Lawrence Chamberlain in Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels is a declaration not easily forgotten, for it expresses so much about who we are as a nation and why we were and always will be a shining city on a hill. It kindles warmth in the heart and tears in the eye, for it is the ideal for which we as a nation strive. The speech covers why we fight, how our war is different, and how our country values what we do rather than who we are. Each topic resonates with me personally in different ways. Chamberlain covers the first point, why do soldiers fight?, with a frankness and brevity that invokes trust in me. He addresses the lesser reasons of boredom, fun, and influence – yet concludes with the nobler one, that these men often fought because it was the right thing to do. The same dichotomy exists in our army today, and I long that many take up arms for the latter reason. This point leads into the next one – how the Union’s war was different. It was one of morality, much like how the Revolutionary War was one of high ideals as well. Each was for freedom, and this motive for war I believe is little truly used in vast course of human history. For me, this point injects a sense of honor to battles such as these, for they took place in wars of just and noble cause. We were fighting not for money and loot, but for freedom. And this freedom forms the foundation of our country – Chamberlain’s final point. Our land is one of opportunity, grounded in fairness, anchored in the belief that every man is created equal, endowed by the Creator with the same privileges, the same freedom, the same choices. As a Christian, I am reminded of the love of Christ, who limits no race or background to access His offer of spiritual freedom and peace. As an American, I am filled with gratitude that I live in a nation who still strives and continually fights for these goals. As a person, I am touched and comforted by the fact that ours is a nation that is borne from selflessness, from a love for his neighbor, and from the idea that the life of someone else can be more important than one’s own.
“What we’re all fighting for, in the end, is each other.”
Shaara, M. (2004). The killer angels. New York, NY: Modern Library. (Original work published 1974)
The previous entry is a part of a series of Gettysburg posts recounting Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels and the actual battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. The complete list of entries can be found at the page The Killer Angels.