[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
So a few weeks back was the seventh anniversary of my marriage and I got inspired to do something special. But we also didn’t really have the opportunity to take much time and we have been gathering our savings, so it had be reasonable in cost. So I suggested a drive to the exotic land of…
Okay, it’s not as awesome as going to Africa, like a certain blogger around here did, but it was a nice weekend and despite my Southern accent, that is actually the state I consider to be home. First, on Friday night we left town and drove up to Gettysburg. That’s really not very far from me—about a two and a half hour drive. The next morning we woke up early and went on a horseback tour of the battlefield. That part was for the wifey, because she absolutely loves any excuse to ride a horse.
We got out there at 9 in the morning, before things got too hot. For some reason they gave me the biggest horse I ever set eyes on, named “Stormin’ Normin.” I swear to God it was four foot wide under the saddle. Afterward, I could barely walk I felt so overstretched. So yeah, I am not exactly a cowboy despite having spent some years in Texas.
And I don’t mind giving the company that did it a little free publicity. And it truly is free publicity—I paid full price like anyone else, not even mentioning that I might write about it on a nationally read blog. It was frankly a little pricy compared to other horse rides I had done in the past, but otherwise it was pretty much as advertised.
Later in the day, we drove over to Lancaster and had a chance to do something I had wanted to do for a long time. Anyone who knows me long enough will learn that one of my constitutional heroes is Thaddeus Stevens. The fact that most lay persons don’t even know his name only makes me more passionate in trying to get the word out. This video, although containing a few inaccuracies, gives a decent summary of his life and advertises for a worthy cause, The Stevens & Smith Historic Site preservation project.
Thaddeus Stevens was a tireless advocate for equality of opportunity in life. Primarily he dealt with the issue of racial discrimination, first being an ardent abolitionist, then after the slaves were freed being an advocate for complete social, legal and political equality of opportunity for the races. His greatest impact on the Constitution was in being the Father of the Fourteenth Amendment. That amendment not only banned state-based discrimination—particularly racial discrimination—but also made the Bill of Rights applicable to the states.
And when I went to Lancaster, I wanted to visit his tombstone, because I had read that it was special. This is a picture of it that my wife took.
It is literally a monument to his commitment to racial equality. You see, before he died, he learned that the first plot he purchased for himself was in a racially segregated cemetery. So he sold it, and bought the plot you see in the picture, in a desegregated cemetery. I don’t know who decided to make it into a monument, but I know that Stevens did ask that this inscription mark his grave:
Its not easy to read, I admit. But it says:
I repose in this quiet and secluded spot
not from any natural preference for solitude
but finding other cemeteries limited as to race
by charter rules
I have chosen this that I might illustrate
in my death the principles which I advocated
through a long life
EQUALITY OF MAN BEFORE HIS CREATOR
We as a people owe him so much. Indeed, but for the Equal Protection Clause I might not have been able to marry my wife in Virginia seven years ago. In the very appropriately named case of Loving v. Virginia (the couple was actually named Richard and Mildred Loving, imagine that), the Supreme Court cited the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when striking down that state’s miscegenation laws. This was Stevens work, living on, and I wanted to pay my respects to him.
After that, we took some time in Amish country.
Actually I think they weren’t full Amish, given that one of them was using a gas powered milking machine with his cows. Feel free to help me out on this in the comments (like you need any encouragement). And then retired to our hotel room in Gettysburg.
The next day we decided to take a car tour of the battlefield. We actually bought this guide (again, completely free advertisement—they gave no consideration in order to get this mention), and it was a very nice experience. I could go on and on, but I thought I would highlight the particularly touching story of Sallie the dog.
You can read a lot more about the dog here, but she was a pug-nosed brindle bull terrier who became the companion and mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. She was said to bark at only three things: Rebels, Democrats and women. On the first day of fighting at Gettysburg, she was separated from her unit. But eventually she found her way back to their last position, at Oak Ridge where some laid dead and other laid wounded. She remained there, steadfast, licking the wounds of the injured and protecting the bodies of the dead, for three days, with no food or water, until she was found by another unit and returned to her own.
She later died in the fighting in Spotsylvania, Virginia, shot through the head. Her companions buried her where she fell, under enemy fire. And when it came time to honor those who fought at Gettysburg, they made sure to honor her, too. This is a picture of the monument for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
And at the base, you can see their statue of Sallie.
Yes, visitors have left dog biscuits in her honor.
And that night we returned home.
We owe our freedom and the republic that defends it, to those who came before us—leaders like Thaddeus Stevens, and ordinary soldiers who gave their last full measure of devotion on battlefields like this. Perhaps even to simple dogs who died with the men they unconditionally loved. You owe it to yourself, if you haven’t already, to visit a site like this and pay your respects to those who gave you this precious inheritance.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]