Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Imboden’s 4th

“O God I why can't I die!”

“My God, will no one have mercy and kill me!”

“Stop! Oh! For God's sake, stop just for one minute; take me out and leave me to die on the roadside.”

“I am dying! I am dying! My poor wife, my dear children, what will become of you?”

Confederate General John Daniel Imboden commanded a cavalry brigade that arrived at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of the 3rd of July, 1863 – too late to take part in the battle that had raged for three days.

On the following day, the 4th, Robert E Lee ordered General Imboden and his cavalry brigade to protect the train of Confederate wounded as it retreated toward the Potomac River, to escape into Virginia.

The column moved out at 4PM. It stretched for miles. Imboden recorded the cries of the severely wounded Confederates in his train as it made its way west, first, toward Chambersburg; then south to Williamsport on the Potomac.

While Imboden retreated, the Confederate garrison of Vicksburg, Mississippi, marched out of their entrenchments, stacked their arms and furled their flags. The victorious Union army marched in and took possession the city which had been under siege since 22nd May.

President Lincoln, when he was informed of Vicksburg’s surrender, exclaimed, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.” In the east, Imboden successfully evacuated his train, “probably ten thousand animals and nearly all the wagons of General Lee’s army under our charge, and all the wounded, to the number of several thousand, that could be brought from Gettysburg,” to Virginia on the 9th of July.

Today, 144 years later, we remember heroes and courage, national independence and American freedoms. And sometimes, the awful price we’ve paid for those freedoms.

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