I was reminded over the weekend of another singular moment in the space-time path of the United States. This one chose a path towards a unified nation where freedoms of the people - at the level of the individual human - were to dominate over the powers of the States.
Gettysburg was the place, specifically on Little Round Top, and on July 2nd, 1863 was the time. The 20th Maine regiment held the extreme left of the Union army line and the Confederates were attacking uphill in the forest amid the rocks time and again in substantial force and vigor. To prevent being outflanked, the regiment's commander, Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, had his extreme left line curve back to form an "L" to "refuse the line. That worked awhile as it make the Confederates go further & further to try to outflank. But ammunition was running out.
Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge, swinging the short side of the "L" down like a hinged door into the flank of the advancing Confederates. Then the main line charged, downhill. The tired, thinned and weakened Confederates were swept from the field and the battle was won. This saved the Union flank and entire line, permitting them to hold the excellent ground and eventually win the battle.
Had Chamberlain been flanked and overrun, the entire Union line would have been rolled up and the army would have been force to retreat, ignominiously defeated on home ground in Pennsylvania.
BUT by winning that battle the Union army capped the Confederate advance into Pennsylvania; the Confederates retreated to Virginia.
Why is this a singular point in space-time ? Had the Confederates won, it's very likely that Lincoln would have lost the election in 1864. Grant & Sherman could not have had the time to win the needed victories in 1864 because they would have had much weaker tactical positions. Lincoln's opponent, McClellan would likely had negotiated a peace letting the Confederacy go.
Imagine the 20th century with a separate USA and CSA. All the Civil War constitutional amendments imposing the Bill of Rights onto the states would never have been enacted. The conflict between the USA and CSA likely would have continued in minor conflicts over the western territories. What about World War I and World War II ? No "united" nation, but two with different values. The likely changes are enormous. Little Round Top was a singular point in the future path of the United States, where the path to unity and individual freedom was selected over fragmentation and aristocracy.
The movie, Gettyburg, made in 1993 starring Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels shows the key events in the battle in marvelous detail and drama. I recommend it highly.
Word of the Day
"Milieu" - noun [$10] an old one from the card file
Milieu means environment, setting.
Sentence: Some day I want to visit Gettysburg to experience its milieu, to walk on that hallowed ground, to see the fields of fire and scope of the terrain, and to see the monuments put in place by units that fought there.