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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Washington Monument at Night

(March to Valley Forge by William Trego, 1858-1909,
American painter)

The price of freedom is steep.

In the eighteenth century, wars were waged in campaigns during the spring, summer and early autumn. Because it was impossible to fight battles under the brutally frigid conditions of winter, armies would hold their ground by going into encampment during the “severe season.”

The winter of 1777-1778 was the darkest period for the Americans in the Revolutionary War. They had settled into winter quarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

By February, the situation had become so dire that General Washington wrote to Governor Clinton: "For some days past there has been little less than a famine in camp. A part of the army has been a week without any kind of flesh [meat], and the rest three or four days." The men were wet and cold from the snow, their clothes and blankets in tatters, their shoes so destroyed that they wrapped their feet in rags. But, “naked and starving as they are,” said Washington, “we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery.”



The stone goes straight.
A lean swimmer dives into night sky,
Into half-moon mist.


Two trees are coal black.
This is a great white ghost between.
It is cool to look at,
Strong men, strong women, come here.


Eight years is a long time
To be fighting all the time.


The republic is a dream.
Nothing happens unless first a dream.


The wind bit hard at Valley Forge one Christmas.
Soldiers tied rags on their feet.
Red footprints wrote on the snow . . .
. . . and stone shoots into stars here
. . . into half-moon mist tonight.


Tongues wrangled dark at a man.
He buttoned his overcoat and stood alone.
In a snowstorm, red hollyberries, thoughts, he stood alone.


Women said: He is lonely
. . . fighting . . . fighting . . . eight years . . .


The name of an iron man goes over the world.
It takes a long time to forget an iron man.


. . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . .

~ Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), American poet and writer and biographer of Lincoln

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