Our Banner in the Sky, painted by Frederick Church during the Civil War.
The Aurora Borealis shone down upon both the armies of the North and South at the Battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War, a very rare occurrence in the latitude of Virginia. On Sunday, Dec. 14, 1862, a bitterly cold night, the Union Army had just suffered one of its worst defeats.
Shelby Foote, in his Civil War Trilogy, wrote of the spectacle:
“A mysterious refulgence, shot with fanwise shafts of varicolored light, predominantly reds and blues—first a glimmer, then a spreading glow, as if all the countryside between Fredericksburg and Washington were afire—filled a wide arc of the horizon beyond the Federal right…to one Southerner it seemed ‘that the heavens were hanging out banners and streamers and setting off fireworks in honor of our great victory.’”
In 1905 Elizabeth Lyle Saxon wrote in A Southern Woman’s War Time Reminiscenses ” It was near this time that the wonderful spectacle of the Aurora Borealis was seen in the Gulf States. The whole sky was a ruddy glow as if from an enormous conflagration, but marked by the darting rays peculiar to the Northern light. It caused much surprise, and aroused the fears even of those far from superstitious. I remember an intelligent old Scotch lady said to me, “Oh, child, it is a terrible omen; such lights never burn, save for kings’ and heroes’ deaths.”
It was not to be a victory for the South but a great tragedy for our nation in the loss of life; nearly 620,000 lives and over a million casualties. But out of the death and destruction came freedom for the slaves, and a victory for human worth and dignity. There would be, in time, a great reunification of all of the states but, no longer, would people consider their own state, as General Robert E. Lee once did, “their country.”
God’s Windows had opened for a time on the night of December 14th, 1862 and human beings, being creatures of emotion, misinterpreted the meaning. The metaphysical meanderings of time have always intertwined great human events with cosmic and natural eruptions. Great men and women have emerged in dark times, when all of civilization seemed lost.
Abraham Lincoln would have seemed an unlikely choice as the leader of the strife filled United States of America had he emerged in the days of Hollywood casting. He was born poor, had very little education and was from what we now call flyover country and yet he was elected President of the United States in 1860. Abraham Lincoln guided our country through the most devastating experience in its history. He was never to see the flowering of the spring of the reunion of the states; the conciliatory plans he had in mind for reconciliation with the South were cast away just six days after the surrender by Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Boothe in Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
Throughout Lincoln’s presidency there was little peace to be found inside or outside of the White House. There was the death of his son, Willie, the anguish of his wife, Mary, the constant attacks of friends and foes and the failures of his generals.
Throughout his life he also believed in dreams and other enigmatic signs and portents. As he grew older, and especially after he became president and faced the soul-troubling responsibilities of the Civil War, he developed a profound religious sense, and he increasingly personified necessity as God. He came to look upon himself quite humbly as an “instrument of Providence” and to view all history as God’s enterprise. “In the present civil war,” he wrote in 1862, “it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party—and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose.”
Lincoln seemed to understand his place in the great stream of time. Just days before his death he spoke of foreboding dreams. Abraham Lincoln never graduated from high school, college, Harvard or Yale, (although those colleges did exist during his lifetime) but he is considered by most historians to be the greatest of all American Presidents.
“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and in eternity.”
–Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862
This exceptional nation produced exceptional men - and women who walked through hard and bitter times, not stopping when events seemed to present no victory, no solution, no relief. Abraham Lincoln, and the Founders before him saw the glorious light through the darkness that John Adams described in a letter to his wife, Abigail:
“The day is passed. The Fourth of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch n the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this declaration and support and defend these States; yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.’’
In this present time of darkness and gloom in which the American people are steeping like a teabag too long in a cup of now tepid water, the economy and culture rests on the edge of a cliff and the 2012 Presidential Election approaches, like a distant candle seen through a fog. There are now nine Republican candidates competing for the GOP nomination, and some Eastern Elite nervous Nelly Establishment types are urging one more Republican politician to enter the race to unseat Barack Obama.
Since 2009 we have watched our Liberty rapidly decline due to the passage of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. The EPA and the NLRB have declared war on business, spending is out of control and Obama has hinted that he is tempted to bypass Congress altogether.
Enemies, foreign and domestic, are working day and night to weaken our nation while Obama prances about the country blaming its very citizens for its problems. He claims that America has lost its greatness because America is soft.
It will take a Republican with incredible courage and backbone to unite the party and the independents behind him (or her) and withstand the barrage of attacks Obama and the media will gleefully inflict upon him. (or her) There will never be another Ronald Reagan but there are candidates who may possibly possess the remarkable personality traits and conservative principles that Reagan will forever be known for. Our Republican nominee will also need to understand (and become an expert on) the times of Abraham Lincoln. We are at a great divide in our nation. Lincoln more than understood that fact in his time and he counted the cost and led the Union without the assistance of pollsters. The United States of America is now on the line. We may never know it again as it once existed if it continues to be led by Barack Obama.
Will God’s Windows open again? Will they be misinterpreted? Time is short. If we keep gazing up at the stars we could easily go to sleep. We are so close to the edge of the cliff if we begin to dream we might fall off. How far is the fall? Have we already fallen?