LEST WE FORGET: The 4th of July, 1863

July 4, 1863, is one of the most critical days in our nation’s history. As critical as July 4, 1776!

It was on July 4, 1863, the experiment in democratic government that is the United States of America turned a corner and went from being placed on the ash heaps of history, to being saved by the brave men of the Union armies, and the Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois farm boys who saved the confederation of states, allowing the union and experiment in democracy to continue.

Sgt. Jefferson Coates of Boscobel, Wis., served in the 7th Wisconsin Infantry, part of the famed Iron Brigade. Coates continued to fight the first day of Gettysburg, after having both eyes shot out. Coates was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Sgt. Henry Taylor of Galena, Ill., served in the 45th Illinois Infantry and received a Congressional Medal of Honor for being the first to plant the Stars and Stripes upon the enemy’s works at Vicksburg, signifying the beginning of the end of the Confederate states then in rebellion with Union control of the Mississippi River now assured.      

With the victory at Vicksburg in the west and Gettysburg in the east, the United States turned a corner on the streets of destiny and ultimately proved a democracy and democratic elections can survive social unrest and upheaval, and American ideals can still chase the better angels of our nature.

Perhaps there is a lesson here we can learn from – now more than ever – lest we forget!  

Medal of Honor profiles for Sgt. Jefferson Coates and Sgt. Henry Taylor