In this business, I get to ride a lot of different motorcycles. Not as many as my buddy Neale Bayly, but more than the average reader.
I know it sounds like a dream job, and in many ways it is. I’m not bragging about it. The downside is most of my mileage comes in big chunks.
I recently flew to western New Jersey, picked up a FLD Dyna Switchback and rode it 900 miles home. Along the way I briefly toured Hershey PA, and the famous Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg and Antietam.
Then I rode the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway before jumping back on the interstate to hammer the last 7 hours home.
By the time some of you read this, I will have been to Sturgis and back on that bike, (along with my bride) and then to Gadsden Alabama before riding back to Jersey and flying home.
I’ve estimated I’ll rack up somewhere between 6k and 7k miles in 24 days. Oh, and I’ll have to get a magazine edited and published, and oversee the Smoky Mtn Rumble in Franklin NC in between.
I’m not complaining, We have it pretty good, compared to those alive 150 years ago. I thought about this while I was standing in the “Bloody Lane” at the battle of Sharpsburg, (Antietam as it’s known in the North)
The combined casualties of this one day battle numbered north of 24,000 souls. Fought on September 17, 1862 it remains the single bloodiest day in American history.
As I stood there in the sunken road and closed my eyes, I could almost hear the screams of agony, the zing of ball shot and the thunder of the cannons echoing across 15 decades of time. Afterwards I found this account of a soldier who fought there.
...as one of the regiments was for the second time going into the conflict, a soldier staggered. It was from no wound, but in the group of dying and dead through which they were passing, he saw his father, of another regiment, lying dead. A wounded man, who knew them both, pointed to the father’s corpse, and then upwards, saying only, ‘It is all right with him.’ Onward went the son, by his father’s corpse, to do his duly in the line, which, with bayonets fixed, advanced upon the enemy. When the battle was over, he came back and with other help buried his father. From his person he took the only thing he had, a Bible, given to the father years before....
You’ll notice the writer makes no mention of the color of the uniform, whether gray or blue. It doesn’t matter and I’m not here to debate the right or wrong.
What matters, and must not be forgotten, are the sacrifices by soldier and civilian alike. The blood of these brave souls (on both sides) established our nation and helped define what it would become. We were brothers fighting brothers, and when it was over, the old Union was dead, and a new Union was born. That fact alone should swell your heart with pride.
Twelve months after Antietam, Abraham Lincoln would deliver his address at Gettysburg. As a proud Son of the South, I see no disrespect to the memory or honor of my ancestors to quote his words here. And while he was at a different but equally bloody battlefield, his message to us was then, and remains appropriate, even to this day.
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -” Abraham Lincoln. November 19,1863
It is good we remember this, as we reflect on another tragic September day just 11 short years ago. We should strengthen our resolve, that those dead shall not have died in vain.
Until next month, ride safe, and always take the road less traveled.