Remembering The Price of Freedom
- Wednesday, July 03, 2002
On Christmas Day night, December 25, 1776, General Washington courageously ferried what was left of his Continental Army across the Delaware River in the midst of a freezing blizzard to attack the Hessian mercenary troops at Trenton. One thousand Hessians were captured by complete surprise, as they had not yet recovered from their holiday festivities. Washington then pressed on to Princeton to defeat part of General Cornwallis' army of eight thousand.
The next year, Washington's army was pinned down at Valley Forge. The freezing weather caused soldiers to die at the rate of twelve per day. The Commander-in-Chief wrote to John Banister:
"No history, now extant, can furnish an instance of an Army's suffering such uncommon hardships as ours has done and bearing them with the same patience and fortitude. To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lay on, without shoes, by which their marches might be traced by the blood from their feet, and almost as often without provisions as with; marching through frost and snow, and at Christmas taking up their winter quarters within a day's march of the enemy, without a house or hut to cover them till they could be built and submitting without a murmur, is a mark of patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be paralleled."
A Committee from Congress reported "feet and legs froze till they became black, and it was often necessary to amputate them."
An incident during this crisis was recorded by Isaac Potts, with whom General Washington was temporarily residing:
"In 1777 while the American army lay at Valley Forge, a good old Quaker by the name of Potts had occasion to pass through a thick woods near headquarters. As he traversed the dark brown forest, he heard, at a distance before him, a voice which as he advanced became more fervid and interested. Approaching with slowness and circumspection, whom should he behold in a dark bower, apparently formed for the purpose, but the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of the United Colonies on his knees in the act of devotion to the Ruler of the Universe!"
President Theodore Roosevelt stated:
"Freedom is not a gift that tarries long in the hands of cowards. Neither does it tarry long in the hands of those too slothful, too dishonest, or too unintelligent to exercise it. The eternal vigilance which is the price of liberty must be exercised, sometimes to guard against outside foes; although of course far more often to guard against our own selfish or thoughtless shortcomings."
In light of the recent tragedy of September 11th, let us remember the words of President John F. Kennedy in his Inaugural Address, 1961:
"The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe - The belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.... Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
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