The Fourth of July has been experienced differently over the years. In 1863 during the Civil War, there was the ending of two significant battles. But we usually remember only one -Gettysburg. It was a momentous victory for the Union forces after fighting for three days the Fourth was cleanup day. Some forces were chasing the Confederates back south and some were occupied with clearing the battlefields (Cemetary Ridge was just one) of the bodies of the dead and wounded, on both sides. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and lingering wounds often took as many lives as bullets, bayonets, and cannonballs.
But way down south in Mississippi, there had been another battle happening – Vicksburg. Union soldiers under the command of General Ulysses S Grant had been laying siege to the town for 47 days trying to capture this important port on the Mississippi River. On the Fourth, they captured the city and achieved a major milestone in the defeat of the South. While Gettysburg was defensive, keeping the Rebels out of the North, Vicksburg was offensive, a major blow to the Confederacy on their own turf.
Two non-warfare moments of freedom occurred later on this date. In 1946 after 381 near continuous occupation by colonial powers – including 48 by the US – the Philippines was granted its independence. And in 1964 President LBJ signed the Freedom of Information Act, through which people can demand information from their government, often needed to pursue cases against official wrongdoing. Part of the 1st Amendment right to “petition their government for a redress of grievances”.
This was a special day in the lives of some presidents and vice presidents. Calvin Coolidge, from Vermont, was born on this date in 1872 – a presidential election year ironically. One vice president died on this date Hannibal Hamlin (1891), who was Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president.
And three Founding Fathers presidents, Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe all passed on this date. James Monroe, our fifth president died in 1831 at the age of 73. John Adams, who had been Washington’s vice president before he became President, and who went on to see his son, John Quincy Adams become president, died in 1826 and the ripe old age of 91. And Thomas Jefferson, who along with being both VP and President was also the main author of the Declaration of Independence, died in 1826 along with Adams – a few hours earlier – on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration. Ironic, to say the least.il
Meanwhile in 1852 American philosopher Henry David Thoreau moved into a small cabin in the woods at Walden Pond, to ponder life. He would remain there for two years.