Posted tagged ‘Gettysburg’

John Adams, the 4th — and Gettysburg?

July 1, 2013

If you’re a follower of this blog, you know that July 4th – Independence Day – is an important yearly event for us at GEM Theatrics. John Adams, of course, was the driving force behind American independence. While not alone, it was through his efforts — his arguing, cajoling, harranguing, badgering and persuading — that the unanimous resolution for American independence was adopted.
And once it was and the Declaration of Independence was signed, it was John Adams who told us how to celebrate the event. The day, he wrote, “ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” And so, it is.Passage of the Declaration

But even John Adams couldn’t accomplish this feat alone. Figuratively by his side through all the struggles of his life (and there were many) was Abigail. Although more than 300 miles away in Braintree, and despite having to nurture a farm and a family by herself, Abigail always found time to write to John. In her letters, she supported him, bucked him up, soothed his ruffled feathers, and ruffled them herself a time or two. I have no doubt, and he, himself acknowledged, that without her wise counsel, he would often have been unable to carry on the great responsibilities assigned to him. They are, in my view, the quintessential founding couple.

And, oh yeah, John died on July 4, 1826, the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration, on the same day as Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of that document (James Monroe, the Fifth President, also died on July 4th, but no one remembers that — tell your friends and astound them with your knowledge of history!).

So, Adams and the 4th fit together like peas and carrots, but Gettysburg? How can an event more than 30 years after the death of John be relevant? Well, this year marks the 150th Anniversary of that turning point in the Civil War, which took place from July 1 through July 3, 1863. When it was all done and Lee had retreated from Northern territory never to return, more than 50,000 men on both sides had been killed or wounded. And, in a sense, John and Abigail were involved. The slavery issue didn’t just spring up in the 1850s and early 1860s. At the time of the signing of the Declaration, Adams, Franklin and others were aware of the impending crisis. Jefferson, himself a slave holder, had included a paragraph in the Declaration chastising the King of England for encouraging the slave trade. That section was deleted from the final version at the demand of Southern delegates, but Adams and others foresaw dire consequences down the road. Adams is quoted as saying: “Mark me, Franklin. If we give in on this issue, there will be trouble one hundred years hence. Posterity will never forgive us.” Abigail was ahead of even her husband in her hatred of human slavery. Despite the fact that her father had owned slaves, she abhorred the practice. This is covered in our production of “My Dearest Friend.”

Mary Beth also has a personal connection to the battle of Gettysburg because her Great Grandfather, William Cheal, fought in the battle as part of Company I – 6th Regiment, Michigan Volunteer Cavalry under the command of George Armstrong Custer. Later that year, Mr. Cheal was wounded, captured and sent to Andersonville, the notorious Confederate prison camp. He was there for more than 14 months, but survived and was discharged. MB and I visited the Gettysburg National Historic Park in 2009 and I’ve posted a video of our visit.IMG_0151 It’s an amazing sight and should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Enjoy the Fourth! And, maybe, take a moment and read with your family the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did!

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