Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Each One Has a History

I stood in the middle of the Antietam Battlefield today.
This is hallowed ground.
The battles that took place here during the American Civil War were so fierce, so bloody and so devastating that more lives were lost than had been in the War of 1812, The Spanish/American War, and the Revolutionary War combined.

There we stood.

Monuments, as well as original and restored structures all around us.

The movie we had watched in the Visitor's Center told us that during the morning following the battle, all that could be heard in the air throughout the fields and surrounding town were the moans and cries of the men.

How sobering. How very sobering.

My children and I made the Sign of the Cross as we stood amidst the corn fields where so much blood had been shed. We thanked God for our freedom. We prayed for the souls of those who gave their lives and those who had to go on living without them. We offered the Lord's prayer and we sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee".

As we made our way along the roads and trails, we came to the National Antietam Cemetery.

Thousands laid to rest...many with "unkown" markers.

We lingered when we came to the rows and rows of Pennsylvania fallen.

My daughter, 16, kept slowly turning 'round in circles looking out over the vast expanse of plots, saying, "This is amazing. Every single one of these people has a history and yet, we'll never know what it is...even those in the unknown graves have histories".

What a thought.

I pondered this for a while.

I wondered about the wives, the daughters, the sons, the grand-parents, the employers, the brothers and sisters and neighbors and pastors...who had to "hear the word" that their loved one or friend had died in battle. 

We do not know who they are nor what their lives were like afterward.

As I considered the events that led up to "this place", "this place of REST" and tried to formulate a "history" of each in my own mind...a thought came to me that was so comforting, so pleasing, and so real...

GOD knows their histories...every single one of them...He even knows the full name of each unknown soldier!

He knows how they died, where they died, why they died.
He was with them the day they were born and with them the day they fell.

Not a single moment in their lives was in vain or remains unknown for GOD knows all...truer still...

GOD knows EACH.

On September 17, 1862, America found herself in the midst of the bloodiest single battle in  her history:

23,000 killed, wounded, or missing.

God created every single one of those 23,000 and though we would not recognize many of their faces were they standing next to us today...HE would...for He was their Father as He is our own.

And so, as I turned to leave the cemetery and looked back over my shoulder one last time...I smiled...for there is really no such thing as "an unknown soldier", is there?


  1. Judy,
    That was a very profound thought for a 16 year old, but so true. For those without faith and belief in God that cemetery would be a cold and desperate place. Thank you for the comforting and hop-filled reminder that God knows each of us so intimately because He is our Creator. There is no such thing as an unknown soldier or an unknown any one for that matter.
    A beautiful post~thanks for sharing it.
    God bless.

  2. Judy,
    A very sad but at the same time an "oh so beautiful" and hope filled post. There are no unknown hearts in this world. Thank you, Lord. And thank you, Judy, for this touching reminder of God's personal love for each and every one of us.

  3. Beautifully said Judy. I marvel at the strength of the men and women who lived during that time. I pray they had faith in God to help them through the trial and suffering of war.

  4. Noreen, if I might mention one particular family we learned about who touched my heart so deeply...Their name is "Mumma" (pronounced: moo-maw) and when visiting Antietam you are able to see their graves...all 15 of them...2 parents/13 children. They were met at the door of their home by Confederate soldiers who told them they had to get out immediately for the Battle was coming to their "front yard" so to speak. Thirteen children and no where to go!!!!
    After they exited the home, the soldiers burned it so that it could not be inhabited by Union Soldiers. Soldiers plundered and pillaged; even taking a family watch from the mantel...
    The family rebuilt their home within 18 months after the Battle...and all are buried here's the beautiful part...the way that God allows us to make amends when it seems impossible...years and years later...a letter arrived at the Sharpsburg post office...this came after an anniversary presentation at Antietam where a Mumma descendant had told his family's sotry...the letter identified its own writer as being the soldier who had reluctantly followed the order to burn the house to the ground...and he was hoping that the Post Master would give the letter to the Mummas to let them know how deeply sorry he was...Little did he know that the Post Master was, in fact,one of the Mumma children who had had to flee with his family!!!! Isn't God WONDERFUL???? This poor soldier had lived with that pain and guilt for almost 30 years and the Lord allowed him...not only to apologize but to apologize DIRECTLY to a member of the family without even realizing it!!! SO BEAUTIFUL!
    I'm glad you all enjoyed this post...I was so comforted and mindful of God's love there that I just wanted to share it with all of you:)

  5. Judy, good to read the post and your comment on the Mumma family and the forgiven soldier. 23,000 -- so sad.

  6. Beautiful post. Love the story of the Mumma family and that soldier. God is good.

  7. When I saw the battlefield at Vicksburg I had a similar reaction. So many graves. So many lives lost and families sundered. I couldn't breathe. Your post helps me see that site in a new light. Your daughter is great to be able to think of such things.