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July 4 is important -- but so is July 3

Two events on July 3, 1863 matter as much to human rights as July 4, 1776.

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Perhaps only in small Yankee towns like this one in Connecticut are we reminded that the Fourth of July is about two other anniversaries at least as important as 13 English Colonies thumbing their noses at a British king.

The fate of our beloved country hung in the balance those first few days of July 1863 because of the mortal threat posed by the Confederate States’ insurrection and rebellion. Without the epic Union Victory at Gettysburg, Pa., on July 3, 1863, and the Confederate surrender of their “Gibraltar” at Vicksburg above the Mississippi River the same day, we might have reverted to being dominated by an English monarch instead of becoming citizens of the greatest republic in the history of the world.

There are two civil-war monuments in Winsted, Conn. One is bronze; the other is granite. Both show Union Civil War veterans gripping their weapons. The granite memorial records the names of the battles they fought in: “Antietam, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Port Hudson”

Its inscription leaves no doubt that those who lived through the War of the Rebellion knew what was at stake: “In honor of the patriotism and to perpetuate the memory of these 368 brave men who went forth from this town from 1861 to 1865 and periled their all that the nation might live this monument has been erected....” Almost 1 in 5 soldiers from this small town, 68 souls, didn’t survive the war.

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