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This Memorial Day Wesley Freeman (over at The Long Roll) and I took an impromptu trip a few miles down the road to Kennesaw Battlefield. We took a turn off the beaten path to explore a wooded area lined with Confederate trenches. A trail took us up to a spot where a memorial stood like an ancient abandoned Mayan temple tucked away in the sprawling Kennesaw suburbs.

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The memorial marked a particular area of land designated sacred by the of men of the 125th Volunteer Infantry from Illinois. This piece of land carved a psychological imprint so astonishing that the Union veterans tracked down the spot years later in order to give tribute to the over four hundred men who lost their lives that day trying to take the hill.

The experience for me was one of sadness mixed with a touch of dread at the thought of the carnage of that day. The D-Day scene of Saving Private Ryan came to mind. Surely, this was no less violent. A Rebel soldier recorded that he had personally shot at least a hundred men that day.

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Artist depiction of the battle

The Union soldiers bogged down to less than ten yards from the Rebel entrenchments. There, they traded fire with the enemy for six days until the Rebels evacuated. The men from Illinois never forgot the experience.

The American Revolution appeals to me in many ways. One of which is the fact that a variety of men from across the world fought on American soil.

But this memorial is a stunning reminder that the Civil War was a uniquely American experience. Yet this experience was every bit as violent and brutal as any war against a foreign enemy. If one could go back in time and ask the men about that day, would they describe it any differently that then men that fought at Normandy, Iwo Jima or Bunker Hill?

Memorial Day is a tribute to courage and sacrifice in the face of terror. I am truly grateful that Americans have moved up that hill despite the terror. This courage and sacrifice has truly made America and the world a better place. When looking at that sacred piece of ground today, I find myself grateful and encouraged to try and gain some perspective when marching up my own hill and facing my own dread–however insignificant compared to the men of the 125th.

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