17 September 1787
Forty-two men sign a document proposing a new government for the newest member of the fraternity of nations.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
17 September 1862
127,000 men bloodily contest the meaning of that founding document on the 75th anniversary of its adoption. 26,000 or more never see the end of the argument or witness the mightiest of nations rise on the foundation of their sacrifice.
“Such a storm of balls I never conceived it possible for men to live through. Shot and shell shrieking and crashing, canister and bullets whistling and hissing most fiend-like through the air until you could almost see them. In that mile’s ride I never expected to come back alive.”
September 17 is more sacred to me than Christmas. More eagerly anticipated than my birthday. Almost as much fun as St. Patrick’s Day. In the last fifteen years or so I can count on one hand the number of days I wasn’t walking the fields around Antietam creek. Hell, last year in the middle of my great adventure I flew back east so I could visit Antietam on September 17.
And today I’m in New-f**king-Jersey. I don’t even have the energy to visit Independence Hall and celebrate our Constitution. The way things are going it won’t be celebrated much longer anyway. Instead, in my mind, I’ll think of the warm fall breeze and the quiet as I tramped along roads and through woods to take a break in the shade on the banks of the Antietam.
And wish I was there.