“The Last Full Measure of Devotion”

by Phil Spaugy

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Small monument marking the place where Captain Jed. Chapman fell, July 2nd, 1863.

In memory of Captain Jedidiah Chapman, Company H, 27th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry who fell at head of his company on July 2nd, 1863.

He was 23 years old.

Captain Chapman would have been celebrated his 24nd birthday on November 21st, 1863, two days after the events of 151 years ago today. Events of which in my opinion there is no better description of than that penned by Bruce Catton in volume two of his Army of Potomac trilogy, “Glory Road:”

“There are many thousands of people at this ceremony and among them were certain wounded veterans who had come back to see all of this and a nod of these wandered away at the crowd as the speaker stand and stroll down around cemetery ridge, pausing when they reached a little clump of trees and there they looked off toward the west and talked quietly about what they had seen and done there. In front of them was the wide gentle valley of the shadow of death, brimming now in the autumn light and the voice went on and the governors looked dignified and the veterans by the trees looked about them and saw again the fury and the smoke and the killing. This was the valley of the dry bones, the valley of the dry bones, waiting for the word which might or might not come in rhythmic prose. The bones had lain there in the sun and rain and now they were carefully state by state in the new sod. They were bones in their youths and some had been heros and others had been scamped and pillaged and run away when they could and they died here. Back of these men were innumerable dusty roads reaching to the main streets of thousands of towns and villages where there had been people crying and cheering and waving a last good-bye. Perhaps there was a meaning to all of this somewhere. Perhaps everything the nation was and meant to be had come to a focus here beyond the graves. Programs the whole of it somehow was greater than the sum of its tragic parts. And perhaps here on this wind-swept hill the thing could be said at last so that the dry bones of the country’s dreams could take on flesh. The orator finished and after the applause had died, the tall man in the black coat got to his feet with two little sheets of paper in his hand and he looked out over the valley and he began to speak.”

 

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