All Americans

It's easy to lose sight of the reality that Harford County —  like the whole of Maryland — is ground zero for U.S. History.

A key part of that history was recalled over the weekend at  St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Abingdon, where there was a ceremony to mark the graves of Confederate States of America soldiers buried there.

While the land of the Lords Baltimore wasn't much of a hot spot in the Revolution, it was the key battleground for the War of 1812. Indeed, few Marylanders need be reminded that Key, Francis Scott, that is, penned the national anthem during the War of 1812. A later figure in American letters whose family has roots in Maryland was named after his distant cousin who penned the Star Spangled Banner. That later figure's full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, and his eternal resting place is in the Washington, D.C.,

suburbs of this state.

As for the Civil War, Maryland was pivotal. Just as Pennsylvania was regarded as the keystone of the 13 original states, Maryland's strategic importance in the Civil War cannot be understated.

Had the Free State joined the Confederacy —  and it probably would have if left to its own devices — the Union's capital would have been behind enemy lines.  And putting that Union capital behind enemy lines is a goal that prompted the South to send soldiers to fight at Antietam to the west in Washington County, and a bit to the north at Gettysburg.

Like much of Maryland, Harford County has plenty of Civil War history to look back upon. It is, of course, the birthplace and boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln's infamous assassin, John Wilkes Booth. But also in the 1800s, it was home to a substantial abolitionist community and safe houses on the Underground Railroad, the clandestine pathway to freedom for many an escaped slave, are also part of Harford County's Civil War heritage.

The Civil War was a defining time in the history of our Republic and, as such, is well worth commemorating. Furthermore, the bloodiest conflict in our nation's history killed many people whose families were, both before and after the war - and regardless of which side they fought on — fellow citizens.

This past April marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the war between the states, yet it remains a subject of much interest and passion.

Perhaps, that's why the ceremony over the weekend, which could have been dismissed as commemorating those who fought on the losing side, or from the moral low ground, drew a substantial crowd.

The war resolved the issue the Founding Fathers could not come to terms with, namely slavery. The war's outcome was the preservation of a nation that would, within a generation, grow into world power.

Growing into that role may well have been made possible not only by the preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery, but also by the hard fight to resolve the issues.

In that sense, consecrating the graves of soldiers at St. Mary's in Abingdon is, to quote Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, "fitting and proper."

Indeed, on the occasion of that quintessential American oratory, the dedication and consecration of a cemetery at Gettysburg is what Lincoln was doing.

Even as the war raged, he made no distinction between Union or Confederate warriors when he said: "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

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