We read and hear the word “frontline” a lot lately. Doctors, nurses, medical staff, and all first responders are on the frontline. They are heroes. They are heroes, quite simply, because they have put themselves between us and profound danger. We are extremely grateful for these people who are selflessly protecting us from a new and unknown enemy—Covid-19.
But this isn’t the first, nor the last, danger we’ll face as a nation. And isn’t new either. There are many moments in our history in which we have expressed profound gratitude for brave frontliners. The following is a notable example. In what has been described as one of the most emotionally intense moments of his presidency, Abraham Lincoln honored the wounded near City Point, Virginia, on April 8, 1865, just days before General Lee’s surrender. At the hospital he visited--one of the largest in the United States--he personally greeted as many as 6,000 men, many of them severely wounded.
In his book, Lincoln’s Greatest Journey: Sixteen Days That Changed a Presidency, March 24 – April 8, 1865, author Noah Andre Trudeau recounts a remarkable story from that day, involving a sharpshooter from Vermont. As Lincoln approached him, the soldier threw off his blankets to show the president that his right leg was missing. Lincoln remarked gently, “What, a leg gone?” The soldier replied: ‘Yes.’ Lincoln stood at the head of the bed and read the soldier’s identification card. “And a Vermonter,” he said. “Yes, sir,” replied the soldier. “I pride myself on being a Green Mountain boy.” Lincoln clasped the soldier’s hand between both of his. The soldier then asked, ‘Well, Father Abraham, have we done our work well?” “Very well, indeed, and I thank you,” came the reply. The soldier never forgot the pressure of Lincoln’s hands on his, nor did he forget Lincoln’s face. Fifty years later, he recalled, “I often see that sad and worn face in memory, and I can hardly keep back the tears.”
Just as Lincoln honored those wounded soldiers, the members of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania have been privileged to honor the fallen heroes at Gettysburg National Cemetery, in the very place they were buried so long ago. Unfortunately, this year, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, the ceremony cannot be held in public at the cemetery. Nevertheless, One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg, 2020, will continue its mission online and will be streamed every night at 7 p.m. on Facebook and YouTube.
This year, too, the Lincoln Fellowship’s annual commemorative coin honors one representative soldier, buried in Row D, #82, in Gettysburg National Cemetery. His name was Sergeant Isaac S. Osborne and he served with the 62nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company 1. He lost his life fighting on the frontline at the Wheatfield, on July 2. He died defending the colors. By remembering Sgt. Osborne every night this summer, we can honor not only his particular sacrifice but the bravery and nobility of every heroic frontliner, both past and present. It is the very least we can do.
Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania