Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pennsylvania the War Zone II

A young Virginia officer named George Washington began to make a reputation during the French and Indian War, and on Pennsylvania soil. His role in the next war, the Revolution, would continue the process of making his name immortal. His reputation, again, was enhanced by events here in Pennsylvania. Losing a major encounter like the Battle of the Brandywine might not seem a great qualification for immortality--but holding the army together and shepherding it through the grueling winter at Valley Forge do qualify for candidacy.
The War of 1812, our second against Britain, may seem to have little to do with Pennsylvania; but appearances are deceiving. For a time the British blockaded Philadelphia because it was so important an American port. And their attempt to gain control of the Great Lakes--thwarted so ably by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie--was part of an overall strategy to cut Americans off from access to the West.
We are about to enter the 150th anniversary commemoration of the American Civil War, during which Confederate forces burned Chambersburg, threatened Harrisburg, the state capital, and clashed with the Union army in the titanic Battle of Gettysburg. The Union, of course, won.
To date, this has been the most recent experience of warfare on Commonwealth land. I hope it remains the last for a very long time. Pennsylvania has played host to too many hosts already.

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