Image: The Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull. The 1819 painting of the events of July 4, 1776, hangs in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. The painting is oil on canvas.
With God’s providence and the wisdom He gave man, Americans formed the greatest nation in the history of our planet.
Conroe, July 4 – July 4th, the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain, has become a symbol for what sets Americans apart from the rest of the world: Americans are willing to take decisive actions, along with the risks that such action involves, to improve the lives of all. July 4th has many meanings in American history, because it has become a day when many Americans over the past 241 years have acted decisively.
July 4, 1776
The Second Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, and voted unanimously to form the United States of America and break away from the authority of the British crown. The vote actually occurred on July 2 on the motion of John Adams of Massachusetts. At Adams’ urging and to the disgust of Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, the Congress selected Jefferson and four others to draft the formal Declaration.
The Congress approved the Declaration of Independence and signed the instrument on July 4, 1776.
The American Revolutionary War had begun approximately fourteen months earlier when the Massachusetts militia refused British efforts to disarm them.
The decisive actions concluded with the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 17, 1781, and the Treaty of Paris, which the United States Congress of Confederation ratified on January 14, 1784.
The greatest nation in the history of the Earth was born.
July 4, 1863
Four decisive actions occurred on or about July 4, 1863 in the American Civil War.
Battle of Gettysburg. General Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, was a philosophical student of the great Swiss strategist Antoine-Henry Jomini. Lee was one of the great developers of the “offensive-defensive” battlefield strategy. In the classic “offensive-defense,” one positions one’s military forces in an advantageous offensive position, such as a mountaintop in the middle of the enemy’s territory. Then one waits for the opposing forces to attack, so that one may defend from an advantageous position.
Lee followed the strategy perfectly until the fighting actually began. First Corps commander, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, wanted to make an aggressive attack against the Union front. Rather than waiting for Union forces to cross the valley and attack the Army of Northern Virginia from the East, Longstreet convinced Lee to permit the Confederate forces to cross the valley and attack the Union Army of the Potomac instead. On the third day of the fighting, Confederate aggression got out of hand when approximately 13,000 Confederate soldiers under Major General George E. Pickett foolishly attacked the center of the Union forces on Cemetery Ridge. While “Pickett’s Charge” may have been the “high point of the Confederacy,” the resulting battle losses were ones from which the Army of Northern Virginia never recovered.
Lee’s Army withdrew as quickly as possibly from Pennsylvania and Maryland on July 4, 1863.
Battle of Vicksburg. After the Battles of Shiloh, Iuka, and Corinth, hard-drinking West Point graduate Ulysses Grant became the commanding General of the District of Tennessee on October 25, 1862. His major preoccupation became the destruction of the Confederate fortress at Vicksburg which prevented Union ships from utilizing the Mississippi River as a source of supplies.
Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign was complex and brilliant. It was truly the masterpiece of Grant’s career. Rather than attacking Vicksburg from the water, Grant marched his troops down the western side of the river and crossed at Bruinsburg well south of Vicksburg. The Army of Tennessee marched through swamps and hostile lands and eventually captured the capital of Mississippi, Jackson. Then Grant led his troops westward to attack Vicksburg from the land. After a seven-week siege, Confederate Lieutenant General John Pemberton surrendered to Grant on July 4, 1863.
Grant’s decisiveness thrilled President Abraham Lincoln and was clearly a major turning point in the Union effort to bring the South back into the nation.
Two other decisive battles. On the same day, July 4, 1863, Union forces won the Battle of Helena, 230 miles north of Vicksburg on the west bank of the Mississippi River, and the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which saw the first use of the Spencer Repeating Rifle.
Many military historians believe July 4, 1863, was the strategic turning point of the Civil War.
Other decisive July Fourths in American history
1802: The United States Military Academy at West Point opened.
1803: President Thomas Jefferson announced the Louisiana Purchase.
1845: Author Henry David Thoreau began his two-year stay at Walden Pond.
1855: Poet Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass.
1861: John Brown led a skirmish at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.
1881: Billy the Kid died of a gunshot wound in New Mexico.
1884: France presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States in Paris.
1894: Judge Sanford Dole declared Hawaii a republic after a violent overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Although he led Hawaii as its provisional president, Dole sought United States annexation, which eventually occurred in 1899. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Dole as a United States District Judge in 1903.
1895: Katherine Lee Bates published the song “America the Beautiful.”
1934: Joe Louis won his first heavyweight boxing fight.
1942: The United States began its bombing campaign against Nazi Germany.
1944: United States Marines raised the United States Flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
1960: The United States debuted the 50-star flag in Philadelphia.
1966: President Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act into law. Almost every state and local government adopted policies of “open government” afterwards (with the exception of Montgomery County under Craig Doyal and Charlie Riley).
1981: John McEnroe beat tennis icon Bjorn Borg in the 95th Wimbledon Tennis Finals.
2017: The Golden Hammer would guess that local political activist Kelli Cook will have a pool party at her and her husband’s ranch in Montgomery. Cook has had a busy and remarkably effective year as a reformer in Montgomery County. Not only has Cook brought many significant issues to the attention of Montgomery County citizens but also she was the decisive leader who brought about the 20% Montgomery County homestead exemption after a fierce battle against Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador who opposed any proposal to reduce the amount of tax dollars flowing into the County government’s coffers. Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley wavered but finally followed Cook’s, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack’s, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark’s leadership. Cook deserves a July 4th rest.
American decisiveness will undoubtedly continue, because it enters our DNA when we become citizens of the United States of America.
The following is a picture decisive political activist Kelli Cook of Montgomery contributed to The Golden Hammer for publication on July 4th: