Freedom is a most precious gift. It isn’t free, but it’s fought for. Have you ever wondered why tears well up in our eyes when we hear the Star Spangled Banner or we pledge alliance to our flag? Why do we value our freedom and hold it so close to our hearts? Our ancestors hungered for freedom of choice and for their rights to worship according to the dictates of their own heart. With the help of a loving God, the patriots fought with every fiber of strength they had, both bond and free.
When we pledge allegiance to our flag, what does that mean to us? Do we take our freedom for granted? Many countries have no rights and are not at liberty to say what they feel or to worship as they please. In some countries, Christianity cannot be preached among the people. Newspapers, media, and even the Internet are all government controlled. Do we appreciate the freedom we possess? Have you ever thought about the patriots who fought for the liberty that we enjoy? These brave men desired to live in a free land, not ruled by a monarchy.
Why do we celebrate the fourth of July? On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the “Declaration of Independence.” This document inspired every patriot to fight for his liberty. As General George Washington stood before the Continental Army with the document in his hand, he took a look at the weary men before him in their tattered clothes, and he realized they had not eaten a decent meal for months. These underfed men were a sight! Washington knew his men needed to be inspired and this document would do the trick.
As he read the declaration out loud, not a sound was heard as the men listened. They were touched when he came to the part, “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As these patriots listened to every word, they were buoyed up, inspired, ready to fight for their freedom against the tyranny placed upon them. The fire inside them grew and no one could stop the need they felt for liberty. The “Declaration of Independence” was inspired of God.
Many of these patriots were willing to die for freedom. Nathan Hale, a 23-year-old artist and schoolteacher, felt the conviction of his beliefs so strongly that he agreed to go on a dangerous mission for George Washington. He was caught with sketches of British gun emplacements and the penalty for being a spy was to be hanged. As he marched up the steps of the gallows, he held his head high. When he turned to face the people, he declared boldly, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
Many of these brave men were even willing to die for their liberty, for their family, for peace and equality. The Continental Army consisted of farmers and merchants, not learned in the way of combat. Many were barefoot and in tattered clothes. They lacked enough food for everyone and many times went hungry but yet they still fought for what they believed in. The patriots knew the value of freedom and were willing to pay the price.
When Thomas Paine saw the sad condition of the Continental Army, he wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls…Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: ‘Tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to set a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated.”
They lost many battles but won the battles that made a difference. The crossing of the Delaware will never be forgotten. Many were sick, fatigued, and their feet were wrapped with cloth to protect them from freezing weather. George Washington knew the Continental Army was outnumbered, but he was inspired to take his army across the Delaware in a terrible blizzard. He suspected the Hessians would be drunk from the Christmas festivities.
In the early hours of the morning, the surprise attack was a never-forgotten battle of victory that shocked the Hessians, who were German mercenaries, skilled fighters, paid by the British to cut down the patriots. After a count was taken, it was discovered that not one patriot had been killed in that battle. This victory turned the war around.
The British were stunned at what had happened. They looked down their noses at the Americans and considered them as untrained and uneducated rabble. When they found the Continental Army to be so strong and stubborn, they changed tactics. They moved a part of their forces to the south with the idea of moving northward, capturing one state at a time.
In August of 1780 in South Carolina, a great and terrible battle took place. The British were gaining an advantage. When all seemed lost, General de Kalb and his men continued to valiantly fight for freedom. He believed in the cause of liberty so much that he refused to give up even though he knew they had lost the battle. He received eleven wounds, both musket ball and bayonet, before he collapsed and fell to the ground. British General Cornwallis had been watching from a distance. When he saw the courageous General finally fall to the ground, he sent his aides to retrieve him with a stretcher. Three days later he died in the name of freedom. General Jean de Kalb was the most courageous and valiant man Cornwallis had ever seen in the face of battle, fighting until he dropped, not giving up his cause for liberty. Even though he was the enemy, Cornwallis paid him the highest military honor at his burial.
Most of the victories in the south came from Francis Marion and his men because the northern armies were not familiar with the territory. Colonial Francis Marion knew how to deal with the enemy in his own homeland. He was known as the Swamp Fox and had the deadliest fighting command in the whole revolution. He had trained his men to disappear into the thick forest and swamps of South Carolina without a sound. Hidden from sight, they would strike and then quickly move through the woods like silent shadows, fading into the forest and undergrowth. Francis Marion and his men tormented the British army with one ambush after another. This frustrated the British officers because they were helpless in the woods and swamps.
After eight long years, the patriots beat the greatest military power in the world. Have we ever thought about the tremendous price these men paid for our freedom? The next time we look at our flag, remember the cost as you pledge your allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and remember that we are “one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” That’s what helps us stand out as a great nation. Without God’s help, we would never have won the war.
Alexis de Toqueville, a French Statesman, looked for the “greatness of America.” It was not until he witnessed the faith of the American people in their churches that he found what he was looking for. He said, “America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Samuel F. Smith wrote, “Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light. Protect us by thy might, Great God, our King!”