I don’t know what it is about these two weeks in April, but I know that they have always led to significant drama in the history of this great country. Some of the most memorable events in the fabric that makes up the tapestry that is the United States of America have occurred on or around the particular dates we are navigating this week or will navigate next.
On April 18, in ‘75 — that would be 1775, by the way — hardly now is there a man alive who remembers that famous date and year — Paul Revere and William Dawes, whose name, unfortunately didn’t rhyme with anything Longfellow could readily think of, rode into history to warn the countryside that the British regulars were out and about. The Minutemen took up arms and on the next day, April 19, fired the shot heard ‘round the world, by the rude bridge that arched the flood at Concord.
Yes, the War for Independence began on a chilly April morning, more than 220 years ago. Boston commemorates “Patriot Day” with the running of a marathon, a glorious celebration of freedom that was forevermore marred one year ago by two hate-filled terrorists who, as so many have, underestimated the resolve of America and Americans. If you want to know what the city of Boston thought about these actions, Google “Big Papi, marathon bombing comments.”
Not even I would get away with printing his response in this family medium, although he spoke his words in front of a sellout crowd in Fenway Park.
Almost a hundred years after the first shots of the Revolution were fired, on April 12, 1861, an old Louisiana boy, General Pierre G.T. Beauregard, ordered batteries surrounding Charleston Harbor to fire upon Major Robert Anderson’s U.S. forces inside Ft. Sumter, and the War Between the States was underway. Anderson, ironically, had been Old Beau’s artillery commander at West Point. Small world. Anderson was also married to the daughter of Georgia Gov. Joe Brown, and his four brothers-in-law would fight against him in the war.
The barrage on Sumter lasted 36 hours. More than 30,000 shells were fired back and forth across the harbor without a single loss of life. That would change.
Four Aprils later, on April 9, Palm Sunday, General Robert E. Lee would surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, ending what remains the bloodiest conflict in our nation’s history. We lost more men in the War Between the States (there was nothing civil about it) than we have lost in all the wars our nation has fought, before or after, combined.
It started in April and ended in April. Yes, I know that the last Confederate troops in the field surrendered to Sherman on April 26, but when Lee laid down his arms the war was over for all practical purposes.
Just a few scant days after Lee surrendered John Wilkes Booth fired his derringer into the back of President Abraham Lincoln’s head, and the South lost her best chance for an amicable reconciliation. Lincoln had truly wanted the war to end and the separation to be resolved “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” It was not to be.
Almost a hundred Aprils later another monumental event occurred, right down the road in Warm Springs, Ga. Four-time President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sitting for a portrait at his beloved Little White House in Warm Springs. He complained of a “terrific” headache and was taken to his small bedroom to lie down. Minutes later he was dead, victim of a cerebral hemorrhage. The nation, and the free world, mourned his passing, and “Give ‘em Hell” Harry Truman became president of the United States, and had the horrible decision of whether or not to use the first atomic bomb thrust upon him.
For the record, Truman was up to the challenge to serve as Commander in Chief.
In 1968, during the first week of April, the world was once again changed forever when James Earl Ray fired his weapon at Martin Luther King Jr., who was taking the morning sun from a balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. Much of the nation erupted in violence. I can testify from personal experience that Washington, D.C., and Greenville, S.C., were two of those cities, but that’s another story for another day.
Atlanta, where King’s funeral was held, was not one of those cities, thankfully. We were still operating under the theory that we were a “city too busy to hate.”
I don’t know what it is about these two weeks in April, but they have often been momentous in American history. I think I will just hold my breath for the next few days and hope for the best. Maybe you should consider doing the same.