On the morning of April 12th, 1865, the entire strength of the First Division, The Union Army of the United States lined both sides of the road, upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, the backbone of the Confederacy, and the home of General Robert E. Lee; would finally take place. Out-numbered, out-fought, subjected to defeat after defeat by the sheer ruthlessness of Lincoln’s premier general, Ulysses Simpson Grant, and his subordinate General Staff and commanders. Lee’s Armies were finally cornered by the combined forces of overwhelming superior military force, along with the facts of the lack of equipment, hunger and the efficient, the thorough blockade of the all the Confederacy’s ports; and the brutal but totally effective operations of the Union Armies once the glory hounds had been removed from the Army’s ranks, and competent seasoned generals chosen by Grant himself, began the true War against the Confederacy. President Lincoln himself had delivered overall command to Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant with the words,”Whatever needs to be done: should be done; forthwith!”: and those words sealed the fate of the Confederacy.
Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain, the hero of that astounding victory at the Little Round Top hill at Gettysburg, who, when learning that his regiment was all but out of ammunition, initiated a ‘fixed bayonets’ charge against the astounded Rebel regiments massed on the slopes; stood at the head of that long, blue, double column of seasoned, hardy Union soldiers as the ragged columns of the Confederate Forces began the slow march towards the point deemed ‘Surrender’, and at a single word from C.S.A. General John Gordon, the ranks, the platoons, the grey-clad regiments began stacking their bayonet-clad rifles and muskets, along with the scant remainder of ammunition; into the centre of the road, between the two long ranks of blue-clad Union soldiers. There was anger, bitterness, and indeed a simmering hatred as those tattered battalions queued to place their weaponry in those ever-expanding stacks which signalled one thing, and one thing only, the Confederacy was defeated.
But Brigadier General Chamberlain, himself no military man, but a university lecturer and a man steeped in religion; a man forced by circumstance into exposing himself as a military genius, took the one step which many believed would have healed all the wounds of that terrible war, and accomplished Lincoln’s dreams of a single Nation once again; stepped forward and uttered a single simple Army command: “Carry Arms!” This order, at first received with surprise by subordinate Union blue-clad officers and men alike, was to lift their rifles, and then to slope them across their chests. They all knew what the order meant, that the killing anger, the hatred, the blind violence of the beast was gone, and the men who stood face-to-face were brothers after all. Now the order was obeyed, and the men in blue held their rifles up to their chests, in that quiet salute, the show of respect. Gordon was looking at him again, his face changed now, the eyes soft. Slowly, General Gordon raised his sword, held it high, then dropped it down, low by his side, the point of the sword to the toe of his boot, the response, the soldier’s salute.
Who knows what could and would have been achieved by the newly-integrated Union, if Lincoln had not fallen to the assassin’s bullet just days later?
One hundred, fifty-five years later, the troubled Nation which is known as Great Britain and Northern Ireland faces a similar problem. A decision taken forty-five years previously to join what was marketed as a Bloc of Trading Nations was questioned, again and again, once that ‘Common Market’ had morphed into a Bureaucratic Empire known as the European Union. The Elite, the Labour Party en-masse; The Lib_Dems and some of the old-style Tories: along with broadcasters, most of the political class, big business, the Quango Queens, the University Chancellors, the rich and powerful: they all loved that all-Encompassing Union, along with the cash, the salaries, the expanding pensions, the gold-plated lifestyles. But with the ever-expanding advance of Social Media, inclusive of the YouTube Empire, made the knowledge of what the EU stood for much widely known, and with knowledge, came a slow anger, and deep dislike of what our once proud Independent Nation had given up for the dubious delights of Brussels’ supervision and diktat.
Most observers will not need my listing of actions, laws and political intrigues since the outcome of that unique Referendum result in June 2016, all of which were designed to stifle, to nullify and to disregard that decision by 17.4 million British votes to leave that Dictatorial Federal EU. With a deeply-biased Speaker of the House of Commons firmly astride the saddle of the pro-Europe battalions; and with an equally-entrenched but now of course Minority Tory / DUP (supported) Government ranged against the Labour / Lib-Dim / SNP / PlaidCymru ranks, who will be our General Chamberlain? If Prime Minister Johnson blinks, or if he fails to pull off the nearly impossible, and either get a respectable Deal done, or an equally-nearly-impossible No-Deal: he will be sliced and diced by the Brexit Party. If Corbyn blinks, or even makes an eyelid twitching towards the fact that he really despised the EU for all his political life, he wouldn’t last five milli-seconds before the massed ranks of the EU-loving Unions have his arse on toast.
It is a strange question, but an apposite one. Do we have a politician with the nous, the appetite, the guile of a modern Chamberlain? Do we have another, like the one who, at Munich, gained that United Kingdom a full year in which to re-arm an Army, to re-equip an Air Force with modern fighters?
Gazing across the ‘blasted heath’ of a Shakespearean version of Macbeth, with the forces for both good and what I will call evil ever ready: I just cannot see the way forwards!