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    On April 12, 1861, artillery guns boomed across Charleston

    Harbor in an attack on Fort Sumter. These were the first shots

    of a civil war that would stretch across 4 years of tremendous

    sacrifice, with over 3 million Americans serving in battles

    whose names reach across our history. The meaning of freedom

    and the very soul of our Nation were contested in the hills of

    Gettysburg and the roads of Antietam, the fields of Manassas

    and the woods of the Wilderness. When the terrible and costly

    struggle was over, a new meaning was conferred on our country’s

    name — the United States of America. We might be tested, but

    whatever our fate might be, it would be as one Nation.

    The Civil War was a conflict characterized by legendary

    acts of bravery in the face of unprecedented carnage. Those

    who lived in these times — from the resolute African American

    soldier volunteering his life for the liberation of his fellow

    man to the determined President secure in the rightness of his

    cause — brought a new birth of freedom to a country still

    mending its divisions.

    On this milestone in American history, we remember the

    great cost of the unity and liberty we now enjoy, causes for

    which so many have laid down their lives. Though America would

    struggle to extend equal rights to all our citizens and carry

    out the letter of our laws after the war, the sacrifices of

    soldiers, sailors, Marines, abolitionists, and countless other

    Americans would bring a renewed significance to the liberties

    established by our Founders. When the guns fell silent and the

    fate of our Nation was secured, blue and gray would unite under

    one flag and the institution of slavery would be forever

    abolished from our land.

    As a result of the sacrifice of millions, we would extend

    the promise and freedom enshrined in our Constitution to all

    Americans. Through the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, we

    would prohibit slavery and indentured servitude, establish equal

    protection under the law, and extend the right to vote to former

    slaves. We would reach for a more perfect Union together as

    Americans, bound by the collective threads of history and our

    common hopes for the future.

    We are the United States of America — we have been

    tested, we have repaired our Union, and we have emerged

    stronger. As we respond to the critical challenges of our

    time, let us do so as adherents to the enduring values of our

    founding and stakeholders in the promise of a shared tomorrow.

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the

    United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in

    me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do

    hereby proclaim April 12, 2011, as the first day of the Civil

    War Sesquicentennial. I call upon all Americans to observe this

    Sesquicentennial with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and

    activities that honor the legacy of freedom and unity that the

    Civil War bestowed upon our Nation.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this

    twelfth day of April, in the year of our Lord

    two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the

    United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.


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