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.


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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