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Bravery, blood and stubbornness finally won out for the Allies. Through the years, there have been notable Fourths of July. The one that tops them all in my mind is the one in 1863.

The Civil War for years had been chewing up lives from North and South at a fearsome rate, and no end seemed in sight. In fact, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was in Pennsylvania battling George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac, many miles from its namesake river.

On that Fourth, Lee’s troops began their painful retreat after three days of bloody combat. Now we can point to a spot that Pickett’s Charge reached as “the high point of the Confederacy.” Who knew then?

As a matter of fact, Gen. George B. McClellan, one of the generals Lincoln had fired for lack of success, was starting his campaign for the White House on an end-the-war platform.

On that same Fourth, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant took the surrender of Southern forces at Vicksburg, allowing the Mississippi to “flow untroubled” from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico and effectively cutting the Confederacy in half.

For the first time, Union leaders could see signs of hope. Close to two more years of fierce bloodletting was still to come.

As we festively watch the parades and the fireworks that celebrate our independence and our freedoms, it is well to remember that none of this came automatically. Through the years, the cost has been high.

And there is no sign that the price is going to go down.

Stroube Smith, a former copy editor for The Washington Times, is a free-lance writer living not far from Gettysburg.