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Military critics have generally settled upon the battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, as the decisive battle of the war, and the greatest battle in American history. It ended Lee's second invasion of the North, and, together with the fall of Vicksburg, threw the Confederacy upon the defensive and shut out hope of foreign intervention. The poem was written for the dedication of the high water mark monument, July 2, 1892.

There was no union in the land,
Though wise men labored long
With links of clay and ropes of sand
To bind the right and wrong.

There was no temper in the blade
That once could cleave a chain;
Its edge was dull with touch of trade
And clogged with rust of gain.

The sand and clay must shrink away
Before the lava tide:
By blows and blood and fire assay
The metal must be tried.

Here sledge and anvil met, and when
The furnace fiercest roared,
God's undiscerning workingmen
Reforged His people's sword.

Enough for them to ask and know
The moment's duty clear—
The bayonets flashed it there below,
The guns proclaimed it here:

To do and dare, and die at need,
But while life lasts, to fight—
For right or wrong a simple creed,
But simplest for the right.

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