The importance of looking back

  • Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Part of my regular routine is to go out to Sullivanís Island for a morning beach run with my dogs. There are easier ways to get a morning run done, but the way I see it, if you live in a place this beautiful and historic, itís worth the extra effort to drink it in early and often. One of the places I have never lost my fascination with is Fort Moultrie.

Maybe itís because I played in and around it as a boy, and maybe itís because it is one of the few places in my life that hasnít changed much, but I think I feel the same sense of wonder seeing it today that I did as a boy. After all, not much is more exciting to a boy than a ďrealĒ fort. If weíre blessed, we all have a place or two in our lives that defy time, never changing, and which hold the promise of memories to be built today and tomorrow to add to the ones already stored in our minds.

For me, Fort Moultrie is one of those places.

That is one reason why this time of year, as we approach Carolina Day, I always think about what happened there on June 28, 1776. That was the Battle of Sullivanís Island, when William Moultrie and some revolutionary colonists with an earthen fort of dirt and palmetto logs outgunned the mightiest military in the world. It was the first major victory of the colonists over the British, showing the other colonies that it could be done.

The whole country knows that a mere six days later, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and that event has forever overshadowed what happened on Sullivanís Island. My knowledge of history isnít detailed enough to know if the signers of the declaration had news yet of the colonistsí victory at Sullivanís Island. Iíve heard the internet was all dial-up in those days, so information traveled slowly. Twelve of ďusĒ were killed in that battle, and another 25 were wounded.

All of my life, the revolutionary fighters like William Moultrie have been my heroes. By the time I left elementary school, I had read biographies of most of the founding fathers plus great South Carolinians like Moultrie and Francis Marion. I was blessed with parents who exposed me to history and pointed out all the places around here where it happened, making it come alive and seem much closer than just topics in a school textbook.

Around here, there will be flags waved and speeches made this Carolina Day, like on every other recent one. Such celebrations are good and fitting. But I always wonder what the brave people of conviction who risked everything on the first Carolina Day and all throughout the American Revolution would think of me now. Do the values they risked everything for mean enough to me? Is the America Iím part of anything near to the country they envisioned? Does freedom mean anything close to me what it meant to them?

On my next morning run on the beach near Fort Moultrie, I know what Iím going to be thinking about.

Will Haynie has published more than 400 op-ed columns as a feature columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News when it was owned by the New York Times. His niche is as a humorous conservative. Find him on Twitter at @willhaynie or email him at Haynie.will@gmail.com.

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