The Little Train That Could; a history lesson

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By 1862, slaves freed by Union troops made their way north to Camp Defiance, a Union Stronghold established at Cairo, Illinois. This small camp became a gathering point for freed slaves, although, Illinois state law prohibited black migration into the state, Camp Defiance fell under martial law which allowed a large alliance of African Americans to seek shelter and refuge there. Every day the Illinois Central Railroad carried carloads of African-Americans north to Chicago, Rock Island, and other urban centers. Thus, a small northern railroad, hundreds of Union Soldiers, and our very first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, ensured that thousands of African American slaves would not only be saved but prosper and multiply.

In time, the Illinois Central Railroad disbanded and became ‘The City of New Orleans/Amtrak’, Camp Defiance closed down and became a park with a memorial to mark the spot, and the Cairo Bridge was built to span the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri. The state line was placed in the middle of the river so that neither state could claim ownership. So important is Cairo, Illinois and the Camp Defiance Park in American History that when the Mississippi River threatened to flood the area, the levees were blown forcing the floodwaters southward, and Memphis, Tennessee was flooded to save Cairo.

I make no inference here other than to say it was Union soldiers fighting under the American Flag, a small Union Camp flying the American Flag, and a small northern railroad line traveling under the American Flag that aided and saved so many freed slaves that an accurate count could never be obtained. How ironic it seems the descendants of those freed slaves are currently using that American Flag as a protest of perceived wrongs against their peace of mind and toppling states to commemorate a great turning point in American History. Perhaps, what is really called for is to get off your knees and run for a history book. It does make one wonder what educators are teaching students when clearly they are impervious to the selfless struggle and dedication that defines the principle ‘All Men Are Created Equal’.

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