Today is Veteran’s Day. I want to thank all my readers who have at one time or another served our country. We maintain our freedoms because of your sacrifice and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Last night I had a little phrase dropped into my semi-consciousness by the Holy Spirit. “Hold that Line.” That was all. An interesting word for a Veteran’s Day message. Depending on the context this phrase could be heard on the football field, or asking someone to hang on while chatting on the telephone, a carpenter dropping a plumb line or an explorer following a compass direction. However, I believe that this whispered reminder was offered in a military context.
“To hold the line” in military terms means to maintain or retain possession of a place or area by force. By keeping the enemy fully engaged or stopped in one specific place may enable offensive strategies to be employed elsewhere and thus shorten or end the battle. This was certainly the plan during the battle of Gettysburg in the opening days of July, 1863.
As I have been researching Civil War battles in the process of putting together my upcoming novel, Fever Season, I have run across this term quite a bit. One of the character’s in the story, Colonel Tolliver, a member of Lee’s staff, is privy to the Battle plan and present at Gettysburg. At this point in the war Lee had an incredible string of Confederate victories. He knew however, that time was running out. The Federal blockade of the ports and waterways was choking supply lines and the uneven manufacturing as well as the population bases from which they drew new recruits was putting the Southern forces in a definite disadvantage. Planning to win decisively and definitively rout the Union Forces on this Pennsylvania battlefield close to the capitol, Lee, the Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia had a careful Master plan that should have come together like clockwork. He had devised a bold battle plan that loosely mimicked the strategy Napoleon had used to win his smashing victory in Italy at the Battle of Castiglione in 1796. Had his brilliant vision been followed the Civil War may very well have had a very different outcome.
On the morning of July 3 , General Ewell was to wait to attack Culp’s Hill before General Longstreet launched his attack. Unbeknownst to Longstreet, Lee had sent a Cavalry force with Jeb Stuart around Cress Ridge to come up behind the Union right wing. Longstreet’s divisions were to ” Hold the Line” drawing in the full attention of Meade’s troops allowing Ewell to take Culp’s Hill, and then close the pincers with the 13,000 men of Pickett’s famous cavalry charge to one flank and Stuart’s on the other. General James Longstreet, who had disagreed loudly when Lee announced his plan days before, did not show up with his troops at the time that he was ordered. Puzzled, Lee eventually rode over to Longstreet to find out why he had not followed the orders, and found that not only had his general failed to launch his attack as ordered, but he was embarking on a plan of his own making that would have totally frustrated the orders he had been given by his commander. At this late date, plans had to be hastily altered, the timeline for Pickett and Stuart was thrown into chaos, the line was not held and the tide of the battle was thrown into pandemonium. Ultimately, this gaff at Gettysburg cost enormous loss of life and the momentum of the Civil War was shattered. This is a cautionary tale to bear in mind: Not “holding that line” can have enormous and long-lasting consequences.
I am not, in any way, indicating that a different outcome of the war would have been a good thing. I am merely stating that General Lee is, to this day, considered to be a brilliant military strategist and had his plan been followed, based on past performance of the Federal General’s he had engaged to date, he would have carried the day.
I will not speculate on Longstreet’s motivations for his dereliction of duty and disobedience of Lee’s orders, only that it directly impacted the outcome of that battle. And, if you are wondering, Alas, our poor Colonel Tolliver never makes it back to Vicksburg from the field of the Gettysburg battle. The universal history ( and fiction) lesson to be learned from this unfortunate example must be: That pride goes before the fall. An army can only have one Commander and One cannot serve two masters. To be successful, only one battle plan at a time ought to be followed.
Based on these morals our spiritual lives ought to have more success than did our boys in grey! What does scripture infer, if anything, about holding that line? There are many places in the Bible that compare our lives as believers to that of being soldiers in a Supernatural battle. Unlike General Lee, who could see whom he was fighting by the uniforms they were wore, Paul tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers and against the rulers of the darkness of this world and against spiritual wickedness in high places. That makes it a little trickier and requires different armaments. In Ephesians 6:12-118 we see that the battle objective is to Stand at the end of the Day.
I have written before about this vital and often skimmed over passage. It is a rich, important study which outlines the supernatural armor we need for a battle against these powers and principalities. This passage begins in verse 14 with the words Stand therefore…I read those words as synonymous with Hold that Line. We must be an immovable force with a unified message of love. As solid divisions of forces we stand firm against our supernatural and very real foes. Colossians 2:15 reminds us that Jesus has disarmed and spoiled the authority of Satan here on earth. He in turn passed that authority to you and to me. To Hold this territory, To occupy, often violently, against a foreign enemy that seeks to kill and destroy us. We are to Hold that Line, stand in His name until the Lord of Hosts returns. Too often it is easy to forget that we are at battle and these skirmishes will intensify as we struggle to win souls.
* For more info on the Armor of God referenced above you may want to check out previous posts in the archives such as: The Siege, and Retreat of Surrender, to name a few. For more info on General Lee and his battle plan I recommend the fascinating read, Lost Triumph by Tom Carhart.