10/6/12

Gettysburg


People and events do help shape a country's history. But nothing is more tragic, more vicious, more painful than one that involves war. The loss of lives, the loss of property, there's just no sense to it all. Yet it makes for a compelling story for everyone, to learn from it, hoping to avoid war in the future.

Sadly, war keeps coming back.

Gettysburg today: the red building at the left is Wills House where
Abraham Lincoln wrote the final version of his famous speech.
Wooden fences rebuilt just as it was during the war

The United States of America, always involved in wars beyond its borders, has had its share of war within the country, most notably in the so-called American Civil War. Between 1861 and 1865, secessionists (Confederates) from the south battled it out with Unionists from the north. It was a war that among other reasons, was largely because of slavery.

Of all the battles fought at the time, it was the one in Gettysburg that had the most impact, the most casualties and considered the war's turning point. For 3 days, in the searing heat of July 1863, soldiers from both sides, led by General Lee (Confederate) and Major General Meade (Union), fought fiercely, in open fields and in the woods, bitterly trying to weaken each others defenses.

Statue of Gen. Robert Lee atop the Virginia memorial facing a battlefield
Gen. Robert Lee's headquarters

About 50,000 men from both sides died after only 3 days of bitter fight. Gettysburg had the stench of death that would linger for days. And an enduring Lincoln speech that would reverberate across the nation and around the world.

On our way to a wedding at another town in Pennsylvania, my friends and I passed by Gettysburg one hot July weekend. To make the most of our time, we headed straight for The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center and signed up for a battlefield bus tour.

Monument of Gen. Warren overlooking a battlefield
" ...It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished
work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced..."

(part of Abraham Lincoln's speech given on November 19, 1863
at the consecration for the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

For the next two hours, we rode on a bus, hopping off at designated stops with an official guide who gave us an earful of historical tidbits. Using available photographs and diaries, Gettysburg's 6,000-acre battlefields today - despite the many monuments and markers along the route - have been maintained as faithfully as possible to the conditions of that 3-day ferocious engagement.

As the 150th anniversary of the civil war approaches in July next year, Gettysburg is gearing up for the big day of remembrance, to honor those who died whose blood literally soaked these fields and perhaps more importantly, looking forward beyond this as a place of conflict.

8 comments:

  1. Ah I remember this. We went here a couple of years ago as a daytrip from central PA, where we were staying. The place was huge, and it was a good thing we had a car to drive around and park and see what happened where.

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    1. That's right, the whole park is immense! Self-drive tours (with a park guide) was available but we didn't want our designated driver to get so tired after driving all the way from New York hence the bus tour.

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  2. looks so peaceful, pity it carries with it ghosts of violent past.

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    1. No wonder there were so many billboard ads for ghost tours :)

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  3. reading a piece of history in your blog with stunning set of photos is far better than browsing a history book. *no offense meant to history book authors*

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    1. Thanks Doc Gelo. Back in the days of civil war, there were actually battlefield artists embedded with the soldiers (working for newspapers) as taking photos at the time was still very cumbersome.

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  4. beautiful looking country, but the story behind that beautiful picture is hunting. still beautiful though.

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    1. Thanks and welcome to my site! With so much American blood spilled here, everyone, especially those with relatives who fought during the war come here in a very reflective mood.

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