Saturday, July 26, 2014

Three Days in July

We planned to spend the greater part of a day touring Gettysburg National Military Park and quickly learned that to do the visit justice, we would need nearly three days. Just a leisurely walk around the Museum store could easily take an hour.

We had decided on the self-guided auto tour, but when we read: "The 24-mile auto tour...weaves through the town and battlefield. More than 60 percent of the buildings from the time of the battle are still standing, and nearly 1,400 monuments and memorials dot the landscape," we decided to change our plans.
Our "un-guided" drive began with stops at some of the state monuments.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Monument, the largest monument on the battlefield

1st Minnesota Infantry

In the early portion of the drive, our focus was on the monuments and memorials along the route.


However, our orientation seemed to change soon after the drive had begun.
There was a lessening of interest on the monuments and an increase in the landscape.
The pastoral quality was in stark contrast to the events that took place July 1-3, 1863.
We began to see the landscape as a "monument". The more of the route we covered, the greater the impact of the peacefulness became.
We missed the details of the strategies and major battles of the Battle of Gettysburg, but in a way the silence of the hills carried a strong message.


"For three days, more than 150,000 soldiers clashed in a series of Confederate assaults and Union defenses. The days of fighting took a horrible toll on both sides, 10,000 soldiers killed or mortally wounded, 30,000 injured, and 10,000 captured or missing.
"The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves on the battlefield, crudely identified by pencil writing on wooden boards. Rain and wind began eroding the impromptu graves, and Gettysburg’s citizens called for the creation of a soldiers’ cemetery for the proper burial of the Union dead.
An appropriate site for the cemetery was selected for the interment of Union remains. At the cemetery’s dedication on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln rose to deliver “a few appropriate remarks."
"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.

The Soldiers National Monument, dedicated on July 1, 1869, in the National Cemetery, stands near the location where Lincoln spoke.
The monument stands as a national monument to sorrow. Marble statues around the base of the monument represent History, War, Peace and Plenty. The figure of the Genius of Liberty tops the monument (gettysburg.stonesentinels.com/Other/Soldiers).

Lincoln was the second speaker at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery. He was preceded on the podium by the famed orator Edward Everett, who spoke to the crowd for two hours. Lincoln followed with his now immortal Gettysburg Address. On November 20, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
Located on Oak Hill overlooking the Gettysburg National Military Park is the nation’s premier monument to national reconciliation after the Civil War—the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.
The inscription on the monument reads: An Enduring Light to Guide Us in Unity and Fellowship.