Thursday, June 27, 2013

Three Days in July

When we think about Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln’s famous address normally comes to mind.  But his appearance at that small Pennsylvania town was precipitated by a bloody battle that transpired over three days in July.  This year is the 150th anniversary of the battle that turned the tide of the Civil War.  The Battle of Gettysburg was a decisive victory for the Union that stopped the Confederate invasion of the North and forced Lee's army to withdraw to Virginia.

As you look over the green fields of Gettysburg, it is difficult to imagine the blood that was shed there.  There were about 51,000 casualties and historical estimates put the total dead around 7,500.

If you plan to take part in the commemoration, you will be joined by 200,000 of your fellow patriots.  Hotels are sold out as far as 35 miles away. 

If you can’t visit, you can still commemorate the event that changed the history of our country.  
The most successful public-television miniseries in American history is Ken Burns’ “Civil War”.  We have the complete set, of which episode five deals directly with the Battle of Gettysburg.  Among other things, you will learn here about Pickett’s Charge which was an avoidable blunder by the Confederates, one from which they never truly recovered.

The book “Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg” by James McPherson takes us through the site of the bloodiest and perhaps most consequential battle fought by Americans.  In this short book, the Civil War historian reflects on the meaning of the battle and places the battle in the greater context of the history of America.

One of the most prolific authors on the Civil War was Shelby Foote.  He also consulted on the making of the “Civil War” documentary mentioned above.  His slim volume “Stars in their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign,” transports you to the battlefield.  His meticulous attention to detail communicates how the battle really transpired. 

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