Gettysburg at 150

150 years ago this morning, troops of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia encountered dismounted Union cavalry defending the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. So began a three-day battle that left nearly 50,000 Americans dead, wounded, captured, or missing. It ended Lee’s attempt to bring the Civil War to the North, and the creation of a national cemetery months later inspired some of the most famous words uttered by an American president:

…we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow, this ground—The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here. (Abraham Lincoln – Nov. 19, 1863)

"A Harvest of Death" - Union dead at Gettysburg
Timothy O’Sullivan’s famous photo of dead Union soldiers at Gettysburg – Library of Congress

Seventy-five years later, another famous American president spoke at the unveiling of Gettysburg’s Eternal Peace Memorial; the audience included some twenty-five veterans of the battle:

If you’re interested in the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, you could start with the Gettysburg 150th site. Other articles, reflections, and posts on the subject include:

  • Ten things you might not have known about the battle
  • How photojournalists’ coverage of war has changed from Gettysburg to today
  • A profile of John Buford, the Union officer from Kentucky (he had turned down a Confederate commission) whose troops first encountered Lee’s army at Gettysburg
  • A swarm of Civil War reenactors is expected for the anniversary at Gettysburg — and they’re not all Americans
  • How a carpenter named George Buckman experienced the battle as part of the famous 1st Minnesota regiment
  • Peter Carmichael of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College lamented that “the 150th Commemoration of the Civil War has largely missed an opportunity to make the past usable. Too many historians have been afraid to ask hard questions, much of the public is seduced by the heroic view of war, and Congress has defunded the National Park Service (NPS)”
  • The story of The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara’s acclaimed historical novel about the battle (later filmed as Gettysburg, with Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee and Jeff Daniels as Col. Joshua Chamberlain, whose Maine troops held Little Round Top on the second day)

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