One hundred fifty one years ago today, a little battle that was a part of the Civil War, began. Many of the battles of the Civil War went without serious recognition, but not this one. It lasted only three days, but it was the turning point in the war. You have all heard of this little battle, of course…it was, the Battle of Gettysburg. It was fought between July 1 and July 3, 1863 in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The soldiers were all Americans…Confederate and Union. Some were related…fathers against sons, brother against brother. With this battle came the end of General Robert E Lee’s attempts to invade the north. The fighting was fierce with many casualties on both sides. The Union side came into the battle with 93,921 soldiers and lost 3,155 men, who were killed. Another 14,531 were wounded, and 5,369 were captured or missing. The Confederate side came into the battle with 71,699 soldiers and lost 4,708 men, who were killed. Another 12,693 were wounded, and 5,830 were captured or missing. This battle was devastating, no matter which side you were on. On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln dedicated the cemetery as the Gettysburg National Cemetery to honor the fallen Union soldiers, and to reiterate the purpose of the war. In that ceremony, President Lincoln gave his historic Gettysburg Address.
When my family went back to visit my sister in Keeseville, New York, we took a trip down the east coast, that included Gettysburg. I can’t tell you if any of my ancestors fought in that battle, but I can tell you that visiting Gettysburg National Cemetery, is something that stays with you. You can’t help but walk away a very changed person. That place has a hallowed feeling to it. When you know of the deaths that happened there, the blood that was shed, families that were destroyed, there is no other way to feel, but awe. They knew what they had to do, and they did what was needed. It didn’t matter how they felt about giving their lives, they all felt that their side was right, and they were willing to fight for what was right.
I will always remember the feelings I had standing there, looking at all those graves…thinking about all those lives lost. I thought about children without fathers and parents without their children. There was no way out of it. They had to fight. It was kill or be killed. And there was a very important purpose for their fighting. Even all those years ago, the feeling was still there. You felt the need to be very quiet, because to speak almost seemed wrong. I felt very honored to be in the presence of such courageous men. Our trip to Gettysburg was forty one years ago, but the way I felt while I was there has never left me. I can feel it now, as if I were standing there right now.