Friday, June 14, 2019

Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The Civil War started in April 1861 when Confederate forces bombarded the Union controlled Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The war ended in April 1865 when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Court House in Appomattox, Virginia (see my Blog on our visit there). 

Firing on Fort Sumter

The Battle of Gettysburg took place in July 1863 after General Lee began marching his Army of Northern Virginia from Fredericksburg, Virginia into Maryland and Pennsylvania. They were followed by the Union Army but when Lee's cavalry failed to show up for a raid around the Federal forces, he had no way of knowing where the Union Army was. It was by chance that the two armies met at Gettysburg on June 30 with the main battle on July 1 when the Confederates attacked the Union troops. 

On July 3 Lee's artillery opened a two-hour bombardment of the Federal lines on Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill. Some 12,000 Confederates advanced across open fields toward the Federal center in an attack known as "Pickett's Charge." the attack failed and cost Lee over 5,000 soldiers in one hour. The Battle of Gettysburg was over. 

Another aspect of the Civil War that is not mentioned is about Robert E. Lee. He was the most decorated soldier in the U.S. Army. He was a man of unimpeachable integrity. Lincoln offered him command of the Union Army, but Lee refused only because his loyalty was to Virginia. Lee opposed both secession and slavery. And yet to the historically illiterate left, a man who opposed both slavery and secession has come to symbolize both slavery and secession. ~~ Dinesh D'Souza

Our first stop in the Visitor's Center was a film and then the cyclorama, which expounded on the battle.

The Civil War was the bloodiest in the nation's history. Some 720,000 soldiers and sailors died in the war, estimated to be about 2% of the population. Americans fought one another over three fundamental issues: (1) the survival of the Union; (2) the fate of slavery; and (3) the common rights of citizenship --what it means to be an American. The war resolved the first two issues. Roughly 11,000 men died at the Battle of Gettysburg alone, another 40,000 were wounded, captured or missing. 

After the American Revolution (1765-1783), the people of the United States invented a new nation. They were guided by the Constitution and personal beliefs about freedom and progress. They also struggled with a deep conflict over slavery. As the nation grew wealthier, more populous, and more powerful, the strains present at its creation began to pull it apart. 

During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), the image of a snake below the words "Live Free or Die" was a well-known symbol. Almost 90 years later, this serpent represented the Confederate cause.

In the early 1800s, slavery was already 200 years old. Americans saw slavery in different ways -- as a mortal sin or God's will, or a lifelong sentence to labor and oppression. Americans' differing beliefs about slavery were a source of enduring, bitter conflict. By 1850, the United States enslaved more people than any other country in the world. This human property was more valuable than the nation's railroads and factories combined.

The Americans living during the 1800s included new immigrants, American Indians, slaves, free blacks -- men, women and children. With a few exceptions, only white males over 21 enjoyed all the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. By 1860, the end of the United States was a possibility. Some Northern abolitionists preached "No union with slaveholders." Many white Southerners believed that they must create a new country to preserve their way of life and their right to own slaves. (See my Blog on Lee's Surrender, which highlights the South's secession from the Union.)

In May 1856, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner delivered a speech opposing the spread of slavery and mocking Southern slaveholders. Two days later, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina walked into the chamber and beat Sumner unconscious with his cane.

Millions of Americans believed it was the nation's destiny to spread across the continent. Many white Southerners hoped for an empire of slavery that would include Cuba, much of Mexico, and stretch to the Pacific. Most Northerners opposed slavery in the western territories. They feared that small farmers without slaves would not be able to compete and survive. But black and white, free and enslaved, Americans kept moving west, and the debate turned bloody.

John Brown, Abolitionist
In 1855, John Brown and his five sons moved to Kansas to fight the spread of slavery into the western territories. As the conflict escalated into guerrilla warfare, Brown and his sons murdered five proslavery men. Slaveholders saw Brown as a bloodthirsty madman, and an instigator of their worst nightmare -- an armed rebellion by slaves.

John Brown depiction
John Brown was a farmer, merchant and land speculator -- and unsuccessful at all three. But his personal crusade was ending slavery. On October 16, 1859, Brown led an attack on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He hoped to capture muskets there, rally slaves to his cause, and spark a rebellion. But he was caught and hanged for his crimes. His willingness to die for his beliefs made him a martyr in the struggle against slavery.

Abraham Lincoln
In the 1860 presidential election, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas received most of the votes in the north. Douglas, John Bell and John C. Breckinridge contested the election in the South. Lincoln wasn't even on the ballot in nine Southern states. In the end, Lincoln won 40% of the popular vote -- and won the presidency. This was due in part because most Americans lived in Northern states, and most voters there chose the Republican party and Abraham Lincoln. The Republicans were determined to prevent the spread of slavery into the western territories.

In parts of the South, feelings ran high against the Union. On April 4, 1861, delegates at a convention in Richmond, Virginia, voted against secession, 89 to 45.  During the next two weeks, Fort Sumter fell, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion, and Virginians voted to secede. Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina followed. They joined the seven states of the Deep South in the Confederate States of America.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all enslaved people in the parts of the South in rebellion against the United States. The act encouraged slaves to flee to Union lines and join the Union army. With the proclamation, the war to save the Union also became a war to end slavery.

The Battle of Gettysburg ended on July 3, 1863. The new Soldiers' National Cemetery became the resting place for the Union dead. We visited the National Cemetery while at Gettysburg and were able to see where on November 19, 1863, President Lincoln delivered the most enduring speech in the nation's history ~~ The Gettysburg Address.

"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 . . ."

Lincoln Address Memorial
The Civil War continued for another two years, when General Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865 at the Court House at Appomattox, Virginia. 

Various memorials have been erected in the National Cemetery honoring the various states who fought in the war.

Soldiers' National Monument

Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, U.S. Army

Ohio Tribute

Ricketts Battery

Major General Oliver Otis Howard,
and the Citizens of Maine

New York

Gettysburg Tribute

New York

Major General George Meade, U.S. Army,
Commander of the Army of the Potomac

Quote for the day: "The contest touches everything and leaves nothing as it found it. Great rights, great interests, great systems of habit and of thought disappear during its progress. It leaves us a different person in everything." ~~ New York Times, October 1867

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