The Battle of Gettysburg

           The Battle of Gettysburg is often known as the main turning point in the Civil War and is often referred to as the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion” ("History & Culture: The Battle of Gettysburg"). The Battle of Gettysburg was fought on July 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 1863 in the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the second invasion on the north lead by the Confederates. Robert E. Lee and his “Army of Northern Virginia” led the Confederate attack, while Major General George Mead led the North’s “Army of the Potomac”(1).
            The campaign is believed to have started around June 3rd. The Union is in control of New Orleans and other various spots in the South. The war is not looking very good for the Confederacy except for a few slim battles in the East. The Union army has blockaded the eastern shore so no exports can go in or out of the Confederacy. Things aren’t looking well for the Confederacy but a win at Chandersonville gave Lee the confidence engage the north by making a second attack in Northern territory at Harrisburg, but the two armies end up meeting in Gettysburg.
            On July 1st, 1863 the battle begins early in the morning, but by 4 p.m. the Union army retreats and rally on Cemetery and Culp’s hills ("July 1, 1863: A Brief History").  By July 2nd both armies had been reinforced and the battle had proceeded in early morning (July 2, 1863: A Brief History").  On this second day both General Lee and General Longstreet come out strong against the Union army. Longstreet’s army is eventually halted when met by Union reinforcements. The Confederates capture parts of Culp’s Hill, but are not as lucky anywhere else on the battlefield. On the third day Lee set out to attack the Union center (July 3, 1863: A Brief History"). He believed if the flanks had been so heavily guarded then the center must have not been, so Lee sent out 12,000 Confederate troops to attack the Union center. General Meade of the Union was however expecting this and met Lee’s army. This is today known as Pickett’s charge. The Confederates had been caught in a trap and paid severely for it. With most of their officers dead and casualties reaching over 50% dead the Confederates called it quits. Overall it is estimated that about 51,112 soldiers were killed, wounded, missing or captured. 
            On November 19, 1863, four months after the battle, President Lincoln made a speech addressing the events of the Battle of Gettysburg (Lincoln 1). He addressed that our country had our country had been built on the foundations of the ideas of liberty and that all men are and will always will be created equally. Now when our country was in the face of Civil War, can we endure? He dedicated the battle field of Gettysburg as a final resting place to all the soldiers that “gave their lives that that nation might live.” It was a battle cry to a nation who might have lost hope that our nation push on in fighting this war and that the brave men that died in Gettysburg did not die in vain, “that this nation, under God, 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.” Our nation based on the truest ideas of liberty and freedom cannot and will not fall. Lincoln was not even the main speaker at the address. A man by the name of Edward Everett had spoken two hours before Lincoln’s two minute speech and later proclaimed that “I should be glad if I…. came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”  At the National Cemetery of Gettysburg where Lincoln gave his address the fallen soldier’s graves are in a circle. Right in the middle of all of these graves is huge statue of Lady Liberty mourning the death of her soldier’s. It is a great symbol of the freedom, liberty and democracy that our country stands for. Our country could not simply die but had to preserver so that these ideal could live on.

            One of the major components of battle, as wefrom a park ranger at Gettysburg, was the amount of food that each solider was getting. The Union started the US Sanitary Commission to see how well countries in Europe were being fed in comparison to them. They found that the United States army was being fed better than the Russian army, British army and French army. The only country in the world being fed better than the US army was the Turkish army. The most common foods inside a soldier’s haversack were hardtack (a very hard cracker), salted pork and coffee. Both foods were usually full of maggots or rotten but to keep from starving they found ways to eat them. The Union was rationed 1 pound, 4 ounces of beef per day and six ounces of bread compared to the Confederate ration of 6 ounces of cornbread and 4 ounces of bacon by this time so we can see how it affected the battle.                
            The park today does a very good job of making sure the history of the park is preserved and will not be forgotten. They have ranger programs throughout the park to educate the public about the battle. The rangers give tours of the battlefield and educate in detail about different campaigns, as well as in classrooms built inside of the museum and outside by the campfire. These programs will go constantly throughout the day. They also have a wonderful introduction to the park with a video entitled “A New Birth of Freedom” giving you a background of the battle as well as details of the battle. They also have a cyclorama that encircles you and sends shivers down your spine as you see the realities of the war. I had a very good time at the park and it gave me chills just being on the site where all of these things happened. Being on the same trails and mountains as these soldiers gave you a real sense of the battle.  It will be and experience I will never forget and a battle that will live on forever.

                Adam Bercegeay

Works Citied
"History & Culture: The Battle of Gettysburg." National Parks Service. National Parks Service, 07 July 2013.
"July 1, 1863: A Brief History." Hallowed Ground Magazine, 150th Anniversary Gettysburg, 07 July 2013.
"July 2, 1863: A Brief History." Hallowed Ground Magazine, 150th Anniversary Gettysburg, 07 July 2013.
"July 3, 1863: A Brief History." Hallowed Ground Magazine, 150th Anniversary Gettysburg, 07 July 2013.
Lincoln, Abraham. "The Gettysburg Address." Abraham Lincoln Online. 07 July 2013.

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