Saturday, July 3, 2010
Battle of Gettysburg anniversary
Today is actually the last day of the battle of Gettysburg...if it were the year 1863. So marks the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Three more years! Anyway, today is the anniversary of the day of the ill-fated Pickett's Charge. For anyone unfamiliar, this is when General Lee sent Lt. General Longstreet's division to charge at General Meade's division on top of cemetery hill. Major General Pickett served under Longstreet and was lucky enough to get this idiotic attack named after him. The Union army under Meade had a better position, and proceeded to destroy about half of Longstreet's division. The overwhelming loss was the final straw for Lee who then ordered his men to retreat. Following in General McClellan's footsteps, General Meade took way too long to follow Lee's army, and were not able to permanently stamp out the army of Northern Virginia. This would of probably taken a good two years off of the war.
Nevertheless, the battle of Gettysburg, including main skirmishes at Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheat field and the Peach orchard, is best known as the turning point of the war, along with General Grant's victory in Vicksburg. Though the Union's victory in Antietam helped get the Emancipation Proclamation passed, and the threat of foreign help to the Confederacy stamped out, Gettysburg proved that the war was turning in the Union's favor. It proved that the south could not win a battle in the North's territory.
When most people are asked to name one battle in the Civil War, which one do you think they say? That's right, Gettysburg. The little insignificant town was incidental put on the map thanks to this battle. But is it just because Gettysburg was the turning point of the war that people know it? I would say yes actually. In school, we only covered the "important" parts of the Civil War. Those included Fort Sumter, Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Appomattox. Most people wouldn't be able to name the Wilderness Battle, Seven Pines, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, or Cold Harbor. Were these events less relevant? That's debatable. Vicksburg definitely has a place among the biggest due to it being the key to cutting the Confederacy in half.
Unfortunately, unless you are a history buff, or actively go to reenactments, a lot of people forget about the anniversary of Gettysburg. It's conveniently located right before our Independence Day. Well, technically, our Independence day is during Gettysburg on the 2nd, but I'll get to that later. Our Independence Day is more important than Gettysburg arguably, but Gettysburg still should be remembered nonetheless. The victory there basically called the war in the union's favor, even though it would take them another two years to get Lee and the other armies to surrender. Lincoln would later write an address about the battle in the place where the battle took place. The people at the time seemed unimpressed by the short speech. Lincoln himself considered it a failure, but some time after people realized how perfect the speech was and now it is considered one of the best speeches ever written. If you get a chance, read the Gettysburg Address, and think about what was going through the president's mind and everyone elses mind at the time. The incredibly bloody battle was a glimmer of hope. It represented a real chance that this country would stay together, not be permanently torn apart.
I would recommend the movie Gettysburg if you haven't seen it already. It's really long, but it's fascinating even if you aren't a huge Civil War person. Also, if you happen to be in lower Pennsylvania, check out the battlefield itself. Seeing the battlefields really gives you a scope of how big these battles were. I'm actually going to visit Gettysburg in couple weeks, along with Harper's Ferry, and our nation's capitol.
Hope you enjoyed my Gettysburg edition of Histeria. Look for an Independence Day post soon.