Gettysburg carries with it a special meaning for the Americans, as it is considered one of the most important battles in American history that determined the fate of the American Civil War. This was the battle where Lee of the southern armies was finally stopped and turned back from his crusade into the north.
Like every other pre-modern battle, this one also makes very little sense to me. Thousands of people facing each other, charging together in the masses from both sides, knowing that the chances of survival are minimal. Each day of fighting left tens of thousands dead and many more injured and handicapped for life, all so that two generals sitting up on their horses on some far away mountains can play their politics. Come to think of it, modern warfare ain’t all that different, maybe, just a bit more indirect.
I generally don’t get war, especially this kind of war, but I’ve been told on occasion I’m hopelessly naïve. That aside, it was disappointing for me to discover just what the American civil war was really about, and I don’t go for all that "abolishing slavery" and "fighting for human rights" thing. If you go to the American heritage sites and listen beyond the nationalistic propaganda you’ll soon realize it was politics about influence and power. It’s fascinating how history gets rewritten or at best reinterpreted by the winning side, even though when Abe had his famous war-redefining Gettysburg speech the war was far from over. This is how we should see it – the North was the good side, the South was the evil side, and the war was about freeing the ‘blacks’ and don’t you go around asking too many questions.
In Gettysburg National Military Park you can wonder the battlefields of that ‘great’ battle. To experience ‘first hand’ the ‘fight for freedom’ and ‘honor the heroes’ that made ‘our great country what it is today’. As I’m all for trying to understand both the concept of war and the American narrative, I made it my business to spend a considerable amount of time wondering through the museum and attempting to learn more about the American history.
Here’s about the park from the official website :
A New Birth of Freedom
The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North. Often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion", Gettysburg was the war’s bloodiest battle with 51,000 casualties. It was also the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal "Gettysburg Address".
Here’s a bit more about the battle from the Gettysburg foundation working with the park :
The Battle of Gettysburg: See for Yourself
The Battle of Gettysburg remains one of the most significant events in American history. Plan your visit today to Gettysburg and see for yourself the fields on which bravery, courage and sacrifice continue to provide unlimited inspiration.
Aftermath at Gettysburg and the American Civil War
The Battle of Gettysburg changed the lives of not only the soldiers, but also Gettysburg’s residents. The Battle of Gettysburg resulted in 51,000 casualties (killed, wounded, captured and missing). Many of the wounded and dead were left in Gettysburg at public buildings, farm fields and even private homes became makeshift hospitals. It would take Gettysburg years to recover from its battle scars.
It proved impossible for the war-stressed economy of the Confederacy to replace the extensive losses suffered during the Battle of Gettysburg by Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. On July 4, as smoke still lingered from the Battle of Gettysburg, the besieged city of Vicksburg, Miss., surrendered to Union soldiers, restoring Union control of the Mississippi River. Twenty-one months later, Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, signaling the end of the Civil War.
Following is a bit of what you can expect from the museum:
But the centerpiece is the audio-visio tour that takes you through the war by going through a very large 360 degrees art piece, the "Gettysburg Cyclorama" by Paul Philippoteaux which shows the main event of the 3-day battle – the Pickett Charge. And what a charge it was…
All in all, a very informative and educational place. I urge you to visit if you’re in the area and spend some time walking the battlefield. Once a year you can come and experience a reproduction of the battle and I’ve been told that’s not to be missed.