Friday, July 25, 2008

Three Days in July

After dipping our toes in the Jersey Shore, we headed west for the hills of southern Pennsylvania. We brought the bus to a whoa-ful stop just outside of Lancaster, PA, in a vibrant little town called Gettysburg.

We weren’t there for the colonial architecture so much as to tour the Civil War battlefield on the south side of town. In real and symbolic terms this battle was the high water mark of the Confederacy, and armies of researchers and historians have created libraries of material that study, ponder, and rehash those three fateful days in July,1863. While you can read all about it, I recommend you simply get yourself to Gettysburg National Battlefield. Once there, it's worth your while to stroll through the absolutely excellent on-site museum and finish out your day by touring the sites themselves.

Thusly primed, you can take aim at the Union forces from the front lines of Pickett’s Charge.

(The three little clumps trees along the right side of the horizon mark the exact spot where the Union armies held the high ground. Imagine marching across that mile of open field under heavy fire. The Confederate forces tried it and almost won the day.)

Then detour through the back roads of history and listen to the echoes among the rocks.

I could go on and on... But I have to admit that I've become a bit weary of battlefields. So instead of me prattling on and on about this place, I’m going to let someone else say a few words. He wasn’t at the battle either, but he delivered an address at Gettysburg way back in October, 1863.

"Fourscore 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.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead 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."

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