I visited Gettysburg countless times when I was a little girl growing up in Pennsylvania, but this was the first time I saw the area with "adult eyes".
This is just a short post about my trip with a few personal comments. If you are interested in learning more about the Battle of Gettysburg or other Civil War history, you can start HERE.
I took the "Sue with the canon" photo for my husband. Almost 40 years ago, we honeymooned through Pennsylvania, Virginia, and other eastern states. The plan was to take a nice road trip- driving through this beautiful part of the country. Somehow, we ended up at the sites of several Civil War battlefields along the way. It was so funny when we looked at our honeymoon photos and many of them were pictures of each other with canons!
The 3 photos at the right were taken in the fields where the 3-day battle took place. It was very impactful to stand there and look out over the field and imagine the horrible scene as soldiers from our own country took arms against one another. Such a tragedy. Today, there are many monuments along the field. They mark the place where lives were lost, where men fought for their beliefs. And where President Lincoln tried to piece a nation back together.
The site where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address is now a cemetery. One can't help but feel mortal standing here. There are many unmarked graves, as well as graves of many who died at Gettysburg and many people who died after the war. All countrymen with lives cut short. The cemetery is still active. There was a funeral the day I was there.
The story of Gettysburg isn't just about the reason the war started, or the strategy of generals and the battle itself. It's also about what happened afterward. And.... about what is there now. The National Parks Service and Civil War historians have done a wonderful job of preserving this area and telling the story. And to think-- this was only 150 years ago.
The "short answer" when asked why the war took place is that it was about slavery- some wanted the right to own slaves and some wanted to put an end to the practice of owning other human beings. This was the case. But there was a bigger picture. As is the case today (I suspect with all countries), the whole story is larger than the one issue. The full story is about political leaders juggling powers and a country learning to govern itself. And of course, it was about money. Slaves were used to run southern plantations and without them, the economy would change. And what would happen if huge numbers of people were suddenly "free"... they would need to have jobs, which were pretty much at the plantations that owned them. Then there was the story of human rights- at the time, in the U.S., not only did people of color not have rights, but neither did women and children. Change takes time, and it's not always "pretty" to get from an undesired state to a desired outcome.
There is a movie currently in theaters called, "Lincoln". I can't recommend it highly enough. This battlefield, and this movie, have so much to teach us. And it shows us how much has NOT changed in 150 years. I was moved by the movie, just as I was by visiting the battlefield. I highly recommend a visit to Gettysburg if you can, and watching the movie. Whatever your personal thoughts- you will be moved.
History has much to teach us.