An American Civil War Reenactor at the Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania where a major battle happened in July 1863.
Several years ago I visited Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania. The battlefield was an important part of American history and a major turning point in the war.
In the years that have passed, many Americans have not only studied the Civil War, but have come to live it and “reanact” it for others. The idea is not to simply dress up but to teach others about the battle, the time, the lifestyle, the purpose of not only Gettysburg but other battles in the war.
On a Sunday morning, before leaving for home, I made a very early trip to “Little Round Top” and found a Civil War reanactor dressed in his uniform. We watched the sun rise together and I listened to him discuss the July 1863 battle asking “What if” questions concerning decisions the North and South Generals made in their war strategy. It was wonderful just to listen, but with my camera in hand I also wanted to take his portrait. He posed with the field in the background.
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 in 1863. Often referred to as the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion”, it was the war’s bloodiest battle with 51,000 casualties and the setting for President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”. (info from the National Park Service website)
In a time long forgotten, that’s a polaroid photo of me on the left. (Yes, it’s a polaroid.) I’m wearing my Civil War jacket, pants, hat and holding a toy rifle. For reasons unknown, my Mom never discarded the jacket part of the outfit. And for more reasons unknown, neither did I. So when my son was born I thought, “Someday when he’s around 8 or 9 years old (my approximate age in the photo), I’m going to have him wear my Civil War jacket and take a picture.” Father & son. Side by side.
This is the weekend that in 1863 the Battle of Gettysburg took place. And most of us forget that this is the battle that changed the war. That saved the Union. It’s hard to imagine, but we almost became two countries. For all those who are angry about our nation – justified or not – think what might NOT have happened if we were 2 countries. Would we have won World War 2 and defeated Hitler? Would we have landed on the Moon? Would we have become a superpower, not just with our military, but with our economy? We might have become just another two nations – not a leader, creator, inventor – just a couple of 3rd rate countries that didn’t matter.
And one of the greatest Presidents and leaders in the history of the world might have been forgotten – Abraham Lincoln. On November 19, 1863 he delivered one of the greatest speeches in the history of mankind. And he wrote it himself. Not a staff of writers in his Presidential bullpen, but himself. For those who have never read it….
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon 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 here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it 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 can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not 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 can never forget what they did here.
It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. 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 here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.