Wednesday, June 30, 2010

97 Years Later

The battle of Gettysburg is the battle with the largest number of casualties in the Civil war, and is considered its turning point. For three days General Meade and General Lee lead their armies on a series of engagements which resulted in 50,000 dead, wounded or missing. Even those who never heard of Pickett's Charge, Culp's Hill, or the Devil's Den can recite the introduction of President Lincoln's address "Four score 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."

Last October our Boy Scout Troop was fortunate enough to be allowed to camp on the battle field of Gettysburg. For two days we hiked the paths of union and confederate soldiers, learning the details of the battle and the deeds of those who planned and fought it. Although I have never been a history buff, I was fascinated by what I learned.

The image on the right is a statue on that battlefield, of Father William Corby, CSC, who who is depicted here giving general absolution to the Irish brigade fighting on the second day of that battle. This statue was the first statue of a non-general erect on the site of the battle of Gettysburg. Father Corby survived the battle and went on to be president of Notre Dame University, twice.

Of course that battle took place 147 years ago, on July 1, 1863. 97 years ago, however, there was a 50th reunion of the battle, of which there exists video footage!

That reunion is also describe here by Calvin Johnson Jr.:

The summer heat of July 1913 did not keep the old Confederate and Union Veterans from attending the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It has been written that over 50,000 sons of the North and South came for what has been called the largest combined reunion of War Between the States veterans.

The youngest veteran was reported to be 61 and the oldest was 112 years young.

No one dared to criticize the United States and Confederate flags that flew side by side at the Gettysburg soldier’s reunion of honored men who had been enemies on the field of battle just 50 years earlier. Some of today’s politicians and people’s rights groups could learn something from these grand old men of yesterday. Knowledge is Power!!

The State of Pennsylvania hosted the 1913 reunion at the insisting of state Governor John K. Tener. Tener also encouraged other states to arrange rail transportation for the participants. Down South in Dixie, the United Daughters of the Confederacy helped raise money for the transportation and uniforms for their Confederate veterans.

The soldiers of Blue and Gray, Black and White, came with heads high and full of war stories. It is written that the hosts did not count on Black Confederates attending the meeting and had no place to put them but the White Confederates made room for their Southern brothers. Black Union veterans also attended this event.

It is written that nearly 700,000 meals were served that included fried chicken, roast pork sandwiches, ice cream and Georgia watermelon. The temperature soared to 100 degrees and almost 10,000 veterans were treated for heat exhaustion and several hundred more were hospitalized. The United States Army was also present in support and the old men loved the attention.

A highlight of the reunion was the Confederate Veterans walk on the path of Gen. George Pickett’s charge that was greeted, this time, by a handshake from the Union Veterans.

President Woodrow Wilson spoke to those veterans with compassion and appreciation, and said, quote “These venerable men crowding here to this famous field have set us a great example of devotion and utter sacrifice. They were willing to die that the people might live. But their task is done. Their day is turned into evening. They look to us to perfect what they have established. Their work is handed to us, to be done in another way but not in another spirit. Our day is not over; it is upon us in full tide.” Unquote

These men of Blue and Gray are gone but let’s never forget them. God Bless!!


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