The Battle of Gettysburg 160 Years Ago

Today is the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  After three days of hard fighting, the two armies suffered between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties.

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General Robert E. Lee invaded Pennsylvania commanding the Army of Northern Virginia some 70,000 strong.  The campaign started in July of 1862 and lasted until Lee was routed from Gettysburg.  During the first days of the campaign the Confederate army marched through Pennsyvanian towns with the Northern women pelting the soldiers with vegetables.  In rebuke one soldier was remembered to have said , “Madam, how do like us coming back into the union this way?”

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During the filming of the Ted Turner film “Gettysburg” , Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to participate in the first authorized reenactment on the actual battle field.  During a break, a group of men  noticed a fellow reenactor emerge from the woods.  “He smelled real bad”, remembered one man.  The man said to them, “Rough one today, ay boys?”  The men agreed with him as they complemented him on his authentic  garb.  He had a quizzical look on his face and asked them how they were situated for ammunition.  When they replied that they had no ammunition, the man reached into his pouch and produced  a handful of  musket rounds.   He apologized for not having more to share. As they were inspecting their gifts the man turned and disappeared back into the woods.

58 caliber ammunition cartridge.

Noticing that they didn’t look like the rounds issued to them, they went to the head of props for the film, who told them they weren’t issued by him. Later they made their way into Gettysburg proper to have them checked out, and were chilled to learn that they were genuine musket rounds, dating from the time of the battle.

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During the battle, the 20th Maine regiment was marching towards the Pennsylvania hamlet when they struck a fork in the road and found themselves unsure which direction to proceed. Luckily for them, a mounted rider appeared, albeit in somewhat unusual and old-fashioned uniform, who directed them in the right direction, and even brought them to the top of Little Round Top, where they became famous for repelling one of the first massive assaults on the union lines. Even as they followed this unnamed rider, many found his appearance unusual, particular the eerie glow which seemed to emanate from him. When he disappeared without a word, many were convinced that he was not of this earth. Lincoln’s Secretary of War,  did a proper investigation of the matter, and was told by Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Commmander of  the regiment, “We know not what mystic power may be possessed by those who are now bivouacking with the dead. ”




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“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.

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 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 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” – President Abraham Lincoln




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