It was 150 years ago this week when the Civil War battle took place in Gettysburg. Our nation was divided and brother fought brother to the death. This week reenactors are reliving that battle for tourists and history buffs. But what happened 100 years ago on that battlefield?
One hundred years ago, my local newspaper covered the full four days of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Thousands of Civil War veterans arrived in trains filled to capacity. With temperatures over 100 degrees, 15,000 old and feeble vets sat in the stands on the first day of the semi-centennial celebration. An estimated 55,000 arrived all together. As the tent city and available housing filled to overflowing, many had nowhere to go. They slept on the ground with only their clothing to protect them.
One of the scheduled events was the charge of the survivors of Pickett’s division. The old men in grey, bearing their guns, charged up the hill where the enemy, the remaining men of the Philadelphia Brigade in blue, met them with weapons ready. Those in grey went over the wall, and they all shook hands.
One unadvertised reunion took place when a fife and drum corps of men in blue tramped up and down the Confederate part of the tent city, stopped in front tents and played a fanfare which brought out the men in grey. They all shook hands or threw their arms around the ‘enemy’ shoulders.
On the last day President Wilson spoke briefly. At noon the Stars and Stripes that flew from every flagpole were lowered for ‘Five Minutes for Memories’ while the veterans in blue and gray stood, along with current regulars of the army, all with bended heads and hats to their hearts.
Thus were the wounds of war officially put to rest. I’m sure that many had not waited for fifty years to reach that peace and understanding. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all nations and all factions could reach the plateau observed by those men?