Military Cemeteries are especially sacred.
Those who’ve given their lives for freedom, country, and home deserve special respect, honor, and duty.
Yes, we have a duty to them, a duty to be thankful, and remember their sacrifice.
There are hundreds of Military Cemeteries in America and many brave American Soldiers rest on foreign soil.
Gettysburg National Cemetery is the resting place for over 3,500 Union Soldiers from the War Between The States.
First farmland around a small Pennsylvania town, then a battlefield, the sacred ground is remembered as the locale of one of the most famous speeches in history, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address*.
As Lincoln said in his address, the ground could not be hallowed by those who followed, only by the blood of the men who died there.
Over 57,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or missing: over one third of the men in battle!
Within a month of the three day battle that changed the course of the conflict, preparations were in place to turn the battlefield into a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives there.
Pennsylvania Governor, Andrew Curtin’s agent, David Wills hired landscape architect William Saunders to design the park.
The real work took decades. Bodies were uncovered as townspeople had hurriedly buried the dead in the July heat of 1863. Cities, such as Boston, exhumed remains for reburial at home, families came to find loved ones for the same reason.
Confederate soldiers did not receive formal placement in the cemetery. There are a few who remain, however most were re-interred in their Southern homelands.
In 1913, fifty years after the bloody battle and 100 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson re-dedicated the cemetery and park.
Old soldiers came to visit, not to relive the clash, but to celebrate the sacrifice. War can be remembered differently fifty years later.
Robert E. Lee is supposed to have said, to James Longstreet, during the battle, “It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it.”
Warriors and soldiers can be very different indeed.
Today, the National Park Services maintains and operates the battlefield and cemetery. There are activities, programs, and events year round.
It is a place to reflect, remember, and regard.
And it’s worth the trip.
* “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.”