National cemetery of Gettysburg
Gettysburg Travel Blog› entry 20 of 26 › view all entries
After the battle most of the troops who got killed were buried at the cemetery of Gettysburg. This is also the sight of one of the most famous speeches ever in US history - the Lincoln Gettysburg Address. When the cemetery should be dedicated to the memory of the soldiers Lincoln held this speech. But first the governor spoke for a couple of hours and then it was Lincoln who should speak.
Back then the photography were not quite as advanced as it is today. I mean you can take a small camera and make a video if you please or me I can put my camera on servo and take 4-5 pictures per second. But back when Lincoln held his speech a photographer were a professional taking his time preparing for the perfect photo of the people speaking. And there was a man from a paper who had taken a perfect photo of the governor and now he needed a picture of the president speaking. He was fiddling with his camera as Lincoln went on ready to speak. He expected he would have plenty of time to take the photo - after all the governor spent hours - the president would surely do the same. Lincoln spoke for about two minutes and then he was done - the photographer was still fiddling with his camera - ups.
Not a long speech but then the length of the speech is not everything. Who remembers anything the governor said in his two hour long speech?
The place Lincoln spoke is not really marked but it was at the big soldier’s monument and there is a plaque at the spot with a bronze copy of the Gettysburg Address. One other noteworthy monument on the cementer is the statue marking the grave of Jennie Wade who got an unwanted place in history as the only civilian casualty at the battle.
The battle began when the Lee's big confederate army of Northern Virginia met some of the troops from Meade's Union army of the
Lee easily pushed back the
The new position don't seem all that impressive when you visit
This day Lee has planned his final assault on the union line. This attack is supposed to give the confederates the victory of the battle. But the day does not really start the way Lee expects. The Union start out with an attack of the confederates at the Culp’s Hill where the Confederate have a hard time to hang on to the small gains they had gotten the day before. But Lee continues with his plans.
Then the Confederate guns start to bomb the union position. Lee has created the biggest concentration of artillery during the civil war up till this point more than 150 guns. But the smoke free gun powder has not been invented yet - hence after the first few shots from the confederate guns - the gunners can’t really see anything - they are shooting blind into the enemy. And they are missing their target and shooting over the heads of the union troops -hence this giant bombardment has very little effect on the union line.
Then the confederate troops are ready - Lee has committed 12 brigades to the assault under the leadership of Pickett. And they start to march across the field to engage the enemy. And they get slaughter en masse. Because the confederate troops missed their target the union line is organized and the modern weapons mean they can kill of the attackers in huge numbers. This is one of the first large scale preview of what is to come on the battle fields of northern France 50 years later in a even bigger scale. The old romantic infantry frontal assault resulting in huge victories is over - the development of more effective and more precise guns means the defender can just shot down the attackers giving the defenders the edge until the development of the tank in 1917.
Pickett’s attack does manage to cross the field getting to a stone fence at the union line where they take up a final position trying to break the union centre. But they fail at this stone fence - which has gotten the name The High Water Mark. Indicating this was the biggest progress the confederate troops ever made during the battle and the entire civil war - from the High Water Mark at Gettysburg it went downhill for the confederate. There would be no more attacks on union soil - and Lee would from this point on have to fight a defensive battle which would end in the defeat of the confederation.
Now back to the initial question - how many civilians got kill at Gettysburg? The answer one - Mary Virginia Wade - called Jennie. She was the only civilian kill by a stray bullet during the battle. I think it is noteworthy that during this battle at the outskirts of a city - a battle in which tens of thousands of troops got killed - they still manage to almost entirely avoid civilian casualties. This is unfortunately not something we have been used to in wars of the 20th and 21th century.
Day two of the battle took place south of town. Hence if you follow the route of the battle field you will be driving down south of the town following a part of the national park area where you will see the confederate line. The confederate line is not really the place where the battle took place because the confederate were pushing all through the battle to win it outright.
Hence the confederate monuments is not signs of where the battle actually took place but more markings of where the different southern troops took up position before making their advance. There are several big monuments in this area of the battle field.
I drive along the road with the confederate memorials and then get to a big open field. Right on this field is some men dressed in the uniforms of the confederate artillery and they are give demonstrations of how the troops back then used to fire the guns. They tell a bit about it and then the time comes to fire the gun - and the first time around it works ok. But I am not quite prepared for it and I don’t get a proper photo - hence I need to stick around and wait for the troops to let the gun cool down so they can reload and fire it once again.
After a couple of minutes they try to fire the gun once more. Another miss fire - this is not really doing any good for the man’s claim of this being the third miss fire in four years. I start to believe they got like 25 percent miss fires. But ok I wait to see if they will ever manage to fire the gun again. And it appears third time is lucky - the gun is fired and all the smoke is surrounding the mount of the gun.
I drive on to the southern edge of the battle field. I look from the high ground to a little round hill - call Little Round Top. This hill apparently had a really big influence on the battle. It is really hard to believe when you look at it from this southern part of the confederate line - it seems so insignificant.
When I get to Little Round top I easily see why it was so significant. From the top of this little hill you got a clear look out at the battle field. And back then - like today - there was no trees blocking the view of the battle field - hence it was a perfect position for the union artillery. The confederate new this hill was really important and they wanted to take it by storm. But the commander delayed the action for a short while not very long less than half an hour. But if the confederate troops had gotten to Little Round Top ten - maybe even five - minutes earlier they would have found it almost entirely abandon from troops and an easy target. But just minutes before the confederate troops were ready for an assault union troops arrived at the top of the hill - and they were able to defend the hill and protect the southern flank of the union line. Without this position all of the union position might have been hopeless and the battle would have been lost for the union. Giving Lee the possibility of marching on to the big cities at the coast.
The Confederate pushed on to try to capture Little Round Top - and they got close capturing a group of rocks just beneath the hill call Devils Den from there confederate sharp shooters would shoot at the union artillery troops on the top of Little Round Top. In this area you will also find some of the places which got new names during the battle like The Slaughter Pen, Bloody Run and The Valley of Death.
Very close to these stops is The Wheat Field where the longest continual exchange of fire at the battle of Gettysburg took place. Apparently after war you could tell anybody you fought at The Wheat Fields and they would know exactly what you meant.
I drive on to another hill at the other end of the battle field which is the location of the right flank of the union army. On the second day of the battle the confederate pushed to try to take this hill - the original name is now forgotten - but it is today know under the name of the commander of the union defenders - Culp. The union manage to keep control of Culp’s Hill and the entire union line held their ground during the second day of the battle - no major decision had yet been reach and the battle could go either way.
Gettysburg - you don’t need to know much about American history before this name sound familiar. Most Europeans have heard of this place - not that they will be able to place it on the map - but then again just how many Americans know where the bigger European battles of Waterloo and Austerlitz actually took place during the Napoleonic wars. But the battle of Gettysburg’s is so well known as a very important battle during the Civil War in America.
This is the biggest battle ever in America north of Rio Grande with tens of thousands of people being killed. The battle changed the course of the war and eventually ended with the Union winning the war. One thing is with such a huge battle taking place around a city how many civilians got killed? Let’s get back to that one later.
Well I get to Gettysburg on one of the many roads leading to Gettysburg - today the roads are obviously sealed and I you drive your car to the town - but back in the days of Lee and Meade the roads were not sealed - but there were a lot of roads leading to Gettysburg. All the road leading to Gettysburg is the main reason for the battle of Gettysburg took place at this location. The reason was that Lee heard that the Union general Meade had his army in Pennsylvania while Lee’s army were scattered all over the state. Hence Lee had to act fast and get all of his troops to head to the same area - and the choice was the city with all the road leading to it - and in Pennsylvania this is not Rome but Gettysburg. Hence Lee soon had most of his army concentrated around Gettysburg while the Union only had a few troops around the city.
Hence Lee had the upper hand when the battle was about to begging. And I am about to head out the national park area around Gettysburg to read and listen to the story of the battle of Gettysburg - and look at all the monuments which are built in and around the area. There is a long line of confederate monument around the area where the confederate line ran and a long line of union monuments where the union line ran.
I drive along the road to revisit the three day long battle.