Thursday, June 16, 2011

National Soldiers' Cemetery, Gettysburg PA

Fourscore 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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot 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.
– Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

Rhode Island section

Minnesota section

World War II soldiers section

Until last October I lived in Newport, RI, an area that in many ways was the center of the colonial era of American history; Newport was settled in 1639, and historical monuments, cemeteries and gravestones, and even some houses went all the way back to that time. Then, due to adverse economic circumstances, I had to leave Newport and come here to live with family in Shippensburg, PA.

And entered another era of American history, because this area of Pennsylvania is very much the center of Civil War history. Chambersburg, just south of here and the town in which my mother lives, was burned by Confederate forces; Shippensburg was occupied by those same forces. And they were on there way to face off with Union forces in a bid to force an end to the war. The forces met in Gettysburg, just over South Mountain to the east of here. The battle at Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War, starting the decline of the Confederacy.

These days Gettysburg is a national military park, dedicated to the brave souls who fought there and to the memory of what was arguably the most important battle fought on American soil. It was bloody, it was horrible, and it decided the fate of the nation in three days in July of 1863. My mother and I went over there yesterday on a road trip. At 81 she's not as spry as she used to be and we didn't stay as long as I would have liked, but we did manage to spend some time at the National Soldiers' Cemetery, where most of the dead from the battle, both known and unknown, are buried and where President Abraham Lincoln gave his most famous oration, quoted in full at the beginning of this photo essay.

[Note: For those interested in this kind of thing, I processed the photos in Photoshop™ using the Exposure 2™ plug-in to emulate sepia-ed daguerreotypes, in keeping with the period of the battle.]

Finally, I couldn't resist including this fantastic video of Jeff Daniels reciting the Gettysburg address, with fitting music and period photos. Enjoy!

Photos & text (except for Lincoln's words) © 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. Very nice post, Roy! But since you quoted Lincoln's entire speech, I sure hope you got his permission first...

  2. Something Deeply Moving about "12 BODIES"....more poignant than 12 names,somehow.......

  3. I've never visited Gettysburg but have heard it's a moving place to be. I agree with Tony, too. The "12 Bodies" is quite moving. Always more sad when names aren't known some how.

  4. The next photo down shows the stones with the names on them. They're set flat on the ground in an arc that forms a semi-circle around the monument. Each Union state involved in the battle has a segment of the semi-circle.

  5. Seems there's always a Military cemetery, you'd think we'd have learned a lesson or two by now. I find them very moving frankly, quiet and sombre. The mass grave idea is so sad, we'll never know who they were. I remember visiting Culloden in Scotland years ago and the calcium in the mass graves is so invasive that the heather won't grow above them. Nature's marker of times past.

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