November 19th, 1863, marks the date that the Soldier’s National Cemetery was dedicated in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Even though the events that gave Gettysburg its fame occurred 158 years ago, the loss remains poignant and the message of sacrifice and liberty still heard. Gettysburg has always held a special place in my heart and I wanted to produce a post today that hopefully makes you take a moment to pause and remember the men and women of the Civil War. 

Image Credit: National Park Service

At 10 am, a procession starting at the David Wills house, began making their way south on Baltimore Street towards the cemetery. Burials were not complete on the day of the dedication ceremony and would not be complete until roughly six months later. The rural town of Gettysburg was filled to the brim with visitors amounting to over 10,000 people present in the crowd that day. Although the entire ceremony was over two hours in length, President Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech only lasted two minutes. The speech had been started in Washington and Lincoln managed to finish writing it in the Wills House where he was staying while in town. The words he uttered in that short time spoke to the nation in mourning and continue to speak to Americans today. 

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 battle-field 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.

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863

Expansion projects commenced for years until the cemetery was officially closed to new burials in 1978. The Lincoln Speech memorial was dedicated in 1912 and is the only monument in the nation that is dedicated to a speech and not the speaker. It is estimated that between 45,000 and 51,000 people lost their lives in Gettysburg during that fateful July in 1863. Even though they are gone, we will not forget. If you ever have the chance to visit Gettysburg or any other battlefield site, I strongly urge you to do so. 

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day;
Under the one, the Blue,
Under the other, the Gray
These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day;
Under the laurel, the Blue,
Under the willow, the Gray
From the silence of sorrowful hours,
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
Alike for the friend and the foe;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day;
Under the roses, the Blue,
Under the lilies, the Gray
Sadly but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
No braver battle was won:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue,
Under the garlands, the Gray
No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day;
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.

-Poem by Francis Miles Finch

Until Next Time

N.F.

Source:

Heiser, John. “History of the Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg.” National Park Service. Last updated 27 January, 2014. Accessed 19 November, 2021. nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/150th-anniversary-dedication-day-cemetery-history.htm.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s