“We gather today on the greatest battlefield of the Civil War and of the world; not to commemorate a victory, but rather to emphasize the spirit of national brotherhood and national unity…” — Hon. John K. Tenner, Pennsylvania Governor, at the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
These words, much like those of President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863, ring true today. Gettysburg is a sacred place that stands not for division, but for unity, for brotherhood. It is a place that all Americans, young and old, should visit. It is a place where one must stand and contemplate what occurred here 155 years ago, and think about the relevance today. In the words of Lincoln, “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.”
Let Gettysburg inspire you through the history of the battle. Listen as you move through the battlefield on horseback or carriage to the stories of the soldiers. Follow the Rangers through the fields with immersive stories of units who “gave the last full measure of devotion.” Stand in the footsteps of the President in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and repeat the 272 words that the President delivered during the dedication. Walk the steps of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, dedicated in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt as “an enduring light to guide us in unity and fellowship.” (Lincoln)
The history of Gettysburg does not live only on the 6,000-acre military park, or the cemetery constructed to bury and honor the fallen Union soldiers. The history is told through the buildings, now restored to share the stories of the citizens of Gettysburg. Guides lead visitors through the streets, explaining how soldiers moved through the town, often commandeering homes to use attics for sharpshooter posts and parlors for operating rooms.
History embraces modern life through living history encampments and the annual reenactment. Artifacts of the war and town share their personal accounts of the battle and the aftermath. It is these stories that pass along the lessons of history and our ancestors, reaching out to teach us unity and brotherhood.