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Full text of "Lincoln and Gettysburg after Fifty Years: November 19, 1863-1913"

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257 



Lincoln and Gettysburg After Fifty Years. 
November 19, 1863-1913. 



By Charles A. Kent, A. M.* 

Nearly five hundred years before the Christian era, 
Miltiades led a determined host of his Athenian countrymen 
against the Persians on the shores of the Attic Sea, and 
Marathon became historic. We recall it as recording a vic- 
tory for the establishment of representative government and 
overthrow of despotism, and as marking the first instance, 
which has survived, of a custom of memorializing heroic 
deeds, in celebration by the state. 

On the field of that great day a monumental mound, which 
remains to the present time, was thrown up in honor of the 
patriot dead of Greece, and their thousand Platean allies. 
Shortly after Greece vanquished her invading foe, it became 
a custom that at a great gathering of the people a funeral 
oration should be pronounced by some citizen of the realm, 
at a public concourse. Two evidences of this celebration of 
the state in memory of fallen heroes have come doA\Ti to us 
from the mists of those far-off years. One is the funeral 
speech of Pericles, delivered presumably at Marathon, or in 
the suburb gardens of Athens, where great numbers of the 
dead of battle slept, wherein he likened Athenian heroism 
and civilization to a brilliant and guiding torch, handed on 
through the ages, to shed its light even **upon the pages of 
our own time." 

The other testimony is in mutest marble, that of the 
Mourning Athene, found in excavation several years ago 
on the Acropolis at Athens. The figure typifies the youth 
and personality of the Greek nation of that ancient time, and 



* Address on "Lincoln and Gettysburg after Fifty Years," dolivered by Charles 
A. Kent, A. M., principal Eugene Field Elementary School, Chicago, November 19. 1913, 
at the fiftieth anniversary of the Lincoln Gettysburg Address, under the auspices of 
the Chicago Historical Society. Members of the Grand Army of the Republic and of 
the Loyal Legion being present as guests. 



258 

speaks in eloquent stone of her grief over heroes who had 
fallen in the defense of their country, on the battle field. 

It has come to the lot of our own proud republic, twenty- 
five hundred years after, to re-inaugurate the public testi- 
monial to the soldier in the cause of right and of the nation 
in the right, and Gettysburg, in the terrors of its awful 
carnage of war, as well as in loyalty to the sacred dead — 
Gettysburg thrills all our hearts and lifts us to higher faith 
in the integrity of that nation we love, now stronger for the 
struggle, braver in its example, and more powerful, infinitely, 
in its union! 

The development of representative government and of 
liberty are both consonant with the creation of this nation; 
and the terrible four years half a century ago were not 
fought in vain, and we now tender our poor tribute to the 
occasion and the man, in whose memory we gather, for recall 
of heroic deeds and heroic testimony. 

The institution of human slavery had lingered from the 
misty days of the past, and slowly, but stubbornly, was 
opposed in its abandonment by the march of ideas of human 
right and conduct. The American nation, once entirely apart 
from the tribute of a mother country too long and too insist- 
ently intolerant with taxation and indifferent colonial man- 
agement, found itself increasingly perplexed with the problem 
of human rights. The question of black slavery proved a 
constant apple of discord and an increasing menace to 
state harmony and coherent national life. The Articles of 
Confederation, written into the law of the land amidst the 
trials of war with England during the Eevolution, proved 
inadequate to direct the affairs of a republic in modem times, 
after a trial of less than ten years. The Constitution, adopted 
in 1789, was now in turn to demonstrate its right to an exist- 
ence, in the testing ordeal of civil combat. The years as they 
ran apace marked wider and wider divergence of interests 
and opinion in the sections known soon politically as well as 
geographically as the North and the South. Statesmen of 
older contests struggled with the problem, prescribiiig com- 
promise, retaliation, colonization on distant shores, national 
purchase of slaves, and abolition. For forty years and more 
the North pleaded with the South and pacified selfish inter- 
ests in all sections of the country where it was sought to 



259 

perpetuate chattel slavery. The patriotic hope for a per- 
petual union, the vision of a strong and united nation wherein 
overy one might indeed be reckoned free, was breathed by 
increasing thousands as the years ran farther into discord, 
suspicion, inaction. But the god of destiny, through Abra- 
ham Lincoln, was to solve the problem of human slavery and 
national integrity on foundations as solid as the world, as 
enduring as time. 

His life, whose history runs parallel to the decline and end 
of slavery in this country, found its beginning in the hills 
of Kentucky over a century ago. His youth and early man- 
hood were spent in the territory of political compromise. His 
sympathies and the acquaintance of his kindred were with 
the South ; his convictions and his sense of justice were with 
the North. The clanking of chains at an auction block in 
New Orleans in 1831 never ceased to ring in his sympathetic 
ear till thirty-one years later he struck the shackles from four 
million slaves. While a member of the General Assembly 
of Illinois, Lincoln placed himself on record against the 
cause of slavery, manifesting in obedience to the great con- 
viction of his life, the courage to stand alone — the first 
requisite of a leader in a great cause. 

His consuming ideal through the trying years before the 
war was a strong and perpetual union, wherein all men were 
to be free. He studied closely the trend of events, analyzed 
the effects of human thought and human conduct on affairs 
of national life, and saw, as afar, with keenest vision, the 
crisis approaching. A wave of prejudice and distrust, fanned 
by selfishness and the spirit of disunion, was about to sweep 
away centuries of growth of integral national life. From 
the heights of a great intellect and the fortress of a logical 
mind, above the loose morality of party politics, and above 
the storm of doubt and denunciation, Abraham Lincoln was 
courageous enough to dedicate the nation to justice in these 
words : 

**A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe 
that this government cannot permanently endure, half slave 
and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I 
do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease 
to be divided."^ 



^ Extract from speech of Mr. lincoln, Springfield, June 16, 1858. 



260 

Nominated at Chicago, the commercial and political key- 
stone in the arch of loyal states to the west and southwest, 
Lincoln's triumphant election to the presidency was seeming 
signal to the South to carry out withdrawal from the Union, 
and possession was at once taken of the forts, ships and war 
munitions in the region of disaffection. Secession had long 
been threatened and deliberately planned; now it was boldly 
acted upon as a public policy. 

The situation at Washington was discouraging enough. 
Former friends, with lips sealed to silence by their fears, 
added to the gloom of uncertainty. Every department of the 
government was permeated with the virus of disloyalty. The 
very army was badly disorganized ; the navy scattered. A cry 
for ** peace at any price '^ arose from every side. Irrational 
partisanship lost sight for the moment of the moral prestige 
of a new administration and courted compromise. Powerful 
influences were at work in Europe with a desire, ill con- 
cealed, for the downfall of the American republic. France 
and England were only waiting for an opportunity to lend 
the rebellious South a helping hand. Vain, indeed, were the 
efforts at reconciliation. Sumter was fired upon. A divided 
nation sprang to arms and precipitated that bitterest of con- 
flicts — a civil war! 

With admittedly superior numbers, the first two years of 
the war saw too many victories to the South, with corre- 
sponding discouragement in the North. While the conflict 
began and largely continued in a sweep over the lands and 
estates of the South, it roused that section to a greater fight- 
ing spirit than could be shown by any people whose territory 
was not scourged by an invading adversary. It needs no 
great amount of history to convince us what this incentive 
can accomplish. Every brave man carries it in the deepest 
recesses of his heart, and reads his first willing duty in the 
eyes of the wife, the child, the mother or the sweetheart, to 
preserve whose sacred right to a peaceful home his life 
stands always as a ready sacrifice. The North was scarcely 
at all called upon for this effort, this self-denial in the pres- 
ence of an invasion. That it were capable of yielding it when 
called upon need not be disputed. There is sufficient to bo 
proud of in American manhood not to draAv lines of politics 
or latitude in extolling the manhood, courage and fortitude 



261 

of men who marched and fought through our Civil War side 
by side or pitted against each other. 

The reverses of Bull Run and Chancellorsville and the 
heavy sacrifices at Antietam and Shiloh soon demonstrated 
to the North the desperate character of the fight the southern 
armies were putting into the balance in the hope of victory. 
It is true, most of the conflict had been on southern soil, thiis 
nerving the soldiers of that section to the fight a desperate 
defensive can offer, but Lee had actually invaded Maryland 
in 1862, and the frequent exchange of commanders of the 
Army of the Potomac, with McClellan, Pope, Burnside and 
Hooker, successively, directing affairs in the field, showed to 
the world that Lincoln had yet to find different material with 
which to forge the anchor to make fast the ship of state in 
the turbulent waves of awful battle, of an awful war. 

There were grave political developments late in 1862 that 
had the two-fold effect of discouraging northern support of 
the war, as carried on, and of nerving Lee to again plan on 
invading the region north of Mason and Dixon's line. A 
numerous party, and one active beyond its numerical 
strength, had bitterly opposed the war. The Emancipation 
Proclamation had concentrated and intensified this opposi- 
tion. During the hundred days which intervened between 
the announcement of Lincoln's purpose to put forth this 
proclamation and its actual promulgation, elections had been 
held in ten states of the Union. In these, Mr. Lincoln had, in 
the elections of 1860, a majority of more than 200,000; now, 
the opposing majority was 35,000. In 1860 these states sent 
78 Republicans and 37 Democratic Representatives to Con- 
gress ; now, they elected 51 administration and 67 opposition 
members. The draft, moreover, which was soon to go into 
effect, was vehemently denounced and declared unconstitu- 
tional by many, and threats openly made that its enforcement 
would be violently resisted. There was fair occasion for the 
South to be persuaded that any great success at arms gained 
over the Union army would elicit such a feeling throughout 
the North that the government would be compelled to desist 
from the further prosecution of the war. This opinion, that 
the people of the North wearied of the war, was not confined 
to the South, whose interests and feelings were so strongly 
enlisted, for the British minister at Washington had six 



262 

months before shared the same opinion and had so informed 
his government. The series of almost miinterrnpted successes 
to the Confederates, defeating Burnside at Fredericksburg, 
foiling Hooker at Chancellorsville, resisting attack of Union 
gunboats at Charleston and Vicksburg, capturing Galveston, 
and, with the *^ Alabama^' and the ** Florida,'' creating havoc 
on the high seas with our merchantmen — all these seemed 
to need nothing more to invite a successful invasion of the 
North to secure a final triumph, set up a southern and seced- 
ing federation of states, secure the recognition of the same 
from Europe, and end the war. 

The result at Chancellorsville had inspired the South 
with unbounded confidence in Lee, and there was univer- 
sal clamor that the invincible Army of Virginia assume 
the offensive, carry the war beyond the bounds of the Con- 
federacy and conquer peace on Federal soil. To carry out 
such a stupendous program, a comprehensive campaign was 
mapped out, with the ultimate design of the capture of Wash- 
ington, the national capital, for by such performance there 
would be tremendous additions to the prestige of the South- 
ern cause, since now foreign nations would have greater 
likelihood, according to usual custom, to recognize the rebel- 
lion and its hand-maiden, human slavery. 

It was at once necessary for Lee to collect his entire force, 
except that engaged in the west, and concentrate in northern 
Virginia. In conformity to this plan, Longstreet's three 
divisions, which had been engaged south of Richmond, were 
brought up, one by one, toward the Rappahannock River. 
During the first week in June, 1863, therefore, the whole 
effective fighting force of Lee was concentrated near Cul- 
peper, with the exception of A. P. HilPs division, which was 
left at Fredericksburg to mask the contemplated movement. 
Lee's first object of attack in view was by a rapid movement 
northward, and by maneuvering a portion of his army on the 
east side of the Blue Ridge, to tempt Hooker from his base 
of operations, thus leading him to uncover the approaches to 
Washington, thereby to throw the national capital open to a 
raid by Stuart's cavalry, to be followed by Lee himself, who 
would cross the Potomac in the neighborhood of Poolesville, 
and thus fall upon and capture Washington. 



263 

But Hills' display of forces across the Rappahannock did 
not conceal from Hooker the forward movement by the head 
of Lee's army now hurrying toward the Potomac, for while 
he surmised that the vau of the Confederate column was 
heading toward the shores of Maryland, and asked the Presi- 
dent permission to cross in case his suspicions were con- 
firmed, Hooker learned that the main cavalry forces of the 
South were stationed at Culpeper, and sent Pleasonton in 
that direction. Halleck refused his consent to cross the river, 
fearing the menace of the seeming large force which was 
across the river at Fredericksburg, aud the President was 
induced to concur in this refusal, couching his opinion in 
words of quaint warning against * taking any risk of being 
entangled up on the river, like an ox jumped half way over a 
fence and liable to be torn by dogs, front and rear, without 
a fair chance to gore one way or kick the other." 

Pleasonton encountered at Culpeper the main cavalry 
forces of Lee, together with a large force of infantry. Hooker 
was now convinced beyond a doubt of Lee's purpose to move 
down the Shenandoah, either get between him and the 
national capital by a circuitous route to the north of the 
Federal command, or to cross the Potomac and invade the 
North. 

Hooker had occupied the Shenandoah valley the winter 
and spring with his troops, and much time had been con- 
sumed by Lee in his unavailing attempts to out-maneuver 
him; so that, from the time when the Confederates broke 
camp at Fredericksburg and began the advance northward 
June 3, it was three weeks before he entered Maryland with 
his main forces, and instead of crossing the Potomac east 
of the Blue Ridge, he was compelled to ford it at Sheppards- 
town and Williamsport, ten or fifteen miles to the west, thus 
materially altering his plans. Besides, General Stuart, who 
was to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge, to mask the move- 
ment of Lee and to harass Hooker, should he attempt to cross 
the river, had been himself roughly handled, and instead of 
being able to retard the advance of the Federal Army, he 
was driven miles away from the main army of Lee — cut 
off for a fortnight from all communication with it — a circum- 
stance that General Lee referred to frequently afterwards 
with evident displeasure. With this arm of dependence cut 



264 

off for the time, Hooker quickly saw that he should pursue 
Lee, who had now crossed the Potomac. So he got his army- 
over at Edwards' Ferry, the same place Lee had used for 
invading Maryland the year before, and almost within sight 
of the old battle field of Antietam. 

The columns under Hill and Longstreet pressed forward 
hour by hour and united at Hagerstown, whence again they 
advanced to Chambersburg and rested for some information 
from Stuart, who was too far away to bring tidings of the 
movements of the Union army so devoutly wished for by Lee, 
now that he so little could rely on the surrounding country, 
once again hostile to him, and forced to depend so much the 
more on the strategy, swiftness of movement and trust- 
worthiness of his cavalry command. The southern army had 
advanced so far into the state of Pennsylvania by this time 
that Hooker was eager to attack his base of supplies, and 
thus weaken Lee 's advance and invasion, and so he asked for 
every available man to enlist and swell the Army of the 
Potomac to tlie greatest proportions. 

At Harper 's Ferry ten thousand men were stationed under 
French, and the forces under Hooker and Lee were so evenly 
balanced that an additional ten thousand men might easily 
turn the tide of battle at a critical juncture. Hooker felt this 
situation keenly, and asked for the garrison at the ^* Ferry'' 
to help resist Lee's onslaught. Halleck interposed again 
and refused permission for the transfer, on the grounds that 
the fortifications had cost so much money and labor that he 
could not consent to giving them up except under the direst 
necessity. Hooker forthwith thereafter sent to Washington 
two dispatches, one asking for the force at Harper's Ferry 
and another of same day and hour, tendering his resignation 
as commander of the Army of the Potomac. If Halleck would 
not add French's 10,000 to the troops operating against Lee, 
whose main columns had by this time touched foot upon 
Pennsylvania soil, he would resign. 

President Lincoln had thus placed before him in this criti- 
cal juncture two alternatives — either that Halleck must be 
displaced as commander-in-chief or Hooker must vacate the 
command of the Army of the Potomac. The smaller the 
change at such an urgent crisis, the less apparent evil, and 
so Hooker's request to be relieved of command was promptly 



265 

granted, and General Meade, of the Second Corps, was placed 
in immediate command. Viewed simply as a separate act in 
the great crisis then enveloping, Hooker's move was uncalled 
for and apparently justified subsequent action by the Presi- 
dent. But it cannot well be disassociated from a long series 
of mistakes and jealousies by and among Lincoln's military 
advisers in the campaign of the east, through which, day by 
day, the great man in the White House had to thread his way 
with patience and hope. 

On the appointment of General Meade, not an hour's hesi- 
tation ensued in the advance of any portion of the entire 
army. Hancock was put in conunand of the Second Corps, 
Eeynolds of the First was placed at the left wing of the now 
concentrating Union forces, while Kilpatrick's cavalry, sta- 
tioned at Hanover, met and defeated Stuart, yet separated 
from and in search of Lee's main army. 

Early in June a Union force under Milroy and stationed at 
Winchester, Virginia, had been routed by Ewell and pursued 
across the Potomac as far as Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania. 
On the 28th of the month he had reached Carlisle, nearly 
twenty miles due north of Gettysburg, and was planning a 
march on Harrisburg, the capital of the state. On the same 
day Hill had reached Fayetteville, on the Cashtown Eoad, 
and was joined by Longstreet the following day. From 
Gettysburg, thirty miles away, could now be seen the camp 
fires on the eastern side of the mountain, and the enemy 
swarmed over the country with his foraging parties. The 
cloud of war so long gathering in might and blackness was 
soon to burst in fury on some part of the devoted neighbor- 
hood of Gettysburg. 

It will be recalled that Lee and Hooker crossed the Poto- 
mac but a few miles apart, and within twenty-four hours of 
each other, Lee keeping west of South Mountain and Hooker 
to the east. This plan General Meade carried forward in 
faithful detail. The line of march of the two armies was 
therefore nearly parallel, with mountains between them, and 
each commander for a few days knew but little of the move- 
ments of the other. Lee, having some days the start, was 
considerably northward of Meade, when the latter, by a rapid 
march westward through the passes, could throw his left 
forces at the rear of Lee, effectually cutting him off from his 



266 

supplies, thereby wholly isolating him in a hostile country. 
Tidings of this purpose reached Lee the night of June 28, and 
he at once saw that his plan of invasion must now halt till 
he engage and drive away Meade's harassing forces at his 
rear. The entire Confederate command was therewith 
directed to mass to the eastward, Ewell coming southward 
from Carlisle. 

The town of Gettysburg occupies, as it were, the hub of a 
wheel, from which radiate in all directions, like the spokes 
of a wheel, roads to the northwest in the direction of Cham- 
bersburg, northeastward to Harrisburg, southwest to the 
Potomac and southeast to Baltimore and the sea. Whoever 
held Gettysburg held, if he realized it, the key to a campaign, 
the salient values of which lay in possessing Gulp's Hill to 
the east, the Round Tops to the south, together with the long, 
low lying, rocky ridge stretching from the latter northward 
to the old cemetery at the edge of the town. 

It chanced that one soldier, and that of the army of Meade, 
had studied the topography of the region, and he had made 
up his mind that Gettysburg was the spot whereat, if it could 
be so maneuvered, the battle was to be waged. This soldier 
was the only person, it so happened, who could have ordered 
events so that the contest take place there. That man was 
Alfred Pleasonton, now commanding the cavalry corps; the 
man by whom the fierce onslaught of Stonewall Jackson at 
Chancellorsville had been stayed. 

Shortly before noon of the 30th of June, General Buford, 
in reconnoitering along the Chambersburg Road, passed 
through Gettysburg ; not, however, before seeing by incipient 
skirmishes and challenges with the Confederates that the 
battle lines were rapidly drawing to an inevitable conflict at 
an early moment. He spent the afternoon protecting Rey- 
nolds' occupancy of a position on Marsh Creek northeast of 
the town, there to wait the dawn of the morrow. 

Buford was the first to meet a considerable force of Con- 
federates the morning of July 1, being very shortly rein- 
forced by Reynolds, who had now come up from the Emmits- 
burg Road and his night camp. So clearly did Reynolds 
discern the importance of holdmg the town that he person- 
ally took command of his division, riding horseback, to aid 
Buford. Not many minutes had elapsed till a sharpshooter's 



267 

bullet killed him, and the command devolved on Donbleday, 
while Howard took charge of the action in the field. Meade, 
who had heard near noon of Reynolds' death, sent Hancock, 
*Hhe superb,'' who, with Howard, deployed their forces so 
strategically that Cemetery Hill should be saved to the Union 
troops that night, even though sorrowful repulses were in- 
curred during the day farther northward and outside the 
town. 

By 1 o'clock of the morning of July 2 Meade reached the 
scene after riding fourteen miles from Taneytown. Having 
received accurate information of the topography of the 
grounds, and intelligence of the progress of the battle, and 
being fully and completely informed by Hancock and Howard 
of the favorable character of the position, Meade determined 
to give battle to Lee at this place. The remaining corps of 
the arms were dispatched to hasten forward with all speed. 
Few were the moments given to sleep during the waning 
hours of that brief midsummer night by either officers or 
men, though half of the Union troops were exhausted by the 
conflict of the first day and the remainder wearied by the 
forced marches which had brought them to the rescue. The 
full moon, veiled by thin clouds, shone that night on a 
strangely unwonted scene. The silence of the graveyard 
was broken by the heavy tramp of armed men, by the neigh 
of the war horse, the harsh rattle of the wheels of artillery 
hurrying to their stations, and all the indescribable tumult 
of preparation. The Sixth Corps, that of Sedgwick, was the 
last to arrive, having marched thirty-four miles since 9 
o'clock the evening before his arrival, causing the numbers 
of the forces of Meade to approach that of the command 
of Lee. 

It might be profitable at this point to again call attention 
to the increased isolation of Lee's army, so far from a home 
base of supplies. He was really driven to a choice of one of 
three courses of action: He must attack the Union army in 
their strong position along a higher ridge than existed any- 
where within rifle range of Meade, or draw them from it by 
continuing his march and threaten Washington and Balti- 
more, or he must retreat across the Potomac into Virginia. 
The third course would be complete abandonment of the 
enterprise which had been so deliberately undertaken; the 



268 

second was strongly urged by Hood, but it would be only 
prolonging the suspense, for an action must soon take place 
somewhere, and the enemy would, without doubt, grow 
stronger in their fortification day by day. Lee decided on 
the first resolve, the controlling motive and factor in the 
decision being found in the temper of the men of his army, 
who had won a series of decisive victories, among which 
they even counted Antietam. At Fredericksburg, with but 
a fraction of their available force, they had beaten Burnside, 
though they held a position largely in their favor ; at Chan- 
cellorsville, with two-thirds their present number, they had 
foiled and driven Hooker away, whose force was known to be 
much larger than now counted under the conunand of Meade. 
There they had successfully attacked the northern army in 
their intrenchments. Why should they not do so now with 
equal success? 

So, on the 2d day of July, Longstreet was ordered to assail 
the extreme Federal left, while Ewell was to make at the 
same time a demonstration on the right, fully five miles away. 
Edward Everett, in his careful analysis of the battle, recited 
at the dedication of the national cemetery four months later, 
dwells on the merciful inactivity of the Confederates the 
greater part of the second day, affording the wearied Union 
troops time to rest and be ready for the great conflict which 
was to inaugurate July 3. Had Lee chosen to renew the 
battle at daybreak July 2, in attacking the Union center, with 
the First and Eleventh Corps exhausted by battle and by 
retreat the evening before, the Third and Twelfth weary 
from their forced march, and the Second, Fifth and Sixth 
not yet arrived, nothing but a miracle could have saved the 
Union army from disaster. But the day dawned cool and 
refreshing, the hours of the morning passed, the forenoon 
and a considerable part of the afternoon wore away, with the 
merest evidence of activity manifested in nothing except the 
occasional booming of cannon, for there were intermittent 
skirmishes between outposts of either side intercepting de- 
tachments of the other, rushing to colunrn and to designated 
position for the inevitable grand assault. During this com- 
forting period of rest and inactivity fully half of the Fed- 
eral forces were gotten into line from scattered positions all 
about, in season for the successful onslaught of July 3. 



269 

At 4 o'clock on the afternoon of the 2d, however, the work 
of death began, in the attack by Longstreet's men on the 
Union left near Little Eonnd Top, to resist which General 
Sickles struck out for a spirited attack, but was himself soon 
borne from the field with a shattered limb. There was smart 
fighting at the base of Little Komid Top, and the entire as- 
sault of the afternoon was fierce and murderous while it 
lasted, but by nightfall the Union advantage was decisive. 
Little Bound Top was still ours and the Union left had not 
been broken or driven back. Strangely enough. Little Round 
Top, the key to the proposed field of battle, was unoccupied 
the greater part of the dsijy and if the enemy could gain that, 
a few guns planted on that eminence could enfilade the whole 
Union army as far as Cemetery Hill. It so happened that 
AVarren, with a few signal men, in his capacity as army 
engineer, had reconnoitered the neighborhood and reached 
the summit of Little Eound Top in time to take in the ex- 
treme perils of the situation. The Confederates were already 
trying to climb the great boulders that surmounted the emi- 
nence, and some aides who were rushing to assist Sickles 
were hastily summoned to scale the summit, amidst the wild- 
est hand-to-hand fighting imaginable ensuing among the gray 
granite boulders piled up in almost impenetrable confusion. 
The small Union force quickly exhausted their ammunition 
and a bayonet charge put them in possession of this coveted 
barren cliff, which was to aid materially in the victory of the 
following and final day. 

The morning of the 3d of July came, and with it Lee 
planned the same sortie as the day before. Ewell was to 
press his advantage against the extreme Union right, while 
the main assault Avas to be directed against the Union center. 
But Meade assumed the aggressive and early in the forenoon 
drove Ewell out of his position near the seminary north of 
the town. As this was over two miles away and not in sight 
of Lee's headquarters, that commander received no tidings 
all the forenoon of the mishap to Ewell, whereby one-third 
of his effective force was put out of reach of aiding at the 
critical juncture of the coming afternoon. General Lee sup- 
posed that Ewell would materially aid by threatening, if not 
actually attacking the Union right, and went rapidly forward 
all morning till noon in anticipation of striking Meade's center 



270 

south of the cemetery, and now posted along the ridge by that 
name. The Emmitsbnrg Eoad — or, as better knowoi. Sem- 
inary Ridge — was an admirable height for massing Lee's one 
hundred fifty guns, while Meade could only place eighty guns 
at a time along Cemetery Ridge opposing his, so uneven and 
rocky were the outcroppings of the high places there. But 
Meade must have felt the security of his higher position and 
now slightly superior force. Each side waited through that 
anxious forenoon, a stretch of field of grain lying between. 
Silence and the blue sky smiled down from above. 

Suddenly Lee's one hundred fifty guns opened a terrific 
cannonading, ranged all along Seminary Ridge, filling the air 
with shot and shell, till the very skies seemed vibrant with 
the whistling, screaming, howling thunder, mingled with 
smoke too dense for the eye to penetrate and heat too intense, 
apparently, for human endurance. The center of the fire had 
been directed at Hancock's artillery, posted along the slightly 
higher, but unreplying. Cemetery Ridge. The compliment 
was shortly returned with a tremendous fire from the Union 
batteries and from Little Round Top — indeed, scattered 
along as far to the northward as Culp's Hill — all told, a mile 
and a half of ^^ belching, bellowing death." All at once the 
Union batteries stopped their terrific roar ; the skies partially 
cleared, and Lee surmised that the halt Avas due to the ex- 
haustion of Meade's men or shortage of ammunition, or both. 
But Meade had merely ordered the guns retired for a time 
to cool them and clean their hot and sooty throats for further 
challenge and combat. 

Then came Lee's fatal decision to send an infantry mass 
across the fields of that intervening mile between the two 
lines of artillery to storm the Union center. Against the 
advices of Longstreet and others of Lee's corps commanders. 
General Pickett, with seventeen thousand of the very flower 
of the southern army, was asked to charge across the mid- 
lying plain with his infantry. It would look as if Lee, mis- 
taking the silence of Meade's artillery for exhaustion or 
retreat, felt that he could storm Cemetery Ridge at Meade's 
center, carry the breastworks there, put the Federals to 
flight, follow up his advantage, scatter Meade's forces, set 
out for Philadelphia and Baltimore, descend upon Washing- 
ton, name the terms of capitulation, and end the war. 



271 

That was a vision of military destiny bristling with amaz- 
ing possibilities, the correctness or error of which would 
mark the triumph or fall of the cause he held so dear. He 
chose the fatal alternative — to send Pickett across that mur- 
derous slope. The world knows the result — ^how at 3 o'clock 
the fire of artillery had died away and the smoke lifted, re- 
vealing Pickett starting on his sweeping challenge across the 
low level plain at the Union front, converging in two brilliant 
ranks as proudly they marched in close columns and by divi- 
sions. At the same moment the guns of Lee thundered their 
faithful rear support, and were answered almost on the 
instant by the artillery along Cemetery Kidge manned by 
Federal gunners, a war chorus of carnage and death, blaring, 
blazing, killing, filling the heavens with the shock of the 
mighty spectacle; belching forth a pitiless fire of iron hail, 
canister and grape, into the human ranks below. Men and 
whole groups of men dropped as though mowed down by 
some mighty sickle, and that was before the days of the 
machine gun, too. Now dozens, now hundreds, drop dead 
and dying from exploding missiles and raking fire, their 
places repeatedly closed up and occupied by surviving com- 
rades. Still, on they come, with colors flying and bayonets 
gleaming in the sun, keeping lines nearly as straight as if 
on parade. Over fences and ditches they come, but still their 
lines do not break. For a moment all is hushed along the 
Union lines as the soldiers in blue gaze admiringly at these 
brave fighters in a forlorn charge. On, on they come ! Now 
can be heard their officers' commands, ^* Steady, boys, 
steady!" They reach a place within one hundred yards of the 
Union infantry, a constantly decimating body of serried col- 
unms now distinctly wavering. **Fire!'' rings dowTi the line 
of Meade's eager battalions, and, rising as one man, the rifles 
of the old Second Corps ring a death knell for many a brave 
heart in butternut dress worthy of a better fate — a knell 
that must echo in hearts of many mothers, sisters and wives 
on many a plantation in the once fair and sunny South, where 
there will be weeping and wailing for the soldier who is not 
to return. 

What a merciless torrent of lead was poured into that 
living windrow of men ! By and by the lines come up thinner 
and thinner, break quicker and are longer in forming. By 



272 

fortunes almost unbelievable one hundred fifteen of Pickett's 
men struggle to the successful ascent of a bit of stone ledge, 
clubbing their way to the very heart of the Union center. 
They were in a few seconds overpowered and captured, but 
not till the gallant leader, Armistead, who had led them, his 
hat stuck on the point of his sword and hoisted aloft, cheering 
— ^not till he had fallen, mortally wounded, torn to pieces, it 
is said, by a shot from Webb's battery, fired by Lieutenant 
Gushing, who, holding for a moment his own torn bowels in 
place, shouted to his superior for time to give the enemy 
^^just one more shot,'' and who then himself fell back dead 
beside his gun! 

The ^^high water mark of the Confederacy" had been 
reached. Pickett's shattered fragments fell back. Lee saw 
his fearful mistake, but galloped up and down his broken 
ranks that late afternoon, cheering by his presence and in- 
spiration the men who gathered themselves for retreat across 
the Potomac, never again to threaten the North with in- 
vasion. The capitulation of Vicksburg at nearly the same 
hour turned also and in the same direction the fortunes of 
the war for the Union, in the maneuvers of the Army of the 
West under Grant. That growing commander was soon 
brought to the eastern work, and from July 3, 1863, forward 
the course of Union grew, l3attle after battle, victory after 
victory, into the glory of a reunited nation, a more perfect 
Union ! 

Appomattox became inevitable. 

« * * * * 

Upon the sides of the wooden archway to the cemetery that 
was in Gettysburg long years before the historic battle, the 
soldiers with a grim smile read on the opening days of July 
fifty years ago the solemn warning that ^^AU persons found 
using firearms in these grounds will be prosecuted with the 
utmost rigor of the law." This gateway became the key to the 
Federal lines, the very center of the cruelest use of firearms 
yet seen on this continent. On the first day Rejmolds had 
discovered the strategic value of Cemetery Hill in case of 
attack and retreat. Howard posted his reserves here and 
Hancock greatly strengthened the position as a fortification 
against attack. One hundred twenty Confederate guns were 
turned against it that last afternoon and in five minutes 



273 

every man of the Federals had been forced to cover. For 
one and one-half hours the shells fell fast thereabouts, deal- 
ing death and laying waste the summer verdure in the little 
graveyard. Up to the very guns of the Federals on Ceme- 
tery Hill, Pickett had led his devoted troops ; the night of the 
third day it was one vast slaughter field. On this eminence 
thousands were buried at the close of the titanic struggle. 

It came to the mind of Judge David Wills, of Gettysburg, 
to first suggest the creation of a national cemetery on the 
battlefield, and, under the direction and co-operation of 
Governor Curtin, he purchased the land, to the amount of 
over six hundred acres, for Pennsylvania and other states 
whose sons had died in the great battle. A formal dedica- 
tion had been planned for October 23 following the battle, 
but Edward Everett, who had been chosen to deliver the 
oration, had engagements for that date, and at his suggestion 
the occasion was postponed to November 19. On the 9th of 
November Judge Wills wrote to the President, advising him 
that the exercises would ^* doubtless be very imposing and 
solenmly impressive, '^ and that ** after the oration^' by Mr. 
Everett he was invited *^as the chief executive of the nation 
to formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use hy a 
few appropriate remarks/ ^ Judge Wills invited the Presi- 
dent to be a guest at his house during his stay in Gettysburg, 
and added that both Mr. Everett and Governor Curtin would 
share the same hospitality. 

Except during the great battle, the little town had never 
had such an outpouring of visitors as on the day when 
Lincoln visited Gettysburg. Secretary Seward was present 
also, and while he had been suspected by some of being luke- 
warm toward the yet-much-talked-of emancipation program, 
his opinion was sounded forth in no uncertain tones on this 
occasion, when the crowd at his front while he spake heard 
him predict the early end of the war, and that the end of the 
war would see the extermination of slavery, and that *^when 
that cause for the war is removed, simply by the process of 
abolishing it, as the origin and agent of the treason that is 
without justification and without parallel, we shall henceforth 
be united, be only one country, having only one hope, one 
ambition, one destiny. ^^ 



274 

The train from Washington contained four coaches. No 
one saw Mr. Lincobi en route engaged on his speech. He 
carried notes of it in his pocket, such as he had hastily 
written down the day before leaving the capital, and com- 
l)leted the *^ remarks ^^ in lead pencil, on ^ ^fool's cap^' paper, 
the morning of the 19th at the Wills home, between 9 and 10 
o'clock in the forenoon. The procession arrived at the grand 
stand erected for the occasion near the wooden archway to 
the cemetery, and moved slowly through the streets of the 
town, reaching the place of making the speeches at 11 o'clock. 
Edward Everett, the orator of the day, came half an hour 
later, and, with the details of arranging the different march- 
ing bodies of visitors and visiting delegations, it was noon 
when Mr. Everett rose to speak, an effort occupying two 
hours and four minutes. A piece of martial music by the 
band came next, after which the President arose for his **few 
remarks." He carried a paper in his hands, which might 
suggest to many who heard him that he was reading his 
speech, but some nearest him, including his private secre- 
tary, declare he spoke without help from his notes. 

From the character of the invitation to the President it 
was entirely natural for everyone to expect that Lincoln's 
part would be a few perfunctory remarks, the mere official 
formality of dedication. There is every probability that the 
assemblage regarded Mr. Everett as the mouthpiece, the 
organ of expression of the thought and feeling of the hour, 
and took it for granted that the President was there as the 
merest figure head, the culminating decoration, so to speak, 
of the elaborately planned pageant and procession of the day. 
They were thereifore totally unprepared for what they heard, 
and could not immediately realize that his words, and not 
those of the carefully chosen orator, were to carry the con- 
centrated thought of the occasion like a trumpet peal to 
farthest posterity. 

There is ample grounds for Lincoln's enduring pre-emi- 
nence and leadership, for, while in his own years he was a 
national character, we are beginning to assign him a place 
in the niche of the great of all ages and nations. When he 
was thrust forward to lead the American people he found 
himself called to face a new peril to the interests of man- 
kind. The conspiracy against the integrity of national life was 



275 

a threat to all the world. It was an attempt to break down the 
warp and woof of national unity and undo the work of cen- 
turies. It would be a reaction from that splendid work which 
had been achieved in old Attican days, all along the way of 
twenty-five hundred years of strife and war. For the world 
had been learning how men could live in fraternity and had 
been incorporating that experience into its laws and institu- 
tions. From individual life to associated interests in the 
family; from family to clan; and from clan to tribe and 
nation, conunon interest, common striving, had brought a 
larger portion of peace and tranquillity. 

And so the American Union, the consunmiation of all the 
struggles of men toward a state of universal peace, was the 
life, an aspiration of all the world organized into a nation. 
This union maintained, all other nations might go on and 
enter the portals of permanent peace and gather hope and 
success from righteous diligence in ways unknown to pillage 
and devastation. Destroy this union, and its ruins would 
block the way to progress, and delay the advance of nations 
toward a governmental ideal for perhaps a thousand years. 

It is precisely here that we come upon the character of the 
great war President. How easy in such an hour, says John 
Coleman Adams, ^*for the wisest to make mistakes! How 
easy to undervalue the real signs of the times, and to be the 
fools of fate by following the lures of the crafty or the 
stupid! * * * To stand upon the swinging deck when the 
rising gales are roaring in one's ears; when the threatening 
cloud just skims the wave and the wave tosses up to the 
cloud; when the blinding wrack of foam sweeps against the 
breath, and the eye can scarcely see the swaying compass as 
the ship goes plunging among hidden reefs; when the 
hardiest sailor turns his back and the coolest is confused, 
uncertain, anxious or appalled; to be cool, to be clear — to 
read the signs of the trackless sea, and, undaunted by the 
play of all these raging elements and these distracting dan- 
gers, to guide the keel straight down the channels where lie 
safety and salvation — ^this marks the man of God's own 
making, called forth to be the helmsman for a stormy hour, 
the pilot of mighty destinies, and such was Lincoln.'' 

He it was who saw, from the moment he becanie convinced 
of the intentions of the South, the one imperative absolute 



276 

aim he must keep in view, and that transcendent issue was 
the preservation of the Union. For therein was the vindica- 
tion of the great principle of the pacific federation of states 
for the cultivation of a larger life of order and fraternity. 
Abraham Lincoln's clear, unerring eye perceived the mean- 
ing of the struggle. His strong mind grasped its import. His 
steadfast soul clung to that purpose with a tenacity that 
could be expressed only in some such words as Saint Paul 
used when he said, *^This one thing I do'M 

And so we come to the day and occasion of the great ad- 
dress. Perhaps Lincoln felt with sad joy the waning for- 
tunes of the opposing forces, and that his few words could 
but cement the friendship of the survivors of both sides of 
the carnage of those terrible July days on this battlefield 
of Pennsylvania, where brothers in blue and brothers in gray 
of those still continuing the struggle must look back with 
longing eyes and sweet memories to brave comrades dying 
for a cause dear to them. Perhaps Lincoln's great vision of 
peace led him to speak in a vein of half prophecy, as, peering 
into the distant years of the future, when peace should perch 
on the banners of the North, the time would come when the 
tumult of war would echo back in anthems of peace ; a time 
when the blue and the gray should mingle in a common re- 
pulse of a foreign nation whose pitiless colonial policy dinned 
into our ears the crying need of reform in the islands of the 
tropic sea. 

Mayhap he could see with farther vision the splendid 
spectacle of nineteen hundred thirteen, when Gettysburg 
again became the rendezvous of countless thousands, this 
time of half a hundred thousand whose lives had been merci- 
fully spared to celebrate a veterans' semi-centennial on the 
old battlefield; of hundreds of thousands of the patriotic, 
the young and the gay, swelling into one grand chorus of joy 
over the cemented friendships of the war, keenly apprecia- 
tive of the blessings of a united nation and a happy land. 

Gettysburg on its fiftieth anniversary is the most com- 
pletely marked battlefield in the world. More than six hun- 
dred memorial shafts and memorial stones have been erected 
by regiments, states, companies and batteries. Nearly four 
thousand warriors lie sleeping on the hill which was dedi- 
cated by the President as a national cemetery. Today the 



277 

battleground is a great national park, covering 24,460 acres, 
which, when improvements are completed, will be seamed 
with more than one hundred miles of macadamized roads and 
** battle avenues." Here and there are giant observatory 
towers, from which the sightseer may gaze upon the battle 
field as it looked to the warriors on the hill crests half a 
century ago. 

It is the memory of the three mighty days of July, 1863, 
and the favorable turn of affairs in the destiny of national 
life as its immediate consequence, that causes the patriot to 
walk, as it were, with unshod feet amidst this American 
Marathon, which lies cradled in the gentle slopes of the Blue 
Eidge Mountains in southern Pennsylvania. Away to the 
south the mountain roads over which Meade and Lee led 
their armies pass over the border line into Maryland. 

Today, the broad fields of wheat and the orchards testify 
to the thrift of the country folk; sheep graze on the hill- 
sides, and cattle bend over the clear, cool water in creeks that 
once ran crimson with the blood of brothers ^*who struggled 
here" on the greatest battle ground of the western hemi- 
sphere. 

It was a supreme pleasure for the writer of this article to be 
present those momentous days of the celebration ; to have seen 
the fragment of Pickett's men *^ charge" in a feeble way now, 
but friendly f over the same ground where, half a century ago 
at the same hour there were thousands struggling in war's 
awful spectacle. There was demonstrated in outpouring 
affection for one another that peculiarly intelligent and 
righteous impulse which is usually thought of when we call 
it the American spirit which had borne successfully the test 
of fratricidal strife, and which had come away victorious 
over its own baser elements, in the reconstruction of a 
stronger nationality, now pervaded by honest and concerted 
motives, stimulated by high resolves, waiting expectantly 
at every gate of American opportunity! 

It was worth while for Lincoln to take time to come to 
these hills and cheer up the hearts of the North by his pro- 
phetic eloquence; it was worth while for Woodrow Wilson 
to come thither on the nation's last holiday, to the same 
scenes, under vastly changed conditions, and point the way 
to present and future patriotic duty in the demands of an 



278 

era of peace. It was a pleasure and a delight for more than 
fifty thousand surviving veterans of both sides to again fra- 
ternize there at Gettysburg in a week of semi-centennial 
reminiscence, and to pledge anew a common fealty to our 
great republic, now an unbreakable and indissoluble Union. 

The great President of our own day added his ennobling 
words as the very final act of semi-centennial celebration, in 
an appeal that touched all hearts, when he said : 

^*Lift your eyes to the great tracts of life yet to be con- 
quered in the interest of righteous peace, of that prosperity 
which lies in a people's hearts and outlasts all wars and 
errors of men." 

And as if to set forth the spirit of the future to those of 
the world's action and responsibility and leadership of our 
own happy time, he added this invitation : 

**Come, let us be comrades and soldiers yet to serve our 
fellow men in quiet counsel, where the blare of trumpets is 
neither heard nor heeded, and where the things are done 
which make blessed the nations of the world in peace and 
righteousness and love.''