Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pickett's Charge Commemorative Walk: Reflections on July 3, 2013 at Gettysburg National Military Park

Today was an amazing day.

There will be pictures to follow and stories to tell, but for now, I just wanted to note what occurred today at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Park Rangers led thousands of visitors across the fields between Seminary and Cemetery Ridge this afternoon in a Pickett's Charge commemorative walk. I had the honor of being with Richard Garnett's brigade of Pickett's Division, along with friend and colleague Chris Gwinn. We had roughly the same number of folks with us today that Garnett did 150 years to that very moment. When we stepped off, Chris had the idea to have the brigade shout "Virginians!" several times, which they did. It gave me chills. I was in tears when we stepped off because of the emotions of the moment and the number of people who were present. I have never experienced anything quite like it before.

When we reached the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge, visitors were caught up in emotion, and so were the rangers. There were pictures, hand shakes, cheers, and then silence, as the solemn notes of taps floated over the massive crowds (early unofficial estimates are that over 10,000 people were there on Union lines and in the Confederate groups).

Standing at that wall saluting the American flag, surrounding by the throngs of people in silence, I could only think of one thing:

The men who fought here 150 years ago would be immensely proud to know that 150 years later to the moment, they had not been forgotten.

The takeaway message of today, and of the Gettysburg 150th, is this: Americans still care, and Americans still remember the sacrifices that were made for us many, many years ago.

Today was one of the best days I can remember, and the Pickett's Charge Commemorative Walk was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I did not hear a single visitor complaint from the crowd of thousands.

More to come on this and the Gettysburg 150th. For now, sleep, rest, and vitamins, because tomorrow, on July 4th, I will be in the Soldier's National Cemetery at Gettysburg to talk to visitors about the Gettysburg Address and the meaning of the battle.

God Bless America. Happy Fourth of July.

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