“[I]n 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 power to add or detract.”
—President Abraham Lincoln
James M. McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom, and arguably the finest Civil War historian in the world, walks us through the site of the bloodiest and perhaps most consequential battle ever fought by Americans.
The events that occurred at Gettysburg are etched into our collective memory, as they served to change the course of the Civil War and with it the course of history. More than any other place in the United States, Gettysburg is indeed hallowed ground. It’s no surprise that it is one of the nation’s most visited sites (nearly two million annual visitors), attracting tourists, military buffs, and students of American history.
McPherson, who has led countless tours of Gettysburg over the years, makes stops at Seminary Ridge, the Peach Orchard, Cemetery Hill, and Little Round Top, among other key locations. He reflects on the meaning of the battle, describes the events of those terrible three days in July 1863, and places the struggle in the greater context of American and world history. Along the way, he intersperses stories of his own encounters with the place over several decades, as well as debunking several popular myths about the battle itself.
What brought those 165,000 soldiers—75,000 Confederate, 90,000 Union—to Gettysburg? Why did they lock themselves in such a death grip across these once bucolic fields until 11,000 of them were killed or mortally wounded, another 29,000 were wounded and survived, and about 10,000 were “missing”—mostly captured? What was accomplished by all of this carnage? Join James M. McPherson on a walk across this hallowed ground as he be encompasses the depth of meaning and historical impact of a place that helped define the nation’s character.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Hallowed Ground|
|Release Date: 02-04-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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Day One: July 1, 1863
We'll begin our tour three miles northwest of the Gettysburg town square, at the intersection of Knoxlyn Road and U.S. Route 30, the historic Chambersburg Pike. Here, on the morning of July 1, were posted the outlying pickets of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry. As the sun burned away the mist, they spotted a column of Confederate infantry marching toward them. At 7:30 A.M., Lieutenant Marcellus Jones rested a breech-loading Sharps carbine on a fence rail and fired at the enemy. It was the first shot in the largest battle ever fought in the western hemisphere.
Why were these soldiers here, more than one hundred miles north of the Rappahannock River in Virginia, where they had confronted each other until only three weeks earlier? After scrambling up the steep bank on the north side of Route 30 to look at the small "first shot" marker to the left of an abandoned house, let's head southeast on Route 30 almost two miles to the parking lot behind the guide station at the National Park entrance. From there we'll walk a hundred yards south to get away from the traffic noise. Here is a good place to answer the question: What brought these two armies to Gettysburg?
Those who have watched the electric map presentation at the National Park Visitor Center have learned the apparently paradoxical fact that the Confederates approached Gettysburg from the north and the Union army came up from the south. Having seized the initiative and invaded Pennsylvania, Southern troops got there first while the Army of the Potomac followed cautiously, remaining between the invaders and Washington to the southeast. Thus, when fate brought the armies together at Gettys