This past Saturday, on November 16, the annual Remembrance Day Parade and Ceremony was held in Gettysburg, Pa. The event is held on the Saturday closest to the actual anniversary date of the Gettysburg Address given by Abraham Lincoln on the occasion of the dedication of the National Cemetery on November 19th, 1863. When Lincoln spoke at the ceremonies, the cemetery was not even close to being the peaceful and strangely beautiful site it is today. On that date, the evidence of war, death and destruction could still be seen all around Gettysburg—a scarce few months since the three horrific days of bloodletting that occurred there.
This writer was honored to be able to participate in the march and the ceremony. After the parade through the town (which featured the Federal reenactors marching first and followed by the Confederate reenactors), a ceremony was held at the wall near the Clump of Trees. The ceremony occurred at almost the exact spot where Gen. Lewis Armistead and the survivors of his brigade briefly broke through the Federal line before being either shot down or taken prisoner in the Federal counter-attacks that followed. The ceremony was indeed a touching one, as reenactors of both sides met to remember all those who perished there.
It was raining this past Saturday in Gettysburg and, while I do not know for sure if there was sun on the day Lincoln spoke at the dedication, I am sure it was a most somber crowd that processed from the town to the site of the new National Cemetery one-hundred-and-thirty-nine years ago. While the dedication and the remarks Lincoln gave were narrowly intended for the Union war effort, Lincoln's few small remarks remain one of America's greatest speeches. In it, he said:
"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 battlefield 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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot 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."
(Courtesy of the National Telecomputing Network and Gerald Murphy of The Cleveland Free-Net)
While Mr. Lincoln was certainly wrong about whether the world would remember his few words, the world has indeed never forgotten what the boys of blue and the boys of gray did on that field. This writer can truly say that, while he portrays the Southern side of the conflict as a living historian, he was never so proud to be an AMERICAN as on that rainy day this past November 16th at Gettysburg.