A picture is worth a thousand words.
You can read a plethora of books on Gettysburg, look at pictures, or even watch the movie, but the reality is–it can never replace the experience of being there.
Experiencing it first-hand changes everything.
In effect, it is a giant graveyard where you step quietly and reverently as you whisper amongst yourselves about what happened here.
It is absolutely sobering.
While you might call it tourism, a visit to Gettysburg is so much more than that. It’s more like a visit to the past. An important part of our history that would define the kind of nation we would become.
“One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.“
The Battle of Gettysburg didn’t start the Civil War, nor did it end there, but many historians agree that those three days would be the turning point of the war.
What I saw, and what I will never forget is the stark reminder of the cost of freedom.
To quote the movie, Gettysburg, “All of them Americans. All with the same God, but with different dreams.” “How very sad.”
For me, to experience this giant cemetery where thousands gave their lives was somehow necessary. The trip was on my husbands “must see” list, but for me it was, “I don’t really want to, but I need to see it”.
Though we set out on this adventure together, we had very different perspectives of the events that unfolded.
My husband sees a hero:
I see the heartache of his mama.
He sees sacrifice. And honor:
I see the brave widow raising their children alone.
We pass the grave of an unknown soldier, and he says, “Thank you, soldier.”
I say, “How awful. This unknown was known by somebody who didn’t get to say good-bye.”
These graves are marked only by a number. But in the ground lies someone who was more than a number. He was a son, possibly a father or brother. They had names now only God knows.
And both sides carried Bibles. How many were prepared for eternity? How many had their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?
The women of Gettysburg?
Their homes were occupied by officers, turned into hospitals or abandoned while they fled to a safer place.
And then there is this woman. In the aftermath of the war, as caretaker of the cemetery, she buries ninety-one soldiers–all while six months pregnant:
The only civilian casualty in Gettysburg, a woman:
20 years old. Not unlike many of the young soldiers who sacrificed their future to fight for the freedom of every man, woman and child.
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13
The hardest part for me was understanding how anyone–especially those who claimed to know Christ–could be so passionately wrong about the issue of slavery. To think that any human being was worth less because of the color of their skin is far more than I can fathom.
All of those early Americans were immigrants from somewhere… and many had left their home country for a new life: One that was free from tyranny, monarchy, or oppression. How had their vision been so blinded to this imperious oppression? “How sad.” is right.
The somber reality is sobered by the victory here. While it seems to me that civil war is of the worst kind, and on the surface seems to divide a nation, this battle between the North and the South is what united us once-for-all. There were valiant fighters on both sides. Both were passionately pursuing freedom. One from the tyranny of government, and the other–freedom for the oppressed. Their plight was never decided by might or by power, but by God. The truth of His Word reminds us that He is sovereign. His will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven.”