Historian Allen Guelzo, author of the New York Times bestselling book Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, rhetorically asked, “Where is the president? Where is the vice president? They aren’t here,” in an interview with Stephen K. Bannon on the Breitbart News live broadcast of Commemoration of Pickett’s charge on July 3.
During the three days of Gettysburg events, President Obama has been on a tour through Africa, traveling to Senegal, Tanzania, and South Africa.
Guelzo noted that it was mostly just ordinary people who showed up to the Gettysburg memorial, not just Americans but people from around the world who wanted to pay tribute to perhaps the most significant event and moment of sacrifice in our nation’s history. He also noted that the three-day commemoration of the event, July 1-3, was not covered by any of the major networks.
“Where is the Today Show? Where is Good Morning America?” said Guelzo.
Attendees have mostly shown great reverence to the honor and sacrifice of the men who fought on both sides of the battle, according to Guelzo. Most have honored Abraham Lincoln’s dictate in the famous Gettysburg Address: “never forget what they did here.” The “they” that Lincoln referred to were the soldiers in uniform on the battlefield 150 years ago who bled and died for the cause and the country that they believed in.
Visitors endured torrential rainfall to see the battlefield as tens of thousands came to pay tribute to this special moment in American and world history.
“One thing I tell people to do is just look around them here. This is a lot of people from all over the world. They are not here like they are at a theme park or a rock concert,” said Guelzo.
Presidents have frequently commemorated the great battles in American history with orations and memorials about the sacrifice of the men involved and the meaning of “American exceptionalism.” For instance, Ronald Reagan made a tribute to the “Boys of Pointe Du Hoc” on the 40th anniversary of D-Day and the beginning of the liberation of Europe.
Guelzo spoke about why he decided to write a book about Gettysburg, even though there have been so many written accounts of it in the past. He said that besides living in Gettysburg and being in close proximity, there were many stories about the battle that have been overlooked. “There were angles of this battle that I haven’t heard told before,” Guelzo explained.
One angle of the battle that Guelzo focused on was the role politics played in the Union Army. Though all were fighting for the Union, the soldiers and generals were divided on how to carry out the war. Peace Democrats, sometimes known as “Copperheads,” believed that the war was being fought for the wrong reasons–that Lincoln and the Republican Party were to blame for the war and secession. Guelzo said that Union General George McClellan, who ran against Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election, “often said he was divided on marching on Richmond or marching on Washington.”
Host Bannon called Guelzo’s book the “definitive” work on the subject, as it details both the minutia of the battle and the politics surrounding it, and it tells an interesting, gripping story about the individuals involved.
Bannon compared the narrative to those of the famous late Civil War historian, Shelby Foote, an incredible storyteller who wrote the three-part The Civil War: A Narrative and became famous to the general public after a performance on Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary.
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