The Battle of Gettysburg determined what philosophy would rule the country, and, by extension, the free world.
It hadn’t started out as a “Civil War” but rather a “War Between the States.” Actually, both sides often referred to it as the “War of Rebellion.” It was only clear after Gettysburg it was a war about civil rights and the radical American conservative ideal of the expansion of freedom for all.
In a complex war that pitted brother against brother and family against family, the victory at Gettysburg—the turning point of the war—though hard fought and well earned a thousand times over was a product of also so many anomalies. The hand of God? Abraham Lincoln certainly thought so.
Who could have imagined that Robert E. Lee would abandon his plan to fight a “defensive” engagement and instead charge the Union forces head on? Or that a Calvary general could hold off the Confederate army long enough to allow the high ground to be secured by the Union? Or that the Confederate generals had an opportunity take the high ground the first day and decided against it? Or that the arguably largest artillery barrage of the war was almost entirely ineffectual?
When held in comparison to so many other moments in which this nation teetered on the brink of destruction, one could be forgiven for believing that the perseverance of the United States is, in fact, a product of divine providence. Since 1776, Americans have believed this.
More than one third of all known photographs of dead Civil War soldiers were taken at Gettysburg, and over 1,400 statues, monuments, plaques and tablets mark its fields. Those fields and hills that had no names before July 1st were the site of the three-day battle that started without either the knowledge of Lee or Union General George Meade.
On the subject of Lee, before those three days, Lee was considered to be invincible. Meaning no force short of God could tactically defeat him. But after those three days he would never invade the North again and, though he was (and is) beloved in the south and respected in the north, no one would ever think him invincible again.
Sadly, today, significant portions of the battlefield are being built upon and sold off to commercial developers. But, nevertheless, it is still the fifth most visited memorial in the United States, and the only one of the top five not located in the DC metro area. Gettysburg matters because it is the three days in which our nation decided by trial of combat what philosophy would rule the country, and by extension, the free world.
All Americans today are the children of Gettysburg and, as Lincoln said, “a new birth of freedom” and, “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” The elites of America who disregard Providence and the will of the citizenry would do well to remember this.
Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer and historian. Andrew Shirley was the principal researcher on Mr. Shirley’s New York Times bestseller, December, 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World.
Breitbart News will be broadcasting the opening ceremony of the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg on Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT and partnering with N3 to offer 20 hours of coverage of the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg over the next eight days, which will include live reenactments and discussions with some of the leading Gettysburg historians and filmmakers. Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot Ch. 125 will alsohave a three-hour “Gettysburg 150” special tonight from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT.