On the way home from DC, we stopped today at Gettysburg. Despite my love of American history and knowledge of the battles and details, I was not prepared for the sheer vastness of Gettysburg. Endless fields, and endless room for the imagination.
The National Cemetery at Gettysburg was created in efforts to bury the dead from the Battle of Gettysburg. A quick look at Wikipedia lists the casualties as such:
Union: 23,055 (3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded, 5,369 captured/missing)
Confederate: 22,231 (4,708 killed, 12,693 wounded, 5,830 captured/missing)
These numbers are unbelievable… the battle lasted 3 days from July 1-3, 1863, and was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. There was an immediate need to bury the dead, and the land for Gettysburg Cemetery was purchased. Several months later, Lincoln came to the cemetery’s dedication and delivered his famous Gettysburg address there.
The Soldiers National Monument stands in the center, with semi-circles of graves flush to the ground around it, divided by states. The number of burials (details here) per state were:
* Maine ~ 104
* New Hampshire ~ 49
* Vermont ~ 61
* Massachusetts ~ 159
* Rhode Island ~ 12
* Connecticut ~ 22
* New York ~ 866
* New Jersey ~ 78
* Pennsylvania ~ 526
* Delaware ~ 15
* Maryland ~ 22
* West Virginia ~ 11
* Ohio ~ 131
* Indiana ~ 80
* Illinois ~ 6
* Michigan ~ 171
* Wisconsin ~ 73
* Minnesota ~ 52
* US Regulars ~ 138
* Unknown, Lot North ~ 411
* Unknown, Lot South ~ 425
* Unknown, Lot Inner Circle ~ 143
As you can see, most of the burials presently in the cemetery are of Union soldiers. The majority of Confederate soldiers were removed to cemeteries closer to home. While the soldiers monument which dominates the scene was intended to reflect the Union, what is interesting about Gettysburg is that it does not, in text or visually, talk of victory. History has marked the battle as a human tragedy, and the losses from both sides of the battle are overwhelmingly evident throughout the national park.
Beautiful and haunting poetry on large signs surround the stones along the walkway. As we walked through the cemetery, it was very overcast and began to rain, a fitting tribute to the somber nature of the cemetery and the nearby preserved battlefields.
One thought on “Gettysburg National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania”
From: A Story behind Every Stone: The Confederate Section of Oakwood Cemetery Raleigh, North Carolina; compiled by Charles E. Purser, ed. by Frank B. Powell, III – on page 2 it is noted: In 1871, 137 bodies were brought from Gettysburg and reburied on August 25, 1871, in separate graves.