July 8, 1863, Robert E. Lee explains his retreat from Gettysburg to Jefferson Davis

Mr. President,
My letter of yesterday should have informed you of the position of this army. Though reduced in numbers by the hardships and battles through which it has passed since leaving the Rappahannock its condition is good and its confidence unimpaired.

When crossing the Potomac into Maryland, I had calculated upon the river remaining fordable during the summer, so R E LEEas to enable me to recross at my pleasure, but a series of storms commencing the day after our entrance into Maryland has placed the river beyond fording stage and the present storms will keep it so for at least a week.

I shall therefore have to accept battle if the enemy offers it, whether I wish to or not, and as the result is in the hands of the Sovereign Ruler of the universe and known to him only, I deem it prudent to make every arrangement in our power to meet any emergency that may arrive.

From information gathered from the papers I believe that the troops from the North Carolina and the coast of Virginia, under Generals Foster and Day have been ordered to the Potomac and that recently additional reinforcements have been sent from the coast of South Carolina to General Banks. If I am correct in my opinion this will liberate most of the troops in those regions and should not your Excellency have already done so I earnestly recommend that all that can be spared be concentrated on the upper Rappahannock under General Beauregard with directions to cross the river and make demonstration upon Washington.

This course will answer the double purpose of affording protection to the capital at Richmond and relieving the pressure upon this army. I hope your Excellency will understand that I am not in the least discouraged or that my faith in the protection of an All merciful Providence, or in the fortitude of this army is at all shaken.

But though conscious that the enemy has been much shattered in the recent battle I am aware that he can be easily reinforced while no addition can be made to our numbers. The measure therefore that I have recommended is altogether one of a prudential nature.
I am most respectfully your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, General

November 19, 1863: Gettysburg National Cemetery is Dedicated

After the Battle of Gettysburg had ended in early July of 1863, the dead had to be buried quickly, without the respect that they had earned in the bloodiest battle of the War. It quickly became clear that a National Cemetery which would forever honor the men who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Union should be dedicated near the battlefield. On October 17, the task of reburying the Union Soldiers began.Gettysburg Cemetery The dedication date was set for November 19th. Edward Everett would be the orator of the day, and President Lincoln was invited to formally dedicate the grounds with a few appropriate remarks. During the train trip from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg Lincoln remarked to John Hay that he felt weak. On the morning of November 19, Lincoln mentioned to John Nicolay that he was dizzy. Hay noted that during the speech Lincoln’s face had ‘a ghastly color’ and that he was ‘sad, mournful, almost haggard.’ The ceremony was simple: Birgfeld’s Band played “Homage d’uns Heros” as an introit, the invocation was given by Reverend T. H. Stockton, the Marine Band played the “Old Hundred”, and then the Hon. Edward Everett began his oration: “Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed; — grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy.” Two hours later he ended: “But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg.” The Baltimore Glee Club sang a Hymn (“Consecration Chant”) and then the President of the United States rose to give his brief Dedicatory Remarks: “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 can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not 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.” A choir selected for the occasion sang a dirge (“Oh! It is Great for Our Country to Die”) and then the Reverend H. L. Baugher gave the Benediction. The crowds scattered after the speech.  Lincoln boarded the 6:30 pm train for Washington, D.C.; he was feverish and weak, with a severe headache. A protracted illness followed, which was diagnosed as a mild case of smallpox. And the War went on.gettysburg dead

July 3, 1913: The Great Reenactment of Pickett’s Charge

pickettFifty years past the bloody end of the Battle of Gettysburg, over fifty thousand Union and Confederate veterans converged to set camp again in Pennsylvania. The old men came back to see where they had stared death in the eye, and left their youth behind. July 3rd was another sweltering hot Pennsylvania day when the Union veterans again took their positions on Cemetery Ridge, and waited for their old adversaries to emerge from the woods of Seminary Ridge. At 3 in the afternoon, the Rebels charged again, but this time they moved with difficulty through the waist high grass – with canes and crutches and prosthetic limbs – some could fit their old uniforms and most could not – but still the bearded old men kept on coming. The youngest veteran was 61 years old, and the senior member claimed to be 112. Slowly they approached the stone fence at Bloody Angle, and some of the codgers croaked out the rebel yell when they were “surprised” by a group of Union men from the old Philadelphia Brigade. There were those that had feared a bitter confrontation might ensue, but where once they had thrust bayonets at each other, the men clasped hands across the stone wall. They ceremoniously exchanged flags, and some fell into each other’s arms, weeping, while others just sat down in silence and looked sadly across the hallowed ground. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yt7qvuHSg6U

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