Saturday, July 18, 2015

Philadelphia: Days 3-4: Saturday June 6 - Sunday June 7, 2015

Picket's Charge, Battle of Gettysburg
Day 3: The day was somber when we visited Gettysburg, and this seemed so appropriate. Over 50,000 men died in this definitive battle of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Popular, and up till now successful, General Robert E. Lee of the Confederates, had hoped to break through the line of the Union troops under Major-General George Gordon Meade. He was headed for Washington, DC, and history might have been a different story if he had succeeded.

The bravery of the Confederate soldiers in the face of the superior cannons and superior numbers of the Union soldiers, is practically unbelievable. They were fighting for their homes, families and way of life. The last battle tactic, Pickett's Charge, alone cost General Lee over 5000 soldiers, and with that, the Battle of Gettysburg (1863) was over. The war dragged on for another two years, but the Confederates had been broken by the losses of so many men at Gettysburg.

The little town of Gettysburg is pretty, and still has buildings from the time of the Civil War. The David Wills House, where President Abraham Lincoln stayed before he delivered his Gettysburg Address, is on Lincoln Square, and is now a museum. A little down the road is the train station where he arrived to take part in the opening of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, where the Union casualties were buried. What a different world!

Lincoln was meant to deliver only a few short remarks, but what he said in two minutes that day has reverberated down the years as Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:
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 was, 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 plave 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 honoured dead we take increased devotion that 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.
I felt we were treading on hallowed ground. It had been such a worthwhile visit, and we returned to Philadelphia with lots to think about.

Day 4: Wake-up call 6:30 am. After breakfast, off in the luxury coach, back to Toronto.

Once again, the journey was well-arranged with coffee breaks approximately every two hours. Two hour was spent at Waterloo Outlook Mall for lunch, and shopping for those who wanted it. I returned to Toronto excited by our visit to these beautiful, historic places. We are already planning our next trip: to Boston, in the fall.

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