Sunday, November 8, 2015

VETS UNITE | Gettysburg Reunion, 1938

The Gettysburg 1938 Reunion and Dedication of the Eternal Light Memorial.
For Veterans Day, I am reading about the 1938 Gettysburg reunion and commemoration by veterans of both sides of the Civil War, 75 years later.

The event attracted nearly 1,850 veterans of the Civil War, three-fourths of them from the Union side. Of them, 25 were veterans of the battle – their average age was 94.

The event brought some 400,000   onlookers. FDR came and spoke to them on July 3, dedicating the Eternal Light Memorial.

Gray and Blue Reconciled Veterans.
Initially there was opposition ton the reunion from both sides. For example, questions about whether the Confederate veterans could bring their flags were asked by both sides. Veterans in the south did not see the point of going back to Gettysburg to be subjected to the condescension of "damn Yankees". On the northern side, the veterans did not want to have to look again at the symbols of the confederacy.

There were different feelings about Gettysburg
  • Pride in having fought there,  a defining moment of soldiers' lives.
  • Victory barely won and lost.
  • Horror at the loss.
  • Loyalty, disloyalty, sacrifice, freedom.
  • When together as Union (Army of the Potomac) veterans, they celebrated the end of slavery..
Gettysburg was the geographic center of the memory of the war. The 1938ncommemoration was a big success because it was 
  • A Reunion.
  • Memory of Reconstruction, coming back to a different society.
  • Reconciliation - among people who spent four years trying to kill one another.
In 1869 Gettysburg was dedicated as a soldiers' cemetery.  Initially, it was a cemetery for Union soldiers. But a Union general, George G. Meade, spoke on this occasion and acknowledged that Confederate soldiers should be left to their Maker to be judged – they should be remembered here as well as Union soldiers. By 1895 the Gettysburg monument covered 500 acres and some Confederate soldiers were reburied there.

Here is a well-presented history of the Gettysburg memorial:

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