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June 18, 2008 / howardmestas

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania


June 13, 2008

…”for those who were here gave their lives that that nation might live.”  —  Abraham Lincoln

The Battle of Gettysburg has often been called the greatest man made disaster in American History, and it remained so until the Bush v Gore Supreme Court Decision of 2000.

It was extremely appropriate that the visit to Gettysburg was the last of our planned trips on this incredible educational excursion.  After all, none of our group’s scrutiny to this point, including all aspects of the Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War, or Constitution would have amounted to much if the Union Army had not won the battle in and around this small community on July 1, 2, and 3, 1863.  As Lincoln said many months later, these brave men “gave their lives that that nation might live.”

This was an exciting day for me since I have studied and taught about the turning point of the Civil War for many years, yet no book, statistic, movie, or documentary, ever prepared me for what I saw with my own eyes.  It was a humbling and haunting experience that made me feel small, yet important because I am a proud citizen of this country and one who appreciates the sacrifices made by those who came before me.

Who can guess what might have happened had the results the battle been different?  Would the north have given in and allowed for two nations?  There was tremendous political pressure in the north for the war to end and this battle could have been the positive turning point for the Confederacy.  After all, Robert E. Lee was on a roll with string of victories and seemed invincible.  Bloody draft riots were emerging in New York City and the British were always on the horizon as a potential southern ally.  What would have happened to the Constitution, would it have become a useless, meaningless peice of paper?  And what about African Americans, would they ever have been free, and if so, to what extent?  Could there have been future wars between the two new countries?  One thing for sure America could have never become a world power and we ourselves would have been enslaved to the evil empires that emerged in Europe and Asia in the 20th Century.  Without a doubt, the results of this battle saved the United States, and perhaps the free world.

As pleasing as this trip was for me, I have to admit that I was disgusted with the countless monuments glorifying Confederate bravery on the battlefield.  Perhaps markers showing the positioning of Lee’s divisions would have been appropriate, but to see exalting and lionizing statues of the enemy was insulting!  These were not Americans fighting for state’s rights as many would have you believe, they were the worst enemy our country has ever known and they were fighting to preserve human bondage.  They spit on our Constitution and stepped on our flag, and killed more Americans than Hitler ever could have hoped for.  And when they murdered Lincoln, they danced in the streets.  There should not be a statue of Lee at Gettysburg, he was the worst traitor in American History; Benedict Arnold pales by comparison.  How sad it is that the “Federal” government has allowed this to happen.  It only strengthens the determination of today’s hypocrites who like to wave the Confederate flag and say that it is part of their heritage.  This is an affront to those brave Union troops who gave their lives to save the Union, and to Lincoln.  How offending it must be to African Americans who are still recovering from centuries of slavery and from the Jim Crow laws created by the descendants of those same confederate officers and soldiers.


This wall represents the “High Water” mark of the Confederacy.  This was the spot where, on the third day, Pickett’s Charge ended.  Things would go downhill for the South and General Lee from this point until the end of the war.



Leave a Comment
  1. Jonathan Rees / Jun 18 2008 9:18 pm


    I feel the same way about the monuments. Also, do we have your lesson plan topic? If not, would you drop us a note?

  2. history591twenty3 / Jun 18 2008 2:39 am

    Hi Howard,
    I too looked forward to going to Gettysburg. What an experience we had looking at the battlefield. I find it interesting if the South would have won General Lee would have been a hero and Lee would not be considered a traitor. I would not compare him to Mr. Arnold. Both men had reasons for what they did. If the other sides had won then they would probably be considered heros. What a thought!
    Dolores Ballejo

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