The Gettysburg campaign – and it is most properly considered a campaign rather than a battle or a series of battles – ended on July 4 as did the battle of Vicksburg. Almost mythically the victories are linked to the date as though it had some amuletic effect. Never mind that the side that was fighting for the principles enshrined in the Declaration and Constitution lost both battles the victors have written their history and claimed their glory and that is where the cultural understanding lies.
By 1913 the business of reconciliation was by no means complete however the guns had been silent for half a century. Woodrow Wilson – the first president born in Virginia since John Tyler and the first Southern president since Zachary Taylor – had become president by adding the “solid” South to the Democratic column for the first time in fifty years. Although today’s politically correct histories want to remember him for being an anglophile and an internationalist in 1912 he was a product of the Democratic machine that would help dismantle the civil service of the Republicans that, through patronage, had bought black votes since 1865.
The reconciliation presided over by Wilson on his first Independence Day in office was the fifty year reunion at Gettysburg of the men of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Confederate States of America. There is nothing to be said that can detract from their achievements, their bravery and the jobs they had done after the War in rebuilding the South and bringing the nation to its prominence that would enable it to save Europe. What can be said is that the campaign was in many ways the passing of the old order and Coddington’s study gives the most comprehensive picture we have of one of the last battles before the advent of truly modern warfare where Sherman and Grant would introduce the tactics that would end at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There are thousands of images available of the campaign and of the battlefield in its current repose as a park but even though the battle has seen its sesquicentenary we have chosen to illustrate this post with the pictures of the men who came together one last time in 1913 to celebrate the triumphs of their youth in the companionship of age before they faded away. The politician may give the occasion its voice but it is the veteran who gives it poignancy.
The Gettysburg campaign : a study in command Edwin B. Coddington New York : Scribner, 1984 Softcover. xiv, 866 p.,  p. of plates : ill. ; 21 cm. Bibliography: p. 823-839. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG
The Battle of Gettysburg remains one of the most controversial military actions in America’s history, and one of the most studied. Professor Coddington’s is an analysis not only of the battle proper, but of the actions of both Union and Confederate armies for the six months prior to the battle and of the factors affecting General Meade’s decision not to pursue the retreating Confederate forces. This book contends that Gettysburg was a crucial Union victory, primarily because of the effective leadership of Union forces — not, as has often been said, only because the North was the beneficiary of Lee’s mistakes. Scrupulously documented and rich in fascinating detail, The Gettysburg Campaign stands as one of the landmark works in the history of the Civil War.