Those are the dates of the bloody battle of Gettysburg. On Monday night, I had the privilege of sharing my juggling presentation at First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, PA. On the drive home Tuesday, I took a few hours to stop and look around in Gettysburg, which is only about an hour away from Lancaster.
I had no idea how large Gettysburg Battlefield was. There are monuments everywhere. I had never seen so many monuments covering one landscape. It seems that every single regiment that fought in the battle got a monument erected somewhere on the battlefield. The battle claimed some 50,000 casualties, and it started by a chance encounter between the two armies, each in transit.
The most meaningful part of the day for me was reading the text of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address near the spot where he actually delivered it. He says that we, the living, cannot consecrate and hallow this ground (the dead already did so). Rather, we the living must forge ahead for the sake of that which these soldiers stood, for they did not die in vain. What did they fight for? A government of the people, for the people, and by the people, all under God.
I was also struck with the thought of the destructiveness of war. 50,000 lives in three days is a lot of carnage (roughly one death every 5 seconds on one battlefield). Something about it does not make sense to me. But what do I know.