- Historic Sites
Tales Of A Gettysburg Guide
Alone among all American battlefields, the scene of the Civil War’s costliest encounter is patrolled by government-licensed historians who keep alive for visitors the memory of what happened there
April 1994 | Volume 45, Issue 2
Time permitting, the guide might end his tour with a walk through the National Cemetery, with its rows of flat stones marking the graves of the Union dead (early on there was so much bad feeling that Southern dead were not permitted in the cemetery. A half-dozen do lie there, however, because they could not be distinguished among the pile of fallen Americans taken from some bitterly fought corner of the field). Eventually guide and visitor will stand where Abraham Lincoln delivered his address. The guide might point out Lincoln’s charge: ”… that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation 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.”
Then the guide might suggest the relevance of Lincoln’s words to us today: If America is to remain the country Dave wanted it to be, each citizen must do his or her part to keep it that way. Gettysburg, with all the horror of what happened there, is a reminder of what is at stake.
If the corps of guides at Gettysburg—inheritors of a tradition almost as old as the battle itself—helps keep battlefield visitors mindful of that message, they will feel uncommonly well rewarded.