A Gettysburg 150 Reflection


For those Americans with an inkling of interest in American history and the American Civil War this coming week’s 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg will mark the beginning and end of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

Agree? Disagree? Talk amongst yourselves.

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7 comments… add one
  • Elizabeth Goetsch Jul 1, 2013 @ 18:11

    Gettysburg is to The American Civil War what Iwo Jima is to World War II (in how the majority of Americans remember the name and that “it was an important battle”). There is much more to either story/war (and yet, both battles have been remembered LOUDLY in American history- often overshadowing other important aspects or battles). Admittedly, I live in an area that is surrounded by Civil War history (of the Western Theater); little is mentioned/known/remembered of Gettysburg here. Well, I did see a special Time magazine publication for Gettysburg in the checkout line at Kroeger… Nevermind what happens to Civil War memory when I travel west or to the midwest.

    I think American culture today has a hard time focusing, so a four-year commemoration would be difficult (regardless of topic). Why didn’t those fighting have the forethought to have this major battle at the beginning of the war?! Then we wouldn’t have to worry about this four-plus years’ worth of commemorating! Bam! We could just get it all over and done with and figure out the next big thing. Isn’t that how we do now?

    You pose an interesting question whether Gettysburg commemorations are the beginning and(or?) the end of the sesquicentennial. Maybe just time will tell? How much more are historians or event planners expecting? More people? Higher visitation? More interest? A broader audience?

    I disagree that it is the beginning and the end. I also expect Gettysburg’s visitation (yes, the Mothership of Battlefields) will see a smaller attendance than they were expecting, as with almost every other sesquicentennial event. But the nation isn’t done remembering (or, in the few months left, sesquicentennial-ing). This is just one more mark on the American Civil War Sesquicentennial timeline.

  • Kaci Nash Jun 29, 2013 @ 7:41

    I’m more curious how many people will remember or realize that the war continued after Appomattox.

    Regarding your negativity about the Sesquicentennial, do you have any ideas on how to better engage the public?

    • Kevin Levin Jun 29, 2013 @ 7:44

      Hi Kaci,

      Thanks for the comment. I am not sure why you interpret this as a negative comment. Do I have any ideas? Spend some time reading the blog archives.

      • Kaci Nash Jun 30, 2013 @ 6:39

        Maybe negativity was a poor choice for words. What about disappointment? I know I am disappointed in the treatment the Sesquicentennial has received in public forums, especially on television. I remember a time when people used to complain about the History Channel as being too much about the Civil War, the “Wild” West, and Nazis. But I guess when you have reality TV stories to tell about present-day lumberjacks, gold hunters, and pawn shop stores, there really is not time for history. I thought I followed your blog relatively closely, but I will go back and look for some of your insights. Thanks!

  • Pat Young Jun 29, 2013 @ 5:05

    200,000 will be at Gettysburg, 20 million saw “Lincoln”. I’m guessing that was the bigger Sesqui event for the general public.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 29, 2013 @ 5:56

      Good point. I think I even said something along those lines when it premiered.

  • Christine M. Smith Jun 29, 2013 @ 5:00

    For some, I am sure that will be the case, because some believe that nothing happened before or after Gettysburg. I don’t mean to demean the battle at all. Two relatives died as a result of it. But we all know that many important battles happened between this and Appomattox. I would certainly hope there is going to be some national commemoration of that at least. Many good men died on both sides in the time after Gettysburg. Their sacrifices need to be remembered too.

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