Small US town is big draw for democracy lovers

Pic 1Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), May 12 (IANS) This small town just an hour and a half drive away from Washington has a population of a mere 110,000. But every year three million people from India and all over the world come visiting.

And this year, it is preparing to greet four million visitors as it marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address four months after a bloody battle that is often considered a turning point in America’s civil war. It was here that Lincoln voiced the hope that his civil war-torn 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”, the words that have reverberated across continents since then.

A “few appropriate remarks” that Lincoln offered at the dedication of a cemetery to fallen soldiers were only 272 words long and took just two minutes to deliver.

Pic 2Yet what would make famous the remarks made “Four score and seven years” after the birth of “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” was a look at the new dawn to come.

Articulating the purpose of the war, Lincoln looked “beyond it to a time when the nation would be united again,” according to Michelle A. Krowl, civil war and reconstruction specialist at the Library of Congress. The Battle of Gettysburg on the first three days of July 1863 was the largest and most costly in human terms to occur on the North American continent claiming as it did 51,000 lives, she said.

The civil war that began April 12, 1861 after rebel confederate forces began shelling Fort Sumter, in the harbour of Charleston, South Carolina, would go on for another two years and claim the lives of an estimated 620,000 to 750,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

Pic3But it lessened the ability of the eleven slavery-favouring southern states, that had begun seceding from the Union even before Lincoln’s March 4, 1861 inauguration, to wage war. And this ultimately contributed to the Union’s victory on April 9, 1865.

Come July, the town will witness a series of special events including battle re-enactments with about 500 ‘Union’ and ‘Confederate’ infantryman dressed in their blue and grey/brown uniforms taking part, officials told a group of visiting foreign media.

Among them would be William Coe, a former army officer, who would be playing the role of one of his Confederate ancestors who died “fighting for the principles he believed in.”

But the re-enactments this year would not be on the Gettysburg’s sprawling battleground littered with 1320 monuments and memorials, 410 cannons and 148 historic buildings as “for us it is hallowed ground,” said Coe dressed for the part in a single breasted grey brown jacket.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])

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