The cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa. (mgnonline.com)
Last Modified: Friday, June 28, 2013 5:29 PM
Today, July 1, marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in American history that was pivotal in creating the nation we live in today.
The battle brought together two great armies from July 1 to July 3, 1863 in the southern Pennsylvania crossroads town of Gettysburg. The 75,000 man Confederate Army was led by General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, and the 100,000-man Union Army by General George Gordon Meade of Pennsylvania.
Lee invaded the North in hopes of winning Southern independence before the industrial and manpower advantage of the United States could overwhelm the South. Meade took over command of the demoralized Union Army just days before the battle. His army was badly beaten at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia in May. Lee wanted to keep up the momentum by carrying the war into the North and eventually attacking Baltimore or Washington, D.C., depending on the turn of events.
But Meade’s army seized the high ground outside Gettysburg the first day of the battle and kept it after the three days of bloody assaults that created new terms in American history, such as Cemetery Ridge, Little Round-Top, Devil’s Den, the Bloody Angle, Culp’s Hill, Pickett’s Charge and many more.
Casualties were horrendous. The North lost 3,155 men killed, 14,529 wounded and 5,365 captured or wounded for a total of 23,049. The South lost 4,637 killed, 12,397 wounded and 5,846 captured or missing for a total of 22,874.
Southwest Louisiana was represented in the battle by Company K (Confederate States Rangers) of the 10th Louiisiana Infantry, which fought on Culp’s Hill. Among the dead was Cpl. Isaac Reeves of Lake Charles. Fighting on the Union side of that great battle was Private John McNeese in a Maryland regiment. He too fought on Culp’s Hill. McNeese moved to Lake Charles after the war and became the long- time superintendent of Calcasieu Parish School. McNeese State University is named in his honor.
With the loss at Gettysburg, and Vicksburg July 4, 1863, the war turned against the South and led to the inevitable triumph of the North.
The strong, united America of today is the result of that four-year conflict, being observed today at Gettysburg and other battlefield across the South and North over the next two years of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.