Editorial: Gettysburg a turning point in history

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.