Gettysburg's Relevance Today
Visiting Gettysburg Today
Gettysburg today is an American pilgrimage for more than one million people a year. They come to explore the park and the Museum and Visitor Center, as they seek to understand the importance of the Battle of Gettysburg and its place in American history.
The battlefield at Gettysburg today has been preserved thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Gettysburg. For more than two decades, approximately 45,000 Friends members have diligently worked to support the preservation of this battlefield. Countless volunteers have donated their time to Gettysburg National Military Park, working at the Museum and Visitor Center and other affiliated National Park Service sites in Gettysburg.
Together, this core of individuals has helped the National Park Service in its goals to acquire key parcels of land, significant to the Battle of Gettysburg return areas of the park as close as possible to their 1863 appearance and educating and informing millions of visitors about the heritage and lasting significance of Gettysburg today.
Gettysburg as a Symbol of Reconciliation
In July 1863, Gettysburg was a place of conflict. In the decades following the battle, Gettysburg became a symbol of healing. Former Union and Confederate soldiers returned to Gettysburg at reunions to reflect on the battle. In 1887, the 24th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, approximately 9,000 veterans and their families came to Gettysburg. Veterans shook hands across stone walls they had been using as cover during Pickett’s Charge. And in 1913, close to 50,000 veterans recognized the 50th anniversary of the battle. At the 75th anniversary, in 1938, nearly 2,000 veterans joined President Franklin D. Roosevelt to dedicate the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on the battlefield.
Gettysburg as a Classroom for Democracy
The scope of sacrifice at Gettysburg cannot be overlooked. At Gettysburg, we learn about the beliefs of Union and Confederate (each of whom had their own reasons for fighting). We learn about the strategies used by the commanders during the battle to act on those beliefs. And we learn about the healing and rediscovery that occurred after the battle.
That same level of involvement, depth of commitment and scope of sacrifice at Gettysburg is unlike anything we can imagine today. Regardless of our viewpoints, backgrounds and personal beliefs, each of us can’t help but be moved by the stories of courage and sacrifice at Gettysburg. Gettysburg today is a tribute to the true heroes of America. And, as President Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address, it is “a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.”
Gettysburg Today: Stories from the Homefront
At Gettysburg, visitors can explore what life was life for the mothers, wives, relatives and loved ones of military personnel who left their homes to fight in the Civil War. In the Gilder Lehrman Special Exhibits Gallery inside the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center exhibit, “I Take Up My Pen: Letters from the War,” visitors can read correspondence from soldiers and their loved ones. Items from the Gettysburg National Military Park collection of artifacts complement the letters in this exhibit.
Reading the letters, visitors can see a connection between military service personnel at Gettysburg, and today, on battlefields across the world — camp life, their impressions of battle, the causes for which they were fighting and everything they missed at home.
Send a Message from Gettysburg to Service Personnel Overseas
Visitors to Gettysburg National Military Park have an opportunity to send messages to members of the United States Armed Forces, thanks to a parternship between the Gettysburg Foundation, Lockheed Martin and Operation Homefront. At the park’s Museum and Visitor Center, visitors are encouraged to write messages to the troops on special Operation Homefront postcards. These postcards will be forwarded to service members.
Operation Homefront is a non-profit organization that provides emergency assistance and morale to American troops, to the families they leave behind and to wounded soldiers whne they return home. Lockheed Martin Corporation has worked with organizations that support military men and women who serve the United States.