Last weekend (6/25/2011), my wife and I decided to pack up the dogs and head to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for the day. I have always had a fascination for the American Civil War, and the battle of Gettysburg in particular. I can't really say what it is about that particular battle that attracts my attention. Even as a child, family visits to the Gettysburg battlefield were always an exciting time for me. This fascination has not weened as I have grown older.
During each visit to the Gettysburg battlefield, I find myself staring at the monuments, reading off in my head of the number of wounded and dead. It is difficult to fathom so much death and destruction in today's modern world. Today, people get upset when this country loses ten or twenty soldiers a month in Afghanistan or Iraq. Take just a moment to think about the Civil War and the idea of losing hundreds or even thousands of soldiers over three days.
Allow me to provide some perspective for those who have never been to the Gettysburg battlefield. All across the battlefield are monuments to the different regiments, brigades, and corps that participated in the three days of battle. Each of these monuments lists the number of soldiers that were assigned to that specific regiment, brigade, or corps. Along with this number is a listing of the total number of soldier wounded and the number of soldiers killed. More often than not, the number of wounded or killed is more than half of the total of soldiers. Those sort of statistics were from a three day period. Don't get me wrong. It is not the death at Gettysburg that fascinates me. There is a deeper mystic to my fascination than just the loss of so many lives.
After this last visit with my wife, I decided to dig deeper into my Gettysburg experience. I downloaded a book called "Gettysburg" by Stephen W. Sears onto my Kindle. One thing that I like is that Sears does not just jump right into the Gettysburg battle. He takes the time to explain the events that led up to the battle. He explains how the Army of Northern Virginia ended up in Gettysburg. The book is well-researched with plenty of historical references. What I have learned from this book is the fact that both the leadership of the Confederate army and the Union army were pretty much dysfunctional. There was so much infighting among the various generals that it is amazing that they ever found time to fight the opposing army. The leadership of the Union army was particularly fragmented during that time. One other thing that I am learning is how brutal the fighting was during the Civil War. Sears quotes the journals of soldiers who fought during Gettysburg. The descriptions of the Civil War from eyewitnesses are quite incredible.
I have not finished reading "Gettysburg" yet, but I am looking forward to turning each and every page. If you have never been to Gettysburg, I would highly recommend the trip. And if you go, make sure that you stop to read the numbers. You may become fascinated too.