A Horrible Glory: Gettysburg 150th Anniversary

gettysburg4

The sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg is only a few days away.  It’s a very notable anniversary, for the reasons explained below.  Unfortunately, though, this date will largely go unrecognized by much of the firecracker crowd, as well as those who think history is just boring. 

Not at longitudes.  Here, we feel historical understanding is crucial to an enlightened populace.

But rather than offering a rehash of this epic battle, which can be found any number of places, I thought it would be fun to do a quiz, sort of an “Are you smarter than a 10th grader?” challenge.  Just 10 questions, and the top scorer will be served free hardtack and stale coffee in the mizzentop.  But first, for you non-Civil War buffs, a few basics about the battle are in order:

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought over three days, July 1-3, 1863, near the town of Gettysburg in south-central Pennsylvania.  It was the most important battle of the American Civil War.  It was also the bloodiest conflict ever on the continent of North America, with over 46,000 killed, wounded, captured, or missing.  

Why was this battle so pivotal to the war?  Until Gettysburg, the southern Confederates – beyond all expectations – had been keeping pace with the northern army, which was far superior in manpower, supplies, ammunition, etc.  Behind General Robert E. Lee’s inspirational leadership, and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s military genius, the rebels had won strategic victories in the South at Second Bull Run (Manassas), Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville.

Union Gen. George G. Meade

Union Gen. George G. Meade

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee

Confederate President Jefferson Davis hoped to threaten federal soil and compel President Lincoln to a truce, with recognition of a confederation of states as a separate and distinct country (and perpetuate the institution of slavery).  So Lee invaded the North, the culmination of which was the killing fields of Gettysburg.  Lee’s defeat there turned the tide for the Union and was a blow from which the South never fully recovered.

But hey, enough of my yakkin’… let’s boogie!

1.       Until the battle, the town of Gettysburg was known for what?

a.       Site of a Lutheran college

b.       Home of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton

c.       A Yuengling brewery

d.       A cartridge factory

2.       Which of these illustrious individuals fought at Gettysburg?

a.       James Naismith, credited with inventing basketball

b.       Abner Doubleday, credited with inventing baseball

c.       Lew Wallace, author of “Ben-Hur”

Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid

d.       William H. Bonney (aka “Billy the Kid”)

 3.       Which cavalry officer did Lee reprimand for arriving late at Gettysburg?

a.       John Buford, Jr.

b.       Alfred Pleasonton

c.       J.E.B. Stuart

d.       Nathan Bedford Forrest

4.       The bulk of the Union forces occupied what ground during the battle?

a.       Culp’s Hill

b.       Seminary Ridge

c.       Big Round Top

d.       Cemetery Ridge

5.       Which highly respected general was killed on the first day after yelling “Forward, men, for God’s sake, forward!”

a.       Winfield Scott Hancock

b.       Benjamin F. Butler

c.       A.P. Hill

d.       John F. Reynolds

6.       The hero of the second-day’s clash at Little Round Top, Joshua Laurence Chamberlain, was what before the war?

a.       A grocery store clerk from Indiana

b.       A rhetoric professor from Maine

c.       A West Point alumnus who graduated last in his class

d.       A New York policeman

7.       What was the name given to the most famous charge during the battle?

a.       Pickett’s Charge

b.       Longstreet’s Charge

c.       The Charge of the Light Brigade

d.       Custer’s Last Stand

8.       President Lincoln delivered his famous “Gettysburg Address” when?

a.       Four days after the battle

b.       Four weeks after the battle

c.       Four months after the battle

d.       Four years after the battle

9.       Which later U.S. president established a home near the battlefield?

a.       Theodore Roosevelt

b.       Franklin D. Roosevelt

c.       Dwight D. Eisenhower

d.       Lyndon B. Johnson

10.   What did Robert E. Lee do after his defeat at Gettysburg?

a.       He took personal responsibility for the loss

b.       He blamed Jeff Davis

c.       He cried

d.       He coined the passive-tense, pass-the-buck political cliché “Mistakes were made”

e.       He sang “I wish I was in Dixie, hooray, hooray”

chamberlain2

Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain

If you’ve got the guts of Joshua L. Chamberlain and want to fix bayonets on this quiz, just respond with your answers in the blog Comments section, on my Facebook page, or email me at pkurtz58@gmail.com.

The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most important events in the history of the United States.  Although it’s terrible that a war had to be fought to finally end slavery, President Lincoln and the North prevailed and kept the country from becoming a “divided house.”  Even if you “don’t know much about history” (as Sam Cooke once sang), I hope you gain at least a little insight into America’s only civil war, during this 150th anniversary of the battle at Gettysburg.

In closing, I’ll invoke a banality that I usually shy away from, but which I think is actually appropriate on this occasion: God Bless America.

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