Preserving National Parks

Chris Cox
Austin Blair Camp No. 7,
Department of Michigan,
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

Gettysburg at Sunrise

I have been interested in the battle of Gettysburg since I started high school in 2006. The battlefield has made me understand what happened on those three fateful days to the thousands of men that die there. I have studied about the battle for over four years and I am still learning. I have found out in the past year that I had a relative who fought on that battlefield and lived through the battle and the war. Preserving the parks will help generation to come learn about our past, and how our country was shaped.

In 2006, I spent three days at a camp about six miles west of Gettysburg. During the first night I heard the sound of soldiers marching past and their commanding offices giving them orders to fix bayonets and prepare to charge the federals. About ten seconds later I heard in the distance, towards Gettysburg, artillery being fired, which went on for about a half hour. Then about fifteen minutes later more artillery being fired, sounded like 100 guns. I thought in my head "What is going on?" but then heard more soldiers talking about something going on south of the town of Gettysburg. Then I understood that they were confederate soldiers heading towards the battle. On the second night all I heard was the ringing of artillery shells being fired.

The Gettysburg National Park is known as one of the greatest National Parks in the United States. Historians know the ground that makes up the battlefield as "hallowed ground." The park is well known in many Americans' minds, but many don't know what happened in this small town in Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863. Being on the battlefield help we understand history. Preserving the parks will help generation to come learn about our past, and how our country was shaped.

I know from my studies that on July 1, 1863, two great armies met to the west of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The fighting started at about 7:30 a.m. and lasted until around 8:00 p.m. The confederates during the afternoon hours drove the federal Army of the Potomac to the ridges on the south side of the town. On July 2, the confederate general decided to attack both the right and left flank, but in the attempt they failed to take the right and left flanks of the federal Army of the Potomac. So on the final day of battle the confederate general taught that the federal center was the weakest point in the lines. At about 1:30 pm an artillery bombardment of 150 guns took place and around 3:00 pm the confederate infantry step off and march to their death. After the confederate defeat at Gettysburg they never would invade the north again. Some four or five years after the battle veterans began to place monuments on the battlefield. The battle that was fought there is remember throughout history and the battlefield will and is the most "hollow ground" of any Civil War battlefield in the United States.

When I was on the Gettysburg Battlefield looking from Cemetery Ridge toward the tree line on Seminary Ridge, over the field that saw Pickett's Charge. Just the feel of the looking out over the field made me think about what had happen during the final day, and what the men in blue were thinking to see those lines of gray march towards them. It felt like the rebels charging, over the wide-open field, towards me on Cemetery Ridge at the cluster of trees.

The Gettysburg battlefields are important to the history of our country because it was the turning point of the Civil War. The battle was the start of the end for the Confederacy. Gettysburg is one of the National Parks that was saved by an organization named Civil War Preservation Trust. This organization has saved many battlefields and has help stop the casino from being built near the Gettysburg battlefield.

When I went to the battlefield I learned about many things that went on during the battle. I stood in the same spot that General Gouverneur K. Warren stood when he saw the Union line braking and sent word for a brigade to come and defend Little Round Top. Looking out over the field gave me that deep sense of being scared about my army being overrun and possibly destroyed.

I stood on the part of the battlefield that is little known by many Americans. The East Cavalry Battlefield is known to some because of its role that it played in the major battle. The regiments that fought there are little known but if you look into what happen at the East Cavalry Battlefield, you will see that the 2nd Cavalry Division and Michigan Cavalry Brigade play the biggest role during the battle of Gettysburg. The 2nd Cavalry Division and Michigan Cavalry Brigade stop Stuart's Cavalry from riding behind Union lines and destroy the Union army from behind during Pickett's Change. The East Cavalry Battlefield has been preserved and will, hopefully, be more known to more Americans.

The preservation of the battlefield is one thing that needs to happen to many of the battlefields around the United States, but most of the battlefields are gone to the ages. Many battlefields will never leave the history books and the mind of many Americans. I help preserve the battles by teaching about the Civil War and the battle of Gettysburg to the young and old so they can learn from your country's past and how the country was made one.

Preserving the Gettysburg battlefield and other Civil War battlefields will help generation to come learn about our past, and how our country was shaped from the two countries in to one country. All of the Civil War Battlefields should be known in every history book and known to every American. One day every American will understand that the battlefields from the Civil War are important to knowing our country's history.

One thing everyone should do is visit the Gettysburg battlefield, and sees why our national parks need to be preserved for future generations to see. These parks show the history of our nation and how our nation came to be one. I have learned from visiting the Gettysburg National Park to respect our history and to keep our National Parks, like Gettysburg, open for everyone to visit and take in the scenery of the parks and to remember what happen on those three days in the summer of 1863.

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