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The Legacy of Gettysburg

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

On Wednesday, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, Allen Guelzo delivered a keynote speech at AEI about the three-day battle’s importance in American history.

As Guelzo, professor of history at Gettysburg College and author of Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, recounted, the battle was the result of General Robert E. Lee’s northward advance into Union territory. When the rebel army converged at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Union forces were able to rebuff the enemy, but not without sustaining massive casualties. By July 4, 1863, more than 40,000 were dead, wounded, or missing.

Though Union forces were not able to deliver a knockout punch, the battle shifted morale dramatically in their favor, and the Confederate army would never be able to recover. As Guelzo said, “After Gettysburg, the sun never shone on the South again.”

But, he continued, the battle was not just a turning point in the American Civil War. As Abraham Lincoln declared in the Gettysburg Address, it was a new beginning for the republic founded 87 years before and proof positive of the longevity of the project of American democracy and of democracies the world over.

Watch a video of the event here.