Monday, August 18, 2014

A Local Describes Gettysburg After the Battle


The Battle of Gettysburg remains the bloodiest battle in United States history. With a combined 51,112 men killed in the battle over a three day span, the momentum of the Civil War took a turn in favor of Union forces. With fallen soldiers decorating the landscape of the Gettysburg battlefield, "The Republican Compiler", a Gettysburg newspaper from 1854 to 1868, published vivid details of what the battlefield looked like and the significant effects the battle left on the town.

A local man, Mr. Cooke, who was a special correspondent for "The Age", another local newspaper, gave one of the most graphic accounts of the battle’s aftermath. The Republican Compiler printed Cooke’s account in their July 20, tenth edition; the second paper that they had printed since the end of the battle. Cooke gave a report of the entire battle, but the section where he describes the scenery after the battle is the most moving.

He visited the battlefield on Tuesday July 7; four days after the battle had ended. He described the abandoned battlefield in a manner that is similar to it being completely destroyed. He stated that, “Every fence was knocked down, and every house or shed upon the battle field around it had its windows shattered, its walls torn out and its roof in tatters… The grain and grass which once grew there, was almost ground to a jelly.” The Union forces had about 94,000 men serving at the battle and the Confederates had 70,000 men. The number of men who marched, shot, and were killed or wounded at Gettysburg led to the destruction of the terrain.

Cooke not only described the battle and the destruction that occurred in Gettysburg, he also explained the common horrors of the Civil War. Cooke wrote about the dead soldiers that he saw on the battlefield and states that, “Many walked about amid the horrid stench of the field unmoved. The looked upon the dead, to be sure; with no expression of pity if he were a Federal soldier and only a laugh of a curse if he were a Confederate…” Cooke offered the view that all of the men should be remembered for how they fought and died, instead of who they were fighting for. And his portrait of other people looking through the battlefield for their own memento or souvenir, instead of being deeply effected by how many dead they were walking through is a prime example of how people became numb to the horrific events that surrounded them.


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