June 25, 2010
 
OP-ED: Happy 234th Birthday America!
 
By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.
 
The fading photos and stories of Union and Confederate Veterans from that summer of 1913, shaking hands, sharing a meal and trading war stories is a special part of our National Heritage well worth sharing.
 
Do young people know who Gen. Robert Edward Lee, Major Gen. George Edward Pickett and Major Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain were? Do schools still teach children about these men and all those who met on that famous War Between the States battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania? Some call the Gettysburg Battlefield the most haunted place in America as many thousands died on that fateful month in July 1863.
 
“Comrades and friends, these splendid statues of marble and granite and bronze shall finally crumble to dust, and in the ages to come, will perhaps be forgotten, but the spirit that has called this great assembly of our people together, on this field, shall live forever.”
 
-----Dr. Nathaniel D. Cox at 1913 Gettysburg Reunion
 
The summer heat of July 1913 did not keep the old Confederate and Union Veterans from attending the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It has been written that over 50,000 sons of the North and South came for what has been called the largest combined reunion of War Between the States veterans.
 
The youngest veteran was reported to be 61 and the oldest was 112 years young.
 
No one dared criticize the United States or Confederate flag that flew side by side at the Gettysburg soldier’s reunion of honored men who had been enemies on the field of battle just 50 years earlier.
 
The State of Pennsylvania hosted the 1913 reunion at the insisting of state Governor John K. Tener. Tener also encouraged other states to arrange rail transportation for the participants. Down South, the United Daughters of the Confederacy helped raise money for the transportation and uniforms for the Confederate veterans.
 
The soldiers of Blue and Gray, Black and White, came with heads raised high. It is written that the hosts did not count on Black Confederates attending the meeting and had no place to put them however the White Confederates made room for their Southern brothers. Black Union veterans also attended.
 
Nearly 700,000 meals were served that included fried chicken, roast pork sandwiches, ice cream and Georgia watermelon. The temperature soared to 100 degrees and almost 10,000 veterans were treated for heat exhaustion and several hundred more were hospitalized. The United States Army was also present in support and the old men loved the attention.
 
A highlight of the reunion was the Confederate Veterans walk on the path of Gen. George Pickett’s charge that was greeted, this time, with a handshake from the Union Veterans.
 
President Woodrow Wilson spoke to those veterans with compassion and appreciation, and said:“These venerable men crowding here to this famous field have set us a great example of devotion and utter sacrifice. They were willing to die that the people might live. But their task is done. Their day is turned into evening. They look to us to perfect what they have established. Their work is handed to us, to be done in another way but not in another spirit. Our day is not over; it is upon us in full tide.”
 
Editor's note: The War Between the States Sesquicentennial, 150th Anniversary, runs from 2010 through 2015. The Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans has an information page at: http://www.150wbts.org/. Make it a family affair to attend the events planned throughout the USA. The National SCV Sesquicentennial Commission website is: http://www.confederate150.com/
 
* * *
 
Johnson is is a writer, speaker, author of the book “When America Stood for God, Family and Country” and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He lives in the Atlanta suburb of Kennesaw, GA and is a contributor to Huntingtonnews.net and many other sites and publications.



Share This Story:   

Return to HNN front page.  Make HNN Your Homepage (IE Users Only)