American Heritage Library


Reflections on Gettysburg
by Bruce Catton

Gettysburg today is a place where gallantspirits still tell their story of high sacrifice andundying devotion. There is a cemetery, thereare gentle ridges rolling unbroken toward thesunset, and here and there one can find spotswhere everything that is significant in theAmerican dream speaks to today's world withan undying voice.

Yet the battle was here and its presence isfelt, and you cannot visit the place withoutfeeling the echoes of what was once a provingground for everything America believes in.

For Gettysburg was where we Americanscame to grips with ourselves. On these Pennsylvania hills, fate once asked men of ourflesh: Do you really mean it? Are you justcoasting, or is the vision this land gave yousomething you are willing to die for? Theydied on these hills and fields in fantasticnumbers, and the dying was not easy, butyoung men who would have preferred to livedid die and this open, sunlit country remembers them, Northerners and Southernersalike.

We are a young country with he future stillahead of us, but we do have our shrines andGettysburg is one of the greatest of them. It isgreat because it once brought us face to facewith certain fundamentals. These still livewith us; we passed one test, and by the story

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