| American History Stories, Volume IV|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of the great conflict from the time Lincoln became president and the southern states seceded, through the battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, until the close of the war. Includes poems, songs, and illustrations commemorating the events. Ages 8-12 |
BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG
We now come to the battle
of Gettysburg. It is the battle
of which you will hear, I think,
more than all the rest put together. There is a writer who
has written a book about the
fifteen greatest battles in the
history of the whole world; and
he has called this battle of
Gettysburg one of those fifteen.
Now, it is not that this battle
was of itself so very different
from any other battle; it was
not that the armies were so
very much larger; not that the soldiers were so very
much braver, or the generals so very much wiser. Still it
is spoken of as the battle of the Civil War.
BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG
 Let me try to help you to see just why, then, this was
such a great battle.
Lee had now defeated the Union soldiers so many times
that he began to think his own army was equal to anything.
And well he might; for had he not defeated McClellan and
Pope and Burnside and Hooker—four of the greatest
generals of the Union army.
"Now," said Lee, "it is time for us to start again up
through Pennsylvania, to New York, and on to Boston if
we see fit." Again the Southerners began to make their
threats of how the New York streets should soon be rivers
of blood, and how proud old Boston should bow before the
The people of Pennsylvania were filled with fright. There
was the great Potomac army, made up of the bravest of the
North; but never yet had a General been found in whom
the people trusted. Nothing but defeat after defeat had
been their share. Now, indeed, had come a time when if
ever a wise leader was needed, it was needed now. Lee
was setting out upon his march into the very heart of the
North! What if no one could stop him! What if he went
on and on, burning the towns as he passed and taking the
people prisoners! When would he stop! What would be
Suppose, children, a great fire should start in the fields
and forest outside your town, and come leaping on,
burn-  ing the grass, the bushes, the trees, the fences—everything
in its track, until it reached the rows of houses just on the
edges of your town. Now suppose the flames were no
redder, the fire no hotter, the smoke no blacker than
when it all came rolling over the hills and across the fields.
Still, can't you see why just here you would be more
frightened, why the firemen would work harder than ever, why
the peril, the danger, would be greater than at any time
before? Not that the fire is any wilder, but because
it had reached that point, where, if it isn't conquered
at once and there, the whole town will be lost.
This is just the condition the North was in at the time of
this battle of Gettysburg. Gettysburg was like the rows of
houses along the edges of the town. Lee's fire had come
on and on, sweeping everything before it up to just this
point. He was now upon the border-land of the North.
A battle was at hand! He, must not be allowed to come
one step farther! "If we only had a leader!" cried
the people. "If we only had a leader!" cried the
soldiers. And a leader came. Hooker and another General
had a quarrel just about this time over some war question;
Hooker threw up the command, and Gen. Meade was put
in his place. Meade, with new forces from the North,
started on in pursuit of Lee.
When Lee found that so large an army was at his heels,
he thought the best thing he could do would be to stand
 still, and let Meade overtake him. A battle was sure to
come sooner or later, and Lee was wise enough to know
that the sooner it came, the better; for in case of his own
defeat, he would not be far from his own part of the
country, and therefore not far from help.
So it happened that Meade came upon Lee at Gettysburg. Gettysburg
was a pretty little village, nestling down
among the hills; its people so quiet and peaceful—its
farms so broad and green—doesn't it seem a shame to fill
this beautiful valley with the roar of cannon and the fire
and smoke of battle?
The battle began on the morning of the 1st of July.
For two days it seemed as if again Lee was to win; but on
the third day the tide turned. More than forty thousand
men lay dead and wounded on the field. At the close of
this third day, Lee began to draw away his forces. Lee
was at last defeated. And on the Fourth of July, the same
day that Grant's men were cheering within the walls of
Vicksburg, Lee's army, what there was left of it, was
marching away towards the South, broken, discouraged,
defeated; and the North once more was saved.
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