In the distance, the barely visible Eternal Light Peace Memorial on Oak Hill keeps vigil over these now
serene but once blood soaked fields. July 3, 1938, during the 75th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Gettysburg,
President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated this monument "in the spirit of brotherhood and peace". However, during
the early afternoon of July 1, Confederate General Richard Ewell, having counter-marched from Harrisburg, lead his men onto
Oak Hill to view the results of the mornings deadly conflict. From their vantage point, they could see the Union positions
on the McPherson Farm and near the railroad cut. However, unknown to the leaders of the Confederate 2nd Corps, Union troops
also hid behind an embankment with a low stone wall along Oak Ridge just out of site to the right in the
smaller image above. As CSA
Brigadier General Alfred Iverson of Major General Robert Rodes Division ordered his men forward through this field, the men
in blue rose up to pour a devastating, murderous fire into the flank of the unsuspecting North Carolinians.
was heart-rending. Nearly 500 North Carolinians fell in an instant,
knocked down by the Union volley. The men in blue repelled
the Confederates first several attacks with heavy loss. Brigadier General Alfred Iverson would touch upon the swing of emotions
as the charge progressed and then failed. "Learning that the Alabama brigade, on my left, was moving, I advanced at once,
and soon came in contact with the enemy, strongly posted in woods and behind a concealed stone wall. My brigade advanced to within
100 yards, and a most desperate fight took place. I observed a gap on my left, but presumed that it would soon be filled by the
advancing Alabama brigade, under Colonel O'Neal. Brigadier General Daniel came up to my position, and I asked him for immediate
support, as I was attacking a strong position. He promised to send me a large regiment, which I informed him would be enough,
as the Third Alabama Regiment was then moving down on my right, and I then supposed was sent to my support. At the same time,
I pointed out to General Daniel a large force of the enemy who were about to outflank my right, and asked him to take care of
them. He moved past my position, and engaged the enemy some distance to my right, but the regiment he had promised me, and
which I had asked him to forward to the position at which I stood, and where I was being pressed most heavily, did not report
to me at all.
I again sent Capt.
D. P. Halsey, assistant adjutant-general, to ask General Daniel for aid, who informs me that he met his staff officer, and
was told that one regiment had been sent, and no more could be spared. I then found that this regiment had formed on the right
of the Third Alabama, which was on my right, and could not be used in time to save my brigade, for Colonel O'Neal's (Alabama)
brigade had in the meantime advanced on my left, and been almost instantaneously driven back, upon which the enemy,
being relieved from pressure, charged in overwhelming force upon and captured nearly all that were left unhurt in three regiments
of my brigade.
When I saw white handkerchiefs raised, and my line of battle still lying down in position, I characterized the surrender as
disgraceful; but when I found afterward that 500 of my men were left lying dead and wounded on a line as straight as a dress
parade, I exonerated, with one or two disgraceful individual exceptions, the survivors, and claim for the brigade that they nobly
fought and died without a man running to the rear. No greater gallantry and heroism has been displayed during this war."
Despite the severe losses, the Confederates would not be deterred. After tenacious resistance by the Union First
Corps, Confederate bravery and determination pushed the smaller Union forces back through these fields in what became
a confused withdrawal through the increasingly crowded streets of town. Swelling Confederate numbers would allow
them to flank the game Federals on
both ends of their line, including the Union's 11th Corps which positioned itself in the fields to right of the ground showed above.
Casualties in the thousands speak to the ferocity of this day's conflict. It appeared to be yet another in the string of hard fought
years later, in July of 1938 during the last of the veterans reunions at Gettysburg, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
would stand on Oak Hill at the base of the newly erected Eternal Light Peace Memorial. Created from Alabama limestone and Maine
granite, the monument would come into being through the efforts of northern and southern states alike. After President Roosevelt
addressed the assembled veterans with a brief speech extolling unity and reconciliation, a former Confederate and Union soldier
stepped forward. The President's own notes completed the scene. "A soldier of the South and a soldier of the North, using the
rays of the sun, lit a flame designed to burn eternally atop the Peace Memorial."