2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
Life and the Civil War
Lest We Forget

Relief on 86th New York Monument at Gettysburg
Lest we forget what occurred during this destructive and horrible war, reminders sadly yet firmly guide us back into perspective. Grim recollections of the true nature of battle prevent us from succumbing to the temptation to romanticize this and other distant events. As CSA Major General Henry Heth stated in an 1877 letter written after the war, "The part that the uninitiated would have sentiment to play in warfare is very sure to be eradicated by actual participation in such a war as raged in this country..." [2,29]

Although inarguably this war gave birth to near infinite examples of heroism and compassion, both North and South also faced indescribable, unrelenting slaughter and destruction on a mammoth scale. In the Gettysburg National Cemetery alone, 3,512 lay in rest who perished during the desperate struggles of this war. That so many former soldiers and civilians returned to these fields after such tremendous loss, seeking to honor their dead, speaks to the need to remember and learn from this moment in our history.

We honor those who, with knowledge of what was to come, still chose to march forward into battles destined to tear apart men's' lives while mercilessly shattering formerly whole and happy families. We learn, we remember, and we struggle to grasp, even if only to a small degree, what led boys, men, fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons to fight and die in the fragile yet firm hope that their cause, whatever that may have been, would prevail. We wonder about a lost time when men and women willingly sacrificed so much for a belief, a cause, or a sense of what should be. We wonder where that has gone, and look back in admiration and with tempered but reverent awe.

116th Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg
The above monument is to the 116th Pennsylvania. The sight of a soldier who had been killed during the ferocious fighting on July 2, 1863, Day 2 of the Battle inspired its design. The young soldier, although killed by a shot through the head, bore a slight smile on his face as he lay on the field.