July 1st, 1863, marked the beginning of the three-day war that came close to ending the United States. Now, 150 years later, more than 100,000 people will gather in Pennsylvania to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg.
One such person is Civil War re-enactor Jeff Speight, a Con Edison worker following the footsteps of his Union Army veteran great-grandfather.
“For me, it’s like coming full circle,” he said. “One hundred and fifty really is a blink of an eye,” he added. His great-grandfather, Henry Washington Speight, served on a color guard while Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state in Baltimore. He was invited to the 75th anniversary of the battle by President Franklin Roosevelt.
“It’s not something that happened so long ago. It’s something that has a freshness to it. People are still fascinated by it,” Jeff Speight said.
The Shapell Manuscript Foundation, closely associated with The Benjamin Shapell Family Manuscript Foundation, has a collection of rare letters from the Battle of Gettysburg, including one from a young soldier to his mother. The letter offers some insight into the days following the battle:
“The Battle of Gettysburg is fought and thank God The Army of the Potomac has been victorious. I took part in the battle with my Regt on the 2nd inst and it has been my good fortune to escape unharmed. I am well and so are the rest of the boys in the Co. I cannot tell yet what the loss of our Regt is. We have many missing who may be either killed, wounded or taken prisoners…. The Loss in the Regt is (as far as I know) Killed 10 Wounded 53 Missing 68…
Our Corps (the 3rd) has not started yet but we are expecting to go every minute. The Boys are all confident that we will whip Lee’s Army so that he will not be fit to do anything more for some time to come.”