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American history

GETTYSBURG - the terrible battle

by Steve Gallagher

    In the Spring of 1863, the USA was not at all like it is today. There was not one leader presiding over a nation at peace with itself, but instead, two great camps, hostile to one another, engaged in a bloody conflict. Although there were many reasons for this hostility, at the heart of the conflict was the issue of slavery.  In the end, this conflict became the American Civil War, a war that was to last four long years, taking away the lives of almost 500,000 people. This was more than any American war had ever taken, and is more than any has taken ever since. Here SPECTRUM presents an historical picture of the Civil War’s most famous battle — Gettysburg..

The battle of Gettysburg
.The battle of Gettysburg - Americans against Americans

Late June, 1863:  the fields in Pennsylvania were   bountiful with crops, the land  was untouched by conflict, and the people  prospering. Yet a few days later, into this fertile countryside, came a  huge army of Confederate soldiers, led  by the ingenious General Robert E.  Lee. The great general was leading them  to meet up with an even bigger Union  army, known as the Yankees
 The Rebels, proud and brave, hoped  to destroy the Yankee army on its own  soil, and thus bring an end to nearly two  years of war. On July 1st, the first shots  of the battle of  Gettysburg were fired. For  three days, the two sides smashed at each  other endlessly, often performing great  acts of heroism. Yet, as in all wars, the  end result was the same: death and destruction of the human spirit. In the  words of Sergent James Wright, fighting  for the Union, Gettysburg was a cataclysm beyond imagination: 
   Howling, shrieking, exploding, tearing, smashing and destroying...The  ground was torn up, fences and trees  knocked to splinters, rocks and small  stones were flying in the air... guns were  dismounted and the men and horses  torn to pieces.  
   In theory, they were all fighting  for ideas — the Southerners for slavery  and independence, and the Northerners  for the abolition of slavery, and the  preservation of the Union. But seen from  the perspective of Bernard Matthews,  one ordinary soldier among the 170,000  who fought at Gettysburg, ideas and  ideologies were soon forgotten. What  took over during the battle was fear: 
   The smoke lay over everything  so that you were lucky to see the man  next to you. Your ears couldn't distinguish shot from shot. It was all one  roar, so that the hillside shook...you did  just what the man ahead of you did,  or the man next to you. 
   After all, the enemy, the Confederate army, was just a few steps away,  as was perhaps death itself. As the Confederates approached, Union artillery  fired upon them, tearing bloody holes in  the straight lines. This was war on a major scale in a way that the new  nation, barely 100 years old, had never  seen. Perhaps somewhere in the back of  the mind, the issue of slavery burned dimly. But in the heat of the battle,  the men who fought had no time for thoughts... 
   The battle wore on. The broken  lines of soldiers rejuvenated themselves  only to be torn to pieces again, and the  bodies piled up higher and higher on  the green grass of summer. Losses were  frightening on both sides: after three  days of battle, 51,000 human beings lay under the  smoke either dead or maimed . Then, on the fourth day, both  armies marched on; that is, those who could still  march. The dead and the wounded had to be left behind.          
   For the small town of Gettysburg, with only 2400 inhabitants at the time,  the battle was at first an unimaginable  horror, and then a huge task. As the  armies moved quickly away after the three days of fighting, there were thousands of maimed soldiers to care for, and  thousands of bodies to bury. A new cemetery was quickly dedicated, and the  townspeople dealt as best they could  with the situation. The actual burial process took months, and it was not until November that President Lincoln came  to dedicate the cemetery, where he gave  a speech that was to become one of the  most famous in American history —  the Gettysburg Address.  

The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.
   It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
   It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —  that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

WORDS :
bountiful: rich - ingenious: very  clever - soil: ground - cataclysm: disaster -  splinters: /ittle pieces of wood - barely:  only just - dimly - not clearly - to wear  on: continue difficultly - maimed: injured  care for: help - cemetery: place where  dead people are buried - deal with the  situation: do what one can do - four score: four times twenty - hallow: sanctify - detract: reduce  resolve: determine.

More about Abraham Lincoln in  Log cabins and the White House


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STUDENTS' WORKSHEET

Gettysburg

1. Synonyms

In the copy of the Gettysburg Address below, choose which of the three equivalents proposed in each case could best replace the underlined  that were actually used by Abraham Lincoln.



The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition principle - theory - fact  that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in  starting - finishing - taking part in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure survive - develop - increase  . We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.
   It is altogether fitting wrong - right - necessary and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled were born - camped - fought - here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather on the other hand - very much - quite , to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
   It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task sacrifice - job - history remaining before us —  that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain bravely - quickly - for nothing — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
 

Multiple choice exercise

Choose the correct word to fill in each of the blanks in the following extract from the text.  Note that some of these blanks will test your understanding of the text, some will test your vocabulary or your grammar, and a couple will test your spelling..

   After all, the enemy, the Confederate army, was just a few ________ (miles / days / steps) away,  as was perhaps death  ________ (too / herself / itself) . As the Confederates approached, Union artillery  fired upon them, tearing bloody holes in  the _______ (moving / straight / front) lines. This was war on a major ________  (scale / disaster / location ) in a way that the new  nation, barely ______ (50 / 100 / 200) years old, had never  seen. Perhaps  __________ (somwhere / somewhere / anywhere )  in the back of  the ________ (regiment / field  /mind) , the _________ (horror /  issue /  history ) of slavery burned dimly. But in the heat of the ________ (day  /  battle  /  moment ),  the men who fought had no time for ____________  (thoughts  /  slaves  /  tea ) ...
   The battle wore on. The broken  lines of soldiers rejuvenated _________  (immediately  /  spirits / themselves ) only to be torn to pieces again, and the  bodies piled up higher and _________ (more  / faster  /  higher)  on  the green grass of summer. Losses were  frightening on _________ (both  /  the both  / all  ) sides: after three  days of battle, 51,000 human beings lay under the  smoke either dead or maimed . Then, on the _________  (forth  /  fourth  / four  ) day, _________  (both  /  the both  / all  ) armies marched on; that is, those who could _______  (  not  /  still  /  again  ) march. The dead and the wounded had to be _________ (pulled  /  helped  /  left  ) behind.         
   For the small town of Gettysburg, with only 2400  __________ (habitants / unhabitants / inhabitants)  at the time,  the battle was at first an ________ (unimaginable  /  unimaginible  /  inimaginible) horror, and then a huge ______ (work / task  / problem) . As the  armies moved quickly away after the three days of fighting, there were thousands of maimed soldiers to ______  (look  /  wait  /  care) for, and  thousands of bodies to ________ ( bury  /  carry  /  find ) . A new cemetery was quickly dedicated, and the  townspeople dealt as _______ (well /  better  /  best ) they could  with the situation. The _________ (final  /  actual  /  last ) burial process took months, and it was not until November that President Lincoln came  to dedicate the cemetery, where he gave  a _________  (talk / class /  speech ) that was to become one of the most famous in American history —  the Gettysburg Address. 

Creative  activities.

1. Letter writing :    Imagine that you are a soldier at Gettysburg, fighting for the Union Army. The battle is one day old. Write a 300 word letter home to your parents or to your sweetheart (girlfriend) or your wife, describing your experiences and your feelings.

2. Oral pair work.
Write and then act out an interview between a newspaper man from the Pennsylvania News and a wounded soldier who has been taken away from the battle front.






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