Jack was really happy that his entire class had won the weekend trip to Gettysburg. He had studied about the famous battle of the Civil War in school and often wondered what it would have been like living in that time and place. It seemed so strange that the battles of the Civil War had been fought on the peaceful fields and small towns all over the East Coast of the United States and now the only traces left of the bloody conflict were tarnished plaques and statues in odd places near government buildings.
He knew that the war was not really that long ago like the wars of the Greeks and the Romans, but that it was very intense and led to a much divided country. Of course, at that time the division was more of a geographical one with the North being the “Yankees” and the South being the “Rebels”. From what he could hear from the grownups talking and the news on the television, it seemed like the country was divided just as equally today but this time the division was between the folks who had nice things like cars and houses and the folks who lived mostly in the big cities with all the violence and the bad stuff going on.
Jack was a bit confused with exactly which side he liked the best in the Civil War. The problem was he kind of felt like he was a “Yankee” because most of his family was from the North but then he was born in Georgia and that would definitely make him a “Rebel”. He like being a rebel because it made him allied with the underdogs and he always wanted the underdogs to win no matter if it was fighting or some kind of game like soccer or baseball.
He liked the music from both side of the war. The catchy tune of “Dixie” and the stirring sounds of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” made him feel some of the heartfelt emotions of the era. The fact that the Southerners were better shots than the Yankees and they seemed to have a better general in Robert E. Lee made him favor the “Johnny Rebs” more than the young soldiers from the Northern cities.
Everybody knew that the “Battle of Gettysburg” was the turning point of the Civil War and that it was the furthest North the rebel forces had managed to go ever since the war began. He found it hard to believe that the peaceful farms around Gettysburg had seen the bloodshed described in the books he had read in the library.
Their bus stopped in a really nice large hotel not far from the main battlefield and he was surprised so many people had come to see the site of the conflict. A lot of the adults were talking about things like “Pickett’s last charge” and the importance of “the Pivot at Little Round horn” whatever that was. He knew what artillery was but it seemed like it was pretty silly to be putting horses in danger with charges across open fields into gunfire.
When Jack had read the textbook, it told him the war was fought to “free” the slaves who were being held against their will in the South, but for some reason a lot of the slaves were helping the rebel forces to move their equipment and set up their camps. It was all very confusing because some of the troops under the Union control were all-black units that were viewed suspiciously by the Northerners.