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Gettysburg is the capital of Adams County : a town of about three thousand souls,— or fifteen hundred, according to John Burns, who assured me that half the population were Copperheads, and that they had no souls. It is pleasantly situated on the swells of a fine undulating country, drained by the headwaters of the Monocacy. It has no especial naturai advantages; owing its existence, probably, to the mere fact that several important roads found it convenient to meet at this point, to which accident also is due its historical renown. The circumstance which made it a burg made it likewise a battle-field.
About the town itself there is nothing very interesting. It consists chiefly of two-story houses of wood and brick, in dull rows, with thresholds but little elevated above the street. Rarely a front yard or blooming garden-plot relieves the dreary monotony. Occasionally there is a three-story house, comfortable, no doubt, and sufficiently expensive, about which the one thing remarkable is the total absence of taste in its construction. In this respect Gettysburg is but a fair sample of a large class of American towns, the builders of which seem never once to have been conscious that there exists such a thing as beauty.
John Burns, known as the “hero of Gettysburg," was almost the first person whose acquaintance I made. He was sitting under the thick shade of an English elm in front of the tavern. The landlord introduced him as “the old man who took his gun and went into the first day's fight.” He rose to his feet and received me with sturdy politeness; his evident delight in the celebrity he enjoys twinkling through the veil of a naturally modest demeanor.
* John will go with you and show you the different parts of the battle-ground," said the landlord. “Will you, John ?”
“Oh, yes, I'll go,” said John, quite readily ; and we set out.
THE FIELD OF GETTYSBURG.
A MILE south of the town is Cemetery Hill, the head and front of an important ridge, running two miles farther south to Round Top, — the ridge held by General Meade's army during the great battles. The Rebels attacked on three sides, — on the west, on the north, and on the east; breaking their forces in vain upon this tremendous wedge, of which Cemetery Hill may be considered the point. A portion of Ewell's Corps had passed through the town several days before, and neglected to secure that very commanding position. Was it mere accident, or something more, which thus gave the key to the country into our hands, and led the invaders, alarmed by Meade's vigorous pursuit, to fall back and fight the decisive battle here?
With the old “hero " at my side pointing out the various points of interest, I ascended Cemetery Hill. The view from the top is beautiful and striking. On the north and east is spread a finely variegated farm country; on the west, with woods and valleys and sunny slopes between, rise the summits of the Blue Ridge.
It was a soft and peaceful summer day. There was scarce a sound to break the stillness, save the shrill note of the locust, and the perpetual click-click of the stone-cutters at work upon the granite headstones of the soldiers' cemetery. There was nothing to indicate to a stranger that so tranquil a spot had ever been a scene of strife. We were walking in the timehallowed place of the dead, by whose side the martyr-soldiers who fought so bravely and so well on those terrible first days of July, slept as sweetly and securely as they.
“ It don't look here as it did after the battle,” said John Burns. “Sad work was made with the tombstones. The ground was all covered with dead horses, and broken wagons, and pieces of shells, and battered muskets, and everything of that kind, not to speak of the heaps of dead.” But now the tombstones have been replaced, the neat iron fences have been mostly repaired, and scarcely a vestige of the fight remains. Only the burial-places of the slain are there. Thirty-five hundred and sixty slaughtered Union soldiers lie on the field of Gettysburg. This number does not include those whose bodies have been claimed by friends and removed.
The new cemetery, devoted to the patriot slain, and dedicated with fitting ceremonies on the 19th of November, 1863, adjoins the old one. In the centre is the spot reserved for the monument, the corner-stone of which was laid on the 4th of July, 1865. The cemetery is semicircular, in the form of an amphitheatre, except that the slope is reversed, the monument occupying the highest place. The granite headstones resemble rows of semicircular seats. Side by side, with two feet of ground allotted to each, and with their heads towards the monument, rest the three thousand five hundred and sixty. The name of each, when it could be ascertained, together with the number of the company and regiment in which he served, is lettered on the granite at his head. But the barbarous practice of stripping such of our dead as fell into their hands, in which the Rebels indulged here as elsewhere, rendered it impossible to identify large numbers. The headstones of these are lettered “Unknown.” At the time when I visited the cemetery, the sections containing most of the unknown had not yet received their headstones, and their resting-places were indicated by a forest of stakes. I have seen few sadder sights.
The spectacle of so large a field crowded with the graves of the slain brings home to the heart an overpowering sense of the horror and wickedness of war. Yet, as I have said, not all our dead are here. None of the Rebel dead are here. Not one of those who fell on other fields, or died in hospitals and prisons in those States where the war was chiefly waged, - not one out of those innumerable martyred hosts lies on this pleasant hill. The bodies of once living and brave men, slowly mouldering to dust in this sanctified soil, form but a small, a single sheaf from that great recent harvest reaped by Death with the sickle of war.
Once living and brave! How full of life, how full of unflinching courage and fiery zeal they marched up hither to fight the great fight, and to give their lives! And each man had his history; each soldier resting here had his interests, his loves, his darling hopes, the same as you or I. All were laid down with his life. It was no trifle to him : it was as great a thing to him as it would be to you, thus to be cut off from all things dear in this world, and to drop at once into a vague eternity. Grown accustomed to the waste of life through years of war, we learn to think too lightly of such sacrifices. “So many killed,” — with that brief sentence we glide over the unimaginably fearful fact, and pass on to other details. We indulge in pious commonplaces, — “ They have gone to a better world; they have their reward,” and the like. No doubt this is true; if not, then life is a mockery, and hope a lie. But the future, with all our faith, is vague and uncertain. It lies before us like one of those unidentified heroes, hidden from sight, deep-buried, mysterious, its headstone lettered - Unknown.” Will it ever rise ? Through trouble, toils, and privations, — not insensible to danger, but braving it,
- these men — and not these only, but the uncounted thousands represented by these — confronted, for their country's sake, that awful uncertainty. Did they believe in your better world? Whether they did or not, this world was a reality, and dear to them.
I looked into one of the trenches, in which workmen were laying foundations for the headstones, and saw the ends of the coffins protruding. It was silent and dark down there. Side by side the soldiers slept, as side by side they fought. I chose out one coffin from among the rest, and thought of him. whose dust it contained, your brother and mine, althougs