Like many crises, the whole thing came down to a good pair of shoes. You see, the Confederacy was running out of everything, shoes included. Remember, theirs was an agrarian society. Industry and manufacturing were situated primarily in the North, so shoes were pretty hard to come by down South.
It was on account of this shoe shortage that the Confederate soldiers ventured into Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. While there, Johnny Reb bumped into Billy Yank; the ensuing scuffle led to a fight that led to a battle that would go on for three days.
The fighting was relentless. By the evening of July 3, casualties exceeded 45,000. The next day, both sides rested; on July 5th, Confederate General Robert E. Lee retreated with weary, disheartened troops who still lacked shoes with intact soles.
Over the next few months, plans were made to establish an official military graveyard on the Gettysburg battlefield. On November 19, 1863, citizens gathered for a ceremony to dedicate that cemetery. The main speaker spoke for two hours (his name was Edward Everett; history has forgotten his words) and then President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most memorable speeches in our nation’s history.
I can only imagine how exhausted Lincoln was. Sure, the war had turned and victory seemed within reach. But the country was still divided, while countless soldiers—many of them younger than his sons—gave their lives for the sake of the Union.
The Gettysburg Address was less than 300 words and took only a few minutes to deliver. Its message, though is timeless, and much deeper than it is long.
Today is the 150th anniversary of the last day of the battle. You can read the Gettysburg Address in a post I wrote a few years ago on Lincoln's birthday. Take the time. You'll be glad you did.