May 25, 2009
The photo above shows Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This physically modest but historically monumental ridge was where the Union Army was positioned during the Battle of Gettysburg (U.S. Civil War) in late June and early July of 1863. Though its rise is quite gradual, the better soil and lack of numerous outcrops on Cemetery Ridge (along the section at the bottom and middle of the photo) made it more suitable for farming and more desirous as a salient than was the case for close by ridge tops of similar stature. It was a nearly ideal “high ground” from which Union infantry (and artillery) could defend attacks by Confederate soldiers from the west, south and north.
As shown above, Cemetery Ridge (at center) is now marked by Hancock Avenue. Big and Little Round Top are wooded areas at the end of Hancock Avenue (top). The Taneytown Road is at right. Confederate troops amassed behind this roadway before the now famous Pickett’s Charge, which occurred on the final day of the 3-day battle (July, 3, 1863).
Gettysburg National Cemetery, dedicated on November 19, 1863, is located at the north end of Cemetery Ridge. It was here and on this day that Abraham Lincoln gave his stirring and poignant “Gettysburg Address.” In the U.S., Memorial Day was initially observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on grave sites of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.