to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. This week on our
program, we visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This small town in the Northeast is
one of the most important places in American history.
of the area around Gettysburg still looks like it did in the eighteen sixties,
during the Civil War. We arrive in the middle of farming country. All around
are fields of wheat, corn and other crops. Cows chew on grass under a warm
that pass through town lead to Baltimore, Washington and other cities. But one
hundred forty-five years ago this week, they served another purpose. They
brought two opposing armies to Gettysburg.
was the United States Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George Gordon
Meade. The other was the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia led by General
Robert E. Lee.
and his troops had moved north into Pennsylvania from Virginia. There, they had
won a series of battles. Now they were on the move to defeat Meade's army.
Lee believed that a Southern victory on
Northern soil would force a negotiated settlement of the war. This would mean
independence for the Confederate states that were attempting to leave the
The battle of Gettysburg began on July
first, eighteen sixty-three. More than one hundred seventy thousand soldiers
fought for three days. It was the largest battle ever fought in North America.
When it ended on July third, more than
fifty thousand soldiers were dead, wounded or missing. Many more would die
later from their wounds.
the end, General Lee's army lost the battle. The Civil War would continue for
two more years. But Confederate hopes for independence were never again as high
as they had been at Gettysburg.
Soon after the great battle, people
began to visit Gettysburg to try to understand what happened there. One of
those visitors, on November nineteenth, eighteen sixty-three, was President
Abraham Lincoln. He was invited to help dedicate a cemetery for Union soldiers
killed in the battle.
spoke for just two minutes. The speech began this way:
"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."
Lincoln had never been satisfied with the reality of American life at that
time. The Declaration of Independence in seventeen seventy-six had declared all
men equal. Yet in the South, and earlier in the North as well, black men and
women were held as slaves.
his address at Gettysburg, Lincoln described a new future for a nation that
would be reunited. Our reader is Jim Tedder.
"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 for
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 -- "
idea, a new birth of freedom after the Civil War, guides the newly built
Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center. It opened on April fourteenth at
Gettysburg National Military Park.
fourteenth, eighteen sixty-five, was the day Lincoln was shot. He was killed by
John Wilkes Booth, an actor from Maryland, just days after a Confederate
surrender ended the war.
National Military Park was established in eighteen ninety-five, thirty-two
years after the battle. Gettysburg is the most visited of the Civil War
battlefields. Every year about two million people visit the park from around
the country and the world.
officials say the new museum will better prepare visitors to see the
battlefield through the soldiers' eyes. The battlefield covers more than two
thousand four hundred hectares.
can find more than one thousand three hundred outdoor sculptures around the
battlefield. These are monuments and memorials placed by soldiers' groups and
state militias in areas where their troops fought.
guides explain what happened in each area of the battlefield. A guide at the
high ground called "Little Round Top" describes an action involving
Union troops led by a general named Daniel Sickles.
"He sent some Maine infantry and some U.S. sharpshooters over there into the
trees to the right of that tower. And they were out there looking for troops,
for possible threats. They found 'em. They got into a fight with Confederate
troops, but not the same ones who were going to be marching down here, not the
fourteen thousand under a general named James Longstreet."
part of the new Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center will not open to the
public until September: a complete cyclorama painting. This kind of artwork
surrounds the people looking at it.
painting shows the final attack in the Battle of Gettysburg: Pickett's Charge.
George Pickett was a Confederate general. On July third, eighteen sixty-three,
he led a charge against stronger Union forces. It was a disaster for the
The painting is one hundred fourteen
meters long. French painter Paul Philippoteaux and a team of twenty artists
created it in eighteen eighty-four.
cyclorama has always been one of the most popular parts of the Gettysburg
experience. But the painting was in bad shape after all these years. So a
restoration project began in two thousand three. The painting was cleaned and
separated into its fourteen parts, and later moved into the new center.
the original canvas was sewn onto new cloth made in China. Park service
officials say China was one of the few countries able to produce cloth in the
sizes needed. Then each part was hung and sewn together.
of cyclorama experts from Poland has been working on the project in Gettysburg
since two thousand seven.
are now repairing the painting to make it look almost like new.
Lawhon, a spokeswoman for Gettysburg National Military Park, says the new
museum and visitor center was built with four goals.
LAWHON: "One was to take better care of the artifacts and the archives of
this park because Gettysburg has the largest publicly owned Civil War
collection. We have over one million items, everything from soldiers' diaries
and uniforms to original maps of the battlefield and the documentation of the
creation of the national cemetery in the park.
second goal is to take better care of the cyclorama painting. Number three was improve the museum experience for our visitors.
fourth and final goal is one that a lot of people find very compelling, which is
[that] our facilities were not big enough. They weren't wheelchair-accessible. We had a lot of problems with them. But one of the most serious problems we had with them is they were
built on the Union army's battle line. Where we had two buildings and two parking lots there was major battle action and we know over nine hundred seventy soldiers were killed, wounded or captured where we had concrete asphalt and bricks. So this new building is two-thirds of a
mile away and it's close to but not on the battle line. And it's going to allow us
this fall to take out the old buildings and bring the battlefield back to the
way it looked at the time of the fighting."
to the museum begin with a twenty-two minute film called "A New Birth of
Freedom." It provides historic background for the war, the battle and its
effects as a turning point in the Civil War.
The museum has eleven galleries designed
around the words of the Gettysburg Address. One gallery is called "Now We
Are Met on a Great Battlefield of That War." It explores what happened on
each day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
gallery, "The Brave Men Living and Dead," presents information about what
happened after the fighting ended. It also tells about the effects of the
battle on the town of Gettysburg.
The museum also has computers where
visitors can research information about the battle.
new Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center is a joint project of the Gettysburg
Foundation and the National Park Service. The foundation, a nonprofit
educational group, raised the one hundred seven million dollars that made it
foundation plans to own the center for twenty years, then donate the building
and the land to the federal government.
president of the foundation, Robert Wilburn, says Gettysburg is a reminder that
Americans can come together as a nation even after the most divisive of
conflicts. He calls it the place where America was saved.
program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. Transcripts and MP3s of our programs are at
voaspecialenglish.com. You can also find programs from THE MAKING OF A NATION,
a weekly series all about American history. And join us again next week for
THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.