The commemorative landscape at Gettysburg is well known to most. Hundreds of monuments commemorate the contributions of loyal states, Union regiments, and individuals who fought to preserve the Union. Careful study of the physical monuments reveals little in terms of the war’s causes and consequences, leaving the uninitiated to perhaps wonder: what was it all about? The battlefield is no stranger to commemorative events, and numerous scholars have noted the reconciliatory angle of many – most especially the 1913 and 1938 Blue-Gray Reunions. What is often left out of this story is the particular way Union veterans remembered their fight, as one that emphasized the war to suppress treasonous rebellion and snuff out the sin of slavery. With a sense of moralizing self-righteousness, Union veterans more often than not gathered on the Gettysburg battlefield to remember their fight in highly sectional terms.
M. Keith Harris received his BA at the University of California at Los Angeles (summa cum laude) and his Ph.D. in United States history at the University of Virginia. He has taught courses in United States history at the University of Virginia and the University of California at Riverside, and currently teaches at a private high school in Los Angeles. His work focuses on nineteenth and twentieth-century American history with a special emphasis on the Civil War, Reconstruction, historical memory, the Progressive Era, and national Reconciliation. His first book, Across the Bloody Chasm: The Culture of Commemoration Among Civil War Veterans, is available from the Louisiana State University Press. He lives and works in Hollywood, California.