The second and third days of July, 1863, were also the second and third days of the Battle of Gettysburg. Over the next 48 hours, American soldiers would struggle against one another and hallow the Pennsylvania ground, as President Abraham Lincoln would later famously say. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would hold the upper hand at the end of today’s fighting. But on July 3rd, the roles reversed and the Confederate army would retreat on July 4th, changing the course of the war.
The battlefield would later be dedicated as a national cemetery, the ceremony for which would be the platform for President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It is now a part of the National Park Service.
“We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” -President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address
In the years immediately following the Civil War, the nation’s leaders called desperately for reform as they struggled to rebuild a society scarred by death and mass destruction. Recognizing America’s need for enlightened leadership, Republican senator Henry Blair (1834-1920) of New Hampshire embarked on an ambitious crusade to enact dramatic progressive changes. Gordon B. McKinney’s Henry Blair’s Campaign to Reform America: From the Civil War to the U.S. Senate sheds light on Blair’s remarkable political career, spanning his service in the Union army, his election to the New Hampshire legislature, his achievements as a U.S. senator and spokesman for the reform wing of the Republican Party, and his later work as a lobbyist.