Essay Contest 2011 First Place, Junior Entry

Cara Phillips, 8th Grade

Teacher: Jacquelyn C. Wanner
School: Waipahu Intermediate School, Waipahu, HI

Preserve 150 Years of History:
Secession and the War’s Beginnings Essay
(What Gettysburg Gave Us)

“Four score and Seven Years ago…” Sound familiar? Citizens all across the country of America can recognize this phrase. Though, where did these words come from? What makes them so significant that they’re well known all over the country? It was this construction that was the opening to Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. Now, this was no ordinary speech. This specific lecture was made to commemorate and honor all those who lost their lives in the Civil War, as well as to help assure the citizens that, someday, this gruesomeness will be lifted off their shoulders. Shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln was asked to make a “few remarks” to salute the soldiers who were lost in that battle. The Battle of Gettysburg made an enormous impact on the Civil War, as well as on all of American history. This battle seemed to have been the turning point of the entire Civil War. It is the time where things started looking up for the Union. All of these mixed emotions: ecstatic of a glorious first win, yet depressed at the loss of soldiers and destruction of land. It was at Gettysburg where a difference was made. For that reason, we should preserve and worship the land that was once fought on. We look back to reflect and see death, depression and sorrow coming from, not only this particular battle, but from all of the Civil War. Why? It was all due to the heat and tension of one single debate, which blossomed until it was overgrown.

During the times of the Civil War, the steaming hot topic of politics was simple: slavery. Could the United States of America really be considered a free country if there are only specific people who had the right to this freedom? Some believed so. Others cared to disagree. In the times, being a slave means that you’re not to be considered an individual, but an individual’s property. And you would only be put under these circumstances (of being a slave) if your skin was black and if you had African blood running through you veins. There were many, both colored and white people, who were willing to fight for the freedom of slaves. These people are called abolitionist. Three of these abolitionists who really stand out to me are Dred Scott, Harriet Tubman and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Each of them lashed out and fought against the laws to make help make their dreams of civil rights come true; and each of them fought in their own, different ways. Dred Scott was a slave whose owner passed as they were living in a state where slavery was not common, or not allowed. Although the living in a freedom state meant that the death of his owner allowed Scott freedom, he was instead held property to his old owner’s wife. At the injustice, Scott brought his case to court. After years of fighting for his will, Scott finally won; becoming a free man and proving to America that change is possible. (American Nation) Harriet Tubman was another who was born and raised a slave. After freeing herself, she did the unthinkable and helped to conduct the Underground Railroad. Doing this, she returned and risked her life not once, not twice, but NINETEEN times. (American Nation) As for Stowe, she was a white author who wrote a novel called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. (American Nation) In doing this, Stowe introduced the dreadful lives of slaves to the citizens, through her words. All of these actions caused a stir up of opinions, so dramatic that you can taste the tension in the air. The result of this excitement: the Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address are both small contributors in this big war. I guess big gifts come in small packages, because both events were impactful on the war’s outcome.

As earlier mentioned, the Battle of Gettysburg was practically THE turning point of the Civil War. What changed? Why is it that the Union had to face loss after loss, and suddenly, win? Well, unlike the other battles, the Union did have some new elements going in their favor. First of all, this battle was fought in the Northern territory, giving the Union the home advantage. This way, the Union was familiar with their surroundings, had more time to prepare, resources were easy to get to and they didn’t have to deal with the exhaustion of traveling. Though there are always disadvantages to the way you play. In this case, it means that crops and gardens would have to be replanted and the land will be destroyed. Another helpful component in this battle was that the Union was playing defense instead of their usual offense play. You see, this is the first time that the South was actually attacking the North. Normally, the Confederates goal was to shield their land. This time, however, was vise versa. Defense is easier to work with because you’re basically just trying to shield and protect your territory, rather than trying to invade and take over someone else’s. These factors were the reason why the victory of the Battle of Gettysburg was caused, now what came out in effect? In effect to this victory, I believe it’s what caused the North to really start fighting back. This one win caused a boost in confidence and more war strategies were developed. The Union was hungry for blood. One win is all it took to send them a whiff of overall victory, and that’s why their wins skyrocketed. As for the Gettysburg Address, when this speech was made, Lincoln wasn’t even supposed to be the main speaker of the ceremony, just a guest with a few words t leave. But within those few words was a message that really made an impression and touched all who were listening. The presentation made by President Lincoln really inspired the citizens to have hope. It helped to reassure his people that, some day in the near future, this death, hatred and gloominess; this war; will come to an end. Also, the people were able to remember that all of this sorrow will come with a delayed feeling of overjoyed. This not just fighting just to fight, but also fighting for the rights that they believe in. All of this blood and death happened for a reason, for our freedom! We should preserve the land where our men had fallen to their knees. However, there are few who live today and have other plans.

More than 620,000 people were lost in this one, dreadful Civil War. That’s two percent of the population gone away with the wind. (Civil War Facts) All of those 620,000 citizens died hoping that their life is worth it. That this whole war will soon be over and that, from there, America will take the steps towards a brighter future. They were able to hope and wish for all of that, even when they knew that they wouldn’t be able to live long enough to live that kind of life. They hoped and wished, not for themselves, but for me and you and I. For us: today’s generation of Americans. Is it too much to ask that we preserve and protect the land where they fell to their knees? Where they saw the glorious, terrible world for the last time? I do not think it’s too much. In fact, it seems like a little price to pay for the rights of freedom. However, there are a handful of people out there who oppose to the idea. Just a few years ago, it was proposed that a casino be built not even two blocks away from the location where the battle of Gettysburg was fought. (Civil War Trust) A CASINO, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Being that the location is nationally protected, the Pennsylvania Gaming Panel was forced to respectfully decline the offer. (Civil War Trust) I am glad at the results. It is stressing to even think about how greedy and selfish our society can be. To think, we allow ourselves to accept that lives were taken for our sake, we allow ourselves to take the freedom that thousands had to die for, and still, we ask for more?! The thought is unbearable. Being that I’m a resident of Hawaii, I can’t say that I know what it feels like to lose a part of the Civil War that was once part of my home. However, we do have the Pearl Harbor Memorial where Japan bombed during the World War. I can’t possibly imagine losing it to a stupid factory or casino. You go and visit places like Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor because you want to be part of history, part of something bigger than one person. That is the significance to the entire area- and things should stay that way. Do you really think that a casino holds more significance than Gettysburg? No way. Gettysburg itself contains more importance and more value than all the casinos combined.

The Civil War is one of the biggest contributors in all of American History. We lost so much through it. From this war came loss of crops, loss of development and, most importantly, loss of lives. When you look past all of those losses, you can realize that we gained a lot, too. From this war came civil rights, a unionized country and, most importantly, freedom and justice for all. This bloodshed is worth remembering- forever. There is no doubt in my mind that if the Civil War had have never happened, America would be one of the weakest, dependent, dumbfound country in all of the world. We need to cherish and value this one conflict that we obtained an abundant amount of strength from. To do so, we should do our best to maintain the battlefields, like Gettysburg. We, as a county, need to come together and really work at this uphold, because the last thing we would ever want to do is throw away this outstanding, everlasting memory.


American History: Prehistory Through Reconstruction. Parisppany, NJ: Globe Fearon,
2003. Print

Davidson, James West, and Michael B. Stoff. American Nation. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Prentice Hall, 1998. (428-445). Print.

“History Under Siege.” Civil War Trust. Jim Campi, 2010. Website. O8, March 2011.

Robertson Jr., James. Civil War! America Becomes One Nation. New York, NY:
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1992. Print

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