Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation

Jennifer Ward

Gettysburg. A town home to a three-day bloodbath that resulted in an estimated 46,000 casualties. History remembers the battle for her logistics, the tactics of leaders and the deaths of men, but it was so much more than just this. The battle was full of sights, sounds, and smells; every soldier’s was experience different and yet very similar. Occurring in the height of summer, the bright sun’s heat would have been intolerable to the wool or cotton clad soldiers. They likely stank to high heaven with their unwashed bodies and sweat stained uniforms. The fighting was a deadly dance of metal and flesh where a single misstep meant nearly certain death. The carcasses of the dead lay neglected where they fell, adding to the stench as they rotted in the summer heat. The crackling of gunfire and the mournful cries of the wounded and dying rang through the air in a dreadful accompaniment of fire and death. It is hard to imagine how the wounded felt, laying on the battlefield with their lifeblood pouring unchecked, their weakening fingers incapable of stemming the dark crimson tide. Medical procedures were barbaric and, with nothing to lessen the pain, likely resulted in a living hell for wounded soldiers. The harsh realities of the horrors of Gettysburg are often not given the full appreciation which they deserve. We get so lost in the numbers and the logistics that the sheer humanity of the event is forgotten. The men involved were undeniably real; beings with thoughts, feelings, and fears. Each one was a unique individual and their battle experience extended far beyond the statistics in a textbook. Jennifer Ward Fisher High School Fisher, Illinois