One of my favorite sketches from Gettysburg is of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, atop Oak Hill, near the place where fighting first started in Gettysburg on July 1.
I like this sketch for two reasons. First because I think it captures what I wanted to sketch in the first place and second, because I like what this monument represents: the coming together of North and South to create a mutual and strong statement about peace. During the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913, Civil War veterans from the north and the south agreed that there should be monument to the reconciliation of the the two sides. I would take another 25 year to see the completion of the monument.
Despite the Great Depression, funds where raised both from states of the north and south to construct the monument. The shaft is made of Maine granite and Alabama limestone (reminiscent of the fighting on Little Round Top). The 47 and a half foot shaft is crowned by a bronze urn that contains a flame that burns 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. It is said that this eternal flame was the inspiration for flame that burns continuously at President John F. Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery.
The monument was dedicated on the 75th Anniversary of the battle on July 3rd, 1938. The key note speaker was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 250,000 people attended the dedication including 1,800 Civil War veterans, all of them in their 90’s or older. This was the last major reunion of Civil War veterans to ever take place.
I think all the members of congress should visit this monument to peace. The drive from Washington DC is an hour and a half but the journey would be worth their while. Here they would look at and contiplate meaning of this monument to peace, reconciliation, and working for the greater good of the country. This is why it was built, by both North and South and today’s politicians owe it to them and the future of the country to work together.
In my sketch, I added the cannon in the foreground, pointing up toward the monument. Perhaps this was an unconscious message that peace and reconciliation is always under threat. Before January 6, this might seem like an extreme statement but it now seems a possible reality.
This nation will hopefully have only one Civil War.