160-Year Anniversary of Gettysburg

View of a war memorial atop Little Round Top at the Gettysburg battlefield. By the 1880s there were many such memorials at Gettysburg.
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

160-Year Anniversary of Gettysburg

A sobering reminder that a house divided cannot stand

“Hold this ground at all costs.” That was the final order received by Col. Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment as he and his 386 men prepared to defend a small, rocky hill in Pennsylvania named Little Round Top. This hill was the anchor point for the entire Union line; it was the most strategically valuable point to both sides. On July 2, 1863, the Confederates struck the Union line with great force, nearly breaking through the defenses. One man, Sgt. Andrew J. Tozier, single-handedly turned the tide.

“As the 20th Maine’s center began to break and give ground in the face of the Alabama regiments’ onslaught, Tozier stood firm, remaining upright as Southern bullets buzzed and snapped in the air around him,” wrote the American Battlefield Trust. “Tozier’s personal gallantry in defending the 20th Maine’s colors became the regimental rallying point for Companies D, E and F to retake the center. Were it not for Tozier’s heroic stand, the 20th Maine would likely have been beaten at that decisive point in the battle.” Tozier was later awarded the Medal of Honor for this display of gallantry.

With their ammunition exhausted and the Confederate line relentlessly surging up the hill, Chamberlain ordered the 20th Maine to fix bayonets. The wave of cold steel forced the Confederates backward, and they fell into a panicked retreated.

Little Round Top became the pivot point of the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War. This battle was fought 160 years ago, yet the lessons are more relevant than ever.

Nearly 170,000 men were involved in the battle: 95,000 under Gen. George Meade in the Army of the Potomac and 75,000 under Gen. Robert E. Lee in the Army of North Virginia. Both armies converged on the small town of Gettysburg, a strategic hub of good roads heading in any direction. For three days, they clashed. Each assault from the South was repulsed, and Lee was forced to retreat. As historian T. Harry Williams expressed, “On July 1-3, they fought the greatest battle ever waged in North America.”

Three days of battle resulted in over 50,000 casualties (killed, wounded, captured or missing). It was a brutal fight in the summer heat. It took months to bury the dead bodies. It remains the deadliest battle to date in American history.

The Civil War is one of the greatest tragedies in American history: Brother fought against brother, father against son, families were torn apart. Heartbreak and bitterness flowed through the nation as the blood flowed from the battlefields of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Shiloh and Vicksburg. The ideological and political disagreements over state rights and slavery—usually fought in Congress and the Senate—were decided in the field of battle.

The republic was founded on these principles: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Now the young nation was torn apart over the future of those principles.

President Abraham Lincoln delivered a three-minute sermon, the Gettysburg Address, that explained why Americans were willing to fight and die in the war and the responsibility of those still living:

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.

The only way the republic could be healed was if unity under the Constitution was restored through total victory. In “Lincoln’s Fight for True Freedom,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote:

Lincoln was working toward a new birth of freedom! He wanted to do what the founders established when they declared independence for the nation. He reaffirmed that all men are created equal and then established the Emancipation Proclamation to begin to make it reality. Slavery would no longer be tolerated in the rebellious states and not much longer in the rest of the Union. Lincoln was taking freedom to the highest level. He was a real leader of men.

Abraham Lincoln had to explain to the people why they had to continue this bloody war, and he told them—in three minutes. What a mighty accomplishment!

Yet notice the two words Lincoln said are essential for a new birth of freedom to last: “under God.” Mr. Flurry continued:

Apparently he added “under God” the night before he spoke. For a government to truly succeed, Lincoln said, it must be “under God.” Of course, America’s government is flawed because it is of men, but it was built upon many biblical principles. …

At Gettysburg, thousands of soldiers fought and forfeited their lives so America could enjoy freedom and equality. But in Satan’s world, that will not last! It cannot last unless you bring God into the picture, which Lincoln was trying to do as he understood it.

Why did so many men die at Gettysburg? Why was there a bloody Civil War? The nation had turned its back on God.

The miraculous birth of the United States was not an accident but an act of divine will. As explained by the late Herbert W. Armstrong in The United States and Britain in Prophecy, the physical benefits America experiences, even the freedoms and rights enjoyed, are all blessings from God. The inspiring principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution come from the pages of the Bible. Only by cleaving to those ideals and obeying God can the United States remain unified.

Jesus Christ said in Mark 3: “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (verse 25). President Lincoln quoted these words in our nation’s darkest hour. We should heed them today.

The anniversary of Gettysburg reminds us what happens when a nation forgets God. Sadly, the United States is not heeding this sobering lesson from its own past. The nation is more divided than ever, and it is embracing sin instead of embracing God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). The prophet Ezekiel warns of a future civil war that in comparison will dwarf the past conflict. (Read Ezekiel—The End-Time Prophet to learn more about this vital prophecy.)

The inspiring history of Little Round Top shows us how to fight for freedom today. Except, God is not telling us to fight physically but to hold our ground spiritually. Your home, your family, your mind is your “Little Round Top.” God instructs us to expel sin, rebellion and worldliness. God expects us to be faithful to the truth in the Bible, just as the men of the 20th Maine were faithful to the Constitution. It is through God’s truth that we find freedom (John 8:32). If we tenaciously fight for freedom spiritually in our lives now, we will help God bring true freedom to the rest of humanity!

Mr. Flurry continued:

We today must fight for freedom! We must clearly see what we are doing and have the proper vision. God’s people are going to help Christ free the whole world and the universe. All men are created equal—and at that time, everybody will uphold that truth! There will be love for everybody! We will extend freedom and equality and love throughout the universe. …

We will usher in “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. How real is that future to you?

To learn more about this fight and the future of freedom, read Mr. Flurry’s article “Lincoln’s Fight for True Freedom.”