One-hundred and fifty years ago today, thousands of Vermont soldiers fought for their lives, engaged in a fierce battle on the fields of Gettysburg, Pa. Over the years, the important role Vermonters played in that battle has come to the forefront.
This week visitors and re-enactors are returning to the site where upward of 50,000 men-- Union and Confederate soldiers-- died during the three-day battle. Park rangers and historians give the latest interpretation.
The Vermont Historical Society's Mark Hudson will also make the journey to highlight the contributions and sacrifice of the nearly 5,000 men in Vermont's 2nd Brigade.
"I think the gallantry and just the bravery that the Vermonters showed in the face of some very severe battle conditions were quite notable; not only in their own recollections, but what you hear from some of the others who were on the battlefield at the time," Hudson said.
July 3, 1863, according to many historians, marked not only a turning point in the battle, but in the war as a whole.
"We often remember those really critical, critical moments and that was one of them, on the afternoon of July 3rd," Hudson said.
During Pickett's Charge, upward of 15,000 rebels swept down from a ridgeline, attacking Union lines. Vermonters were there to meet them.
"The Vermont 14th had been brought forward from the rest of the Union line, so they were right there to confront the Confederates," Hudson said.
It was a famous flanking maneuver by other Vermont regiments that is credited with saving the day.
"The 13th and the 16th came forward at a right angle from the Union line and Cemetery Ridge, and of course when you have the opponent approaching them from the flank or strafing fire right down the side of their line, it can have tremendous effect-- and it did," Hudson explained.
Today at the Vermont History Center in Barre, the 14th regiment's flag they carried that day is one of the few tangible reminders of the epic, bloody battle.
"Having this opportunity to show this flag is really extraordinary," Hudson said.
It's just one part of the exhibit "Service and Sacrifice" that touches on Gettysburg. There's also the pistol used by Waterbury's William Wells and a Medal of Honor received by Col. Wheelock Veazy of Springfield. Also on display for the first time in over a century, "The Grand Panorama" by artist Charles Andrus, a 150-by-7 foot canvas scroll with some of the war's pivotal moments, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox and including Gettysburg.
A century and a half later remembering the sacrifice of Vermonters that helped turn the tide of war.
The three-day battle had the highest number of casualties in the Civil War. Miraculously, only 70 Vermonters were killed. For more on Vermont Civil war events and resources marking 150 years -- http://vermontcivilwar150.com/
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