Speech Delivered by Maj. General John R. Brooke during the 50th Anniversary Celebration at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 2, 1913

brooke1913The 1913 Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was celebrated on the battleground with the gathering of over 54,000 veterans of the “Blue and Gray”. The Great Camp was constructed on the southern edge of Gettysburg with a large circus tent pitched on the field where Pickett’s Charge had taken place fifty years before. General Brooke, representing the “Northern Forces” of Union veterans, spoke at the afternoon gathering on July 2nd – “Military Day” – with the representative of “Southern Forces”, former sergeant John C. Scarborough of North Carolina. This is the text of Genreal Brooke’s speech to the veterans at this reunion, taken from Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Report of the Pennsylvania Commission, by Lt. Col. Lewis Beitler, (William Stanley Ray State Printer, Harrisburg, 1913) pages 120-121. Transcribed by Joel Peterson.

“Mr. Chairman, to the Governor of the Keystone State,The Battle of Gettysburg Commission, and lall those who have aided in inaugarating this gathering of the fiftieth anniversary of the great battle,we of the Army of the Potomac who could respond in your call, give you greetings and thanks.

“Comrades of the Army of the Potomac, after fifty years, we are gathered here with the Army of Northern Virginia, not as foes, but as friends. It gives me much pleasure to see so many of you here. Looking into your faces one would think fifty years but a very short time. I greet you with all my heart and trust we may meet for years to come in our regimental reunions.

“The Army of the Potomac was born in 1861 and met the Army of Northern Virgina on many fields with various results, until on July 1st, 1863, the guns of Bufords cavalry announced that the armies had met again. The 1st Army Corps, under gallant Reynolds, hurried to the support of the cavalry; the battle of Gettysburg was begun. General Meade sent General Hancock to examine the ground and see if it was suitable to fight the battle on. Hancock’s report is well known to you all. Meade ordered a concentration of his army at Gettysburg which was accomplished on the evening of the second of July. Howard, hearing the guns, moved his Corps towards the fighting, and arrived in time to be of great assistance to the First Corps. These two Corps were overwhelmed by the assault of the enemy, and were met by Hancock. The retreating troops were rallied on the ridge where Hancock’s statue stands. Suffice it to say that the enemy was held in check until the arrival of other troops, who had been marching all night. The details of the battle have been written by so many, that it is not necessary to repeat them here. From the arrival of the Army of the Potomac until the close of the battle it was placed on the defensive. The result is well known to you. On the soil of the Keystone of the Colonial Arch, have occurred many great events; the Colonial Congress met on it; battles were fought on it; the Declaration of Independence was written within it borders; its principal city became the seat of Government, and the Capitol of the Republic. Here the Constitution was written, and until the city of Washington was built, the city of Philadelphia remained the Capitol.

“On this ground was fought the battle which assured the maintenance of the Great Republic. Many battles were fought after Gettysburg, and it was not until upon the plains of Appomattox the union of states was assured, but Gettysburg was the turning point of the war. Comrades, it seems to me as it seems to many, that our Republic has been destined to convince the world that it is the best system of government for all peoples.

“From about three millions of people, we have grown to about one hundred million, and so far as our country in concerned, the fact is patent that our system is better than any other, being ‘the government of the people, by the people, for the people,’ and shall not perish from the face of the earth.

“Let us not fail to remember, that ‘United we stand, divided we fall.'”