Armchair Traveller: Hallowed Ground

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our power to add or detract. — President Abraham Lincoln

Hallowed GroundLast post I wrote that you couldn’t tour the Gettysburg battlefields on foot ― not in an afternoon, that is. But should you be motivated to attempt it, I highly recommend taking along James M. McPherson’s book, Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg.

Professor emeritus of Princeton University and author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning book Battle Cry of Freedom, McPherson is considered the finest Civil War historian in the world (according to his book’s flap copy). Hallowed Ground takes its title from the words Abraham Lincoln spoke in his Gettysburg Address (quoted at the top of this blog post).

As a guidebook on its own, Hallowed Ground lacks maps and precise details about how to navigate the park. But as a means of providing context, I found Hallowed Ground invaluable reading prior to my tour of Gettysburg. McPherson explains in simple lay language how the battle changed the course of the Civil War, and its significance in American history. The book includes anecdotes of the author’s walks around key positions of the battle, such as Seminary Ridge, the Peach Orchard, and Little Round Top, as well as stories about the various monuments and statues.

McPherson has led countless tours for students and others at Gettysburg; with a little imagination, reading his book is like being on one of his tours.

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