Understanding Gettysburg in 2021: The Civil War’s Largest Battle in History and Popular Memory

Understanding Gettysburg in 2021: The Civil War’s Largest Battle in History and Popular Memory

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Most Americans consider Gettysburg the great turning point of the Civil War, a decisive moment when Confederate hopes for victory gave way to an inexorable slide toward Appomattox. Shaped by films, television documentaries, successful novels, and other factors, this perception of Gettysburg distorts the battle's actual impact during the war. This lecture explores Gettysburg with a focus on how memory often departs from historical reality. It examines how people at the time interpreted the battle, how Gettysburg achieved its reputation as the war's major watershed, and why the battle still holds great value for Americans seeking to understand their nation's past.