No, I’m not going to try to spin the Battle of Gettysburg back in 1863 into something about the pharmaceutical industry and medicine. But I am going to talk about it anyway:
I grew up in the South in a place where Civil War Cannons and Monuments were as common as bus stops. As a kid, I thought that the Civil War was about honor, chivalry, and regional autonomy. People stood up when they played Dixie. I was in my mid-twenties and deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement before I really even understood that the Civil War was about slavery, and realized that the poor southern foot soldiers that died by the thousands for the Confederacy probably were as deluded as I was about the real meaning of that War.
The story of the three day battle at Gettysburg was one I well knew from a stint in military school where it was part of the academic curriculum. But what I wanted to talk about here was the feeling I had all day yesterday riding a bus around the Gettysburg Battlefield. As the guide rattled on about the battle, I found myself rooting for the South just like when I was a kid, feeling outraged by the mistakes of the southern generals – speculating like many before me about what would’ve happened if Robert E. Lee hadn’t ordered Pickett’s ill-fated charge [top picture][from left to right across the center of the map]. Sitting on Cemetery Ridge looking over the site of the Charge, it was obvious that it was a fool’s errand. How could General Lee have thought it would work? instead of turning into a slaughter? which it did.
There must be something called cultural inertia, because all day I felt pangs of something that runs counter to everything I hold as holy. There’s nothing about the cause of the Confederacy that remotely approximates any of my personal values, yet on that battlefield, I was a southern boy pulling for the home team. Along the battle lines, the states have erected monuments in the approximate locations of the units that fought there. The ones along Cemetery Ridge built by the northern states speak of the valor of those who died to uphold the Union. The ones along Seminary Ridge, the southern lines, spoke of valor and honor in the service of their cause – without specifying what that cause actually was.