The Eternal Light Peace Monument at Gettysburg
On July 3rd, 1938, some 1800 aged Union and Confederate veterans of the Civil War were gathered at Gettysburg National Military Park. It was the 75th anniversary of the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and the veterans as well as thousands of other people were at the site of the battle for a week long commemoration of that anniversary.
One of the events that day was the dedication of a new monument. Instead of a monument to a military unit or a state’s soldiers, this monument was built as a symbol of peace between the two sides. It was located on Oak Hill at the northwest corner of the military park. On July 1st, 1863, the first day of the battle, Confederate General Robert Rodes placed artillery on the hill and his infantry attacked from there. Seventy-five years later, the veterans (who were about the age of today’s World War II vets) and an estimated quarter million onlookers listened as President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the Eternal Light Peace Monument to peace and unity between the North and South.
Here’s some footage from the 1938 battle commemoration and monument dedication. It was the last large scale gathering of Civil War veterans.
The Eternal Light Peace Monument is made of Maine granite and limestone from Alabama. The “eternal light” is a gas fueled flame that burns at the top of the monument. The gas flame was replaced by an electric light during the 1970’s energy crisis, but the flame was restored in a re-dedication ceremony in 1988, the 125th anniversary of the battle. The monument is one of the stops on the park’s self guiding auto tour.
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