‘A new birth of freedom’
Gary Gallagher, still going strong, reads a couple of passages from Northern soldiers’ letters home about what they felt the war was about.
A month before he was killed at Appomattox, a Minnesotan writes home that he’s ”willing to risk my life for the best government on God’s footstool.”
“Those are ordinary soldiers, not officers. And those kinds of words come out of them again and again and again,” Gallagher says.
It’s hard to get people today to adjust to the scale of the carnage involved on Civil War battlefields, he says.
In the six weeks of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign, U.S. forces suffered the modern equivalent of 1.1 million casualties. “That’s the Overland Campaign, when you adjust for the modern population,” Gallagher says.
Faced with such bloodshed today, he thinks we would have quit a such a conflict long before then.