When Union and Confederate soldiers clashed at the Battle of Gettysburg, 150 years ago today, The Saturday Evening Post sent reporters to cover the fighting. Today, the Post is one of the few remaining publications that covered the Civil War, as the magazine began printing in 1821.
It is because of that legacy that Jeff Nilsson, director of archives for The Saturday Evening Post, is steeped in Civil War history, particularly the history of Gettysburg. The battle still stands as the bloodiest in American history, because at the time, Nilsson explains, "Robert E. Lee did not believe he could militarily conquer the North."
"He believed he could discourage the North out of the war," Nilsson continues. "He had beat the Union Army repeatedly, and now was coming north to, he hoped, beat it decisively on the plains of south-central Pennsylvania."
Nilsson describes the lives of Union and Confederate soldiers and reflects on Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, given just a few short months after the battle.
"The Gettysburg Address was the commemoration of a cemetery that was built in the town because thousands and thousands of casualties still littered the field far beyond the capability of any townspeople to bury them."
The town required a cemetery, but, Nilsson says, the commemoration was "a way for Lincoln to memorialize these deaths and also the general cause and to explain to Americans why they had fought and what sense it made for this great slaughter of men."