Combat and Reconciliation at Gettysburg

Kevin Buckwalter, MD, earned his medical degree from the Ross University School of Medicine. Board certified in family medicine, he practices in Henderson, Nevada, where he treats patients of all ages. When he is not attending to his professional responsibilities, Dr. Kevin Buckwalter enjoys several recreational activities; among other interests, he is an avid student of the American Civil War.

One of the most well-known battles of the Civil War took place in the first three days of July 1863 at the southern Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. Confederate General Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia into southern Pennsylvania, where he hoped to secure fresh provisions and threaten northern cities like Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Union General George G. Meade, leading the Army of the Potomac, kept his forces between Lee and Washington and advanced to confront Lee, who consolidated his forces around Gettysburg. The battle featured some of the most brutal episodes of the war, as well as some of the most human.

Much of the original battlefield has been preserved or restored, and the entire town is a very popular tourist destination. Of the many individual attractions on the battlefield, Devil’s Den and Spangler’s Spring are always among the most popular.

Devil’s Den was one of the areas of fiercest fighting. A small ridge about 500 yards west of Little Round Top, it contains numerous large boulders and rock formations. On the second day of the battle, Devil’s Den was the site of several clashes involving thousands of troops. By day’s end, the area had been captured by the Confederates, but at a great cost; they suffered about 1,800 casualties to the Union’s 800.

A gentler story arising from the Battle of Gettysburg is the legend of Spangler’s Spring, another scene of ferocious combat. Control of the spring passed back and forth during the battle, but legend has it that during the night of July 2, troops from both sides observed a temporary and informal truce while they refilled their canteens.