Ever since Abraham Lincoln journeyed to the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg to deliver his immortal address, millions of ordinary Americans have made a similar pilgrimage. Many of the early visitors were soldiers returning to the scenes of their youth or their descendants over the ensuring generations. And among those millions were more than a few other U.S. presidents.
Both Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt would travel to Gettysburg for the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the battle, and they would speak to thousands of veterans of the Blue and the Gray. John F. Kennedy would tour the battlefield only a few weeks before his death in 1963, and it is said Jackie Kennedy’s decision to have an eternal flame placed on his Arlington grave was inspired by the Eternal Peace Light Memorial on Oak Ridge. And, of course, Dwight David Eisenhower would make Gettysburg his home when he retired from public service in 1961.
Jay Jorgensen has been a prolific student of Gettysburg for many years, and is the author of numerous interesting works on various aspects of the battle, especially the July 2nd action in the Wheatfield. A judge of the New Jersey Superior Court, Jay is also a founder of the Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table. As a coda to the 2020 presidential election, Jay will be recounting the presidential visits to Gettysburg during the November 10th meeting of the First Defenders Civil War Round Table.
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