Editor's note: The following is the seventh piece in a series of
posts on the historical record that can be tracked through U.S.
coins. The subject is the cover story of our July monthly issue.
To read other stories in the series, click here.
war some 50 years later threatened the nation, but it was not
contested against an external foe.
American Civil War was the coalescence of decades of disagreement
about the “peculiar institution” of slavery and the right to govern.
series of compromises and checks on an imbalance of power between
Northern and Southern states finally came to a head in 1860 when South
Carolina seceded from the Union and, months later, when Confederate
Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and his troops fired the first shots at
Fort Sumter against Union forces led by Maj. Robert Anderson.
Civil War had begun. But what many thought would be a rapid, decisive
war instead turned out to require much more sacrifice.
pivotal battle in the war lit the hills and fields of rural
Pennsylvania with smoke and fire and terror for three days.
Battle of Gettysburg occurred July 1 to 3, 1863.
Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was defeated by Gen. George
Meade’s Army of the Potomac and the Confederate forces retreated; they
had been emboldened by his victory in Chancellorsville, Va., in May
1863, and hoped to solidify his seeming advantage in Gettysburg. He
was unprepared for the ferocity and strength of the Union forces under
Meade, newly named Army of the Potomac commander.
battle was among the bloodiest of the war, with 51,000 casualties. It
also provided the setting for President Lincoln’s famous consecration,
the Gettysburg Address.
U.S. coins celebrate the Northern victory.
1936, a commemorative silver half dollar was authorized to mark the
75th anniversary of the battle. Though dated 1936, the coin was minted
in 1937 for the Blue and Gray Reunion of July 1, 1938. The coin shows
busts of a Union and Confederate soldier on the obverse, with a fasces
separating Confederate and Union shields on the reverse.
2011 Gettysburg was again the subject of coinage, this time quarter
dollars of several compositions and sizes in the America the Beautiful series.
circulating and collector versions of the standard quarter dollar in
copper-nickel clad and 90 percent silver, and two 5-ounce .999 fine
silver coins, share the design. The reverse shows the 72nd
Pennsylvania Infantry Monument, located at the Union Army battle line
on Cemetery Ridge.
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