To effectively manage a national park and plan for its future, a basic understanding of its resources, values, and history is needed – a foundation for planning and management. These are called foundation documents. Foundation documents are at the core of each park’s planning portfolio. Foundation Documents for Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site were completed in August and are now available on the park websites.
The core components of a foundation document include a brief description of the park as well as the park’s purpose, significance, fundamental resources and values, other important resources and values, and interpretive themes.
Here is an overview of Gettysburg’s Foundation Document:
PURPOSE – The purpose of Gettysburg National Military Park is to preserve, protect, and interpret for this and future generations the resources associated with the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and their commemorations.
SIGNIFICANCE – Upon the fields and rolling hills and in the streets of town, more soldiers fell at the Battle of Gettysburg than in any other battle fought in North America before or since. The culmination of the Gettysburg Campaign, this three-day battle fought on July 1–3, 1863, thwarted the political and military aims of the Confederacy and its second invasion of the North during the American Civil War.
In dedicating the Soldiers’ National Cemetery on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, which gave meaning to the sacrifices of the dead at the Battle of Gettysburg and inspired the living to continue the “unfinished work” of the war to affirm “a new birth of freedom” for the nation.
The Battle of Gettysburg was quickly recognized as a defining event in the nation’s history, which led to early and ongoing efforts to preserve the battlefield landscape, including its topography and terrain.
Commemorating the events of the Battle of Gettysburg, a National Military Park was established, resulting in a landscape of monuments, memorials, and markers that record the history and emotions of Civil War veterans and others who wanted to leave this legacy for future generations.
The momentous nature of what occurred at the Battle of Gettysburg, along with the high level of preservation and accurate marking of the battlefield landscape, continues to draw people to Gettysburg National Military Park, a place of national consciousness where individuals can consider the far-reaching implications of the battle, the Gettysburg Address, and the American Civil War.
The massive 377-foot cyclorama painting, the Battle of Gettysburg, depicting Pickett’s Charge, the final Confederate attack, is the largest oil-on-canvas painting in North America and is among the last 19th-century cyclorama paintings in existence.
FUNDAMENTAL RESOURCES AND VALUES – Fundamental resources and values are those features, systems, processes, experiences, stories, scenes, sounds, smells, or other attributes determined to warrant primary consideration during planning and management processes because they are essential to achieving the purpose of the park and maintaining its significance.
- Battlefield Landscape
- Commemorative Landscape
- Soldiers’ National Cemetery
- Museum Collections
- Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama Painting
- Historic Structures
- Hallowed Ground
- Legacy of the Gettysburg Address
- Archeological Resources Associated with the Battle of Gettysburg
Gettysburg National Military Park contains other resources and values that are not fundamental to the purpose of the park and may be unrelated to its significance, but are important to consider in planning processes. These are referred to as “other important resources and values” (OIRV). These resources and values have been selected because they are important in the operation and management of the park and warrant special consideration in park planning.
- Natural Communities
- Nonbattle-Related Archeological Resources
- Appropriate Recreation
INTERPRETIVE THEMES – The following interpretive themes have been identified for Gettysburg National Military Park:
- The Civil War was the result of decades of increasing divisiveness caused primarily by the issue of slavery that pulled the nation apart economically, socially, and politically.
- The Gettysburg Campaign was directly influenced and shaped by the 1863 strategic military / political situation of the nation. The evolution, conduct, and eventual outcome of the campaign and battle were directly related to the geography, topography, and landscape features of the region, as well as to the tactics, leadership, and organization of the respective armies.
- The soldiers who fought at Gettysburg were, for the most part, battle-hardened veterans. Their backgrounds varied as much as their reasons for being there. Their experience in combat and the aftermath of battle were both uniquely individual and universal. .
- The Battle of Gettysburg touched the lives of civilians both near and far. Farmers whose land became battlegrounds, citizens in town, those who tended the wounded, buried the dead, or came to locate a friend or loved one were forever changed by their experience here. The tremendous human cost of Gettysburg touched and changed the lives of families, neighbors, and the general population in small towns and large cities of both the North and the South.
- In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln focused the nation’s attention on the Union sacrifices, as well as its evolving meanings and consequences, when he stated that it would lead to a “new birth of freedom” for the nation; a charge that still challenges us today.
- The hundreds of monuments, markers, and memorials, many created by the veterans themselves, continue to bear witness to the experiences of individuals associated with the Battle of Gettysburg and are a testament to how the battlefield has become a stage for the reconciliation of a once divided nation, national commemoration of the Civil War, and a place of personal connection for Civil War veterans, their families, and visitors who continue to be drawn to this park.
For a copy of the Foundation Document for Gettysburg National Military Park click here.
Katie Lawhon, September 15, 2016