Gettysburg National Military Park; Destination of Presidents
President Abraham Lincoln was invited to Gettysburg by attorney David Wills. He rendered a few appropriate remarks at the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery on November 19, 1863. His address to the crowd has become perhaps, the most famous speech in history. The Gettysburg battlefield thus became the destination of future presidents.
Including Lincoln, about sixteen sitting American presidents have visited the national cemetery and battlefield at Gettysburg. Some of those include Grover Cleveland, William Taft, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.
The reasons for visiting the Gettysburg National Military Park vary but some have given a Memorial Day speech, spoke at a veterans' reunion or dedicated a monument. The battlefield is also in close proximity to Camp David and Washington, D. C.
President Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the speakers rostrum in the National Cemetery on May 30, 1904. In spite of a pouring rain, 10,000 people listened to President Roosevelt's Memorial Day speech. The president also received a tour of the battlefield given by two veterans of the battle. The tour guides were former Union Corps Commanders, Generals Daniel Edgar Sickles and Oliver Otis Howard.
On July 4, 1913, at the 50th Reunion of Gettysburg Veterans, President Woodrow Wilson spoke to the assembled crowd. President Wilson was not too enthusiastic about stopping at Gettysburg for the occasion but a political advisor convinced him it was the right thing to do. After the appearance, the president continued on to his family vacation in New Hampshire.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, visited Gettysburg to deliver a Memorial Day talk on May 30, 1934. He returned to the military park on July 3, 1938, to dedicate the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on Oak Ridge. This coincided with the last and 75th Reunion Anniversary of Gettysburg Veterans. There was also an unconfirmed report of a third visit on a pleasant afternoon in 1943. Witnesses say they recognized both the president and his companion, Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Dwight Eisenhower has been associated with Gettysburg since 1915, when as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, he visited the field for the first time. In 1918, Major Eisenhower served as post commander for Camp Colt at Gettysburg which was at the time the army's tank training center. In 1950, Ike purchased a 189 acre farm adjacent to the Gettysburg battlefield. As president and former president he entertained people such as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and President Charles De Gaulle, at the Eisenhower farm.
On September 10, 1978, while President Jimmy Carter was attempting to work out the Camp David Peace Accords, he decided to take a little break and visit the Gettysburg battlefield. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Carter walked the battlefield in hopes of finding common ground on the pressing issues at hand. Before long and to everyone's surprise, President Sadat was dominating the conversation, expounding on the battle since he had studied it in military school in Egypt. While at the National Cemetery, Prime Minister Begin was able to recite the Gettysburg Address from memory.
The Gettysburg National Military Park, an internationally famous battlefield, a destination of world leaders, and it is situated in our own backyard.