Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gettysburg Cyclorama

When we were in Gettysburg, we visited the Gettysburg Cyclorama at the Gettysburg War Memorial. This was an incredibly moving experience for both of us and one of the highlights of our trip east.

Briefly, the cyclorama is a series of paintings begun by a French artist named Paul Phillipoteaux back in 1882 or almost 20 years after the actual battle at Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) took place. The aggregate works are presented in a 360 degree panorama with lighting, living plants and shrubs and other special effects creating a three-dimensional illusion of immediacy that translates into eerie reality.

One can "feel" the cold and grey dawn after the final battle, followed by a subtle red which imbues the sky and is reminiscent of the blood that has been shed. This is followed by a mist moving swiftly across the sky as the smoke from the now silent cannons rises above the dead and wounded.

The statistics are brutal: over 51,000 combined casualties, 569 tons of ammunition expended, 5,000 horses killed.

The exhibition is so real and so heart-breaking, one is filled both with horror and pride: horror that man can bring such havoc to his brother; pride that courage and sacrifice were just as evident on that long ago battlefield.

This is unequivocably the single most powerful memorial of the Civil War that I've ever witnessed.

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