One hundred and fifty years ago, and 50 years ago, respectively, Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy visited the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania battlefield where 50,000 American soldiers had been killed, wounded and captured during three days of fighting on July 1-3, 1863.

MapArmiesToGetty Day1Map Day2Map Day3Map

Godcidently, the battle culminated in a Union victory on July 4th -- the 87th anniversary of the creation of the Union in 1776 -- or, in Lincoln's words, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation...".


Lincoln was in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 to dedicate and consecrate the hallowed ground where "these brave men" lay buried in a new national cemetary.

GettysburgAddress GettysburgCemetary MapGettysburgCemetary

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is considered one of the greatest speeches in the history of the English language -- and, in fact, JFK used it as a model for his Inaugural Address -- a speech that also "belongs to the ages".

Actually, the lives of Lincoln and Kennedy run parallel so often that whenever I think of JFK's famous line, "the torch has been passed to a new generation" I say, instead, "the HAT has been passed to a new generation", as personified in the picture below:

LincolnTopHat JFKTopHat

It isn't talked about often, but JFK was one of the most intellectual presidents in the history of the United States. JFK knew American history inside-out and he and Jackie were 'Civil War buffs". Jackie had enrolled in Civil War studies at Georgetown University when she and JFK were first married so that she could keep up with him in discussions about the Civil War.

The 100th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address occured during JFK's presidency and he was invited to speak at the centennial celebrations at Gettysburg on November 19, 1963. But JFK couldn't attend because he had a rendezvous with death in Dallas three days later and his schedule didn't allow for Gettysburg.

But eight months previously -- on Sunday, March 31, 1963 -- JFK had visited Gettysburg in an unofficial capacity as a tourist at the national park. No one had known JFK was coming except for the Gettysburg guide who JFK had personally phoned to request a tour for himself and his group -- which included Jackie (who was three months pregnant with Patrick), five-year-old Caroline, and friend Paul Fay and his family.

In his 1966 book about his friendship with JFK, Fay described their visit to Gettysburg (excerpted below with pics from various sources at pertinent places):


(The story of a twenty-one-year friendship with John F Kennedy
from his days in the Pacific through his years in the White House)
by Paul Fay, Under Secretary of the Navy 61-65


...One Thursday night the President rang me up at our home in McLean.

"Red we're going down to see the battlefield at Gettysburg on Saturday. Catch up on your Civil War history so I don't have to take you through grammar school history in front of your children. We're not going down just to stare blankly at rocks, fences and monuments."

Fortunately, we had two volumes on the Civil War published by American Heritage, which were excellent.

FayBkGetty GettysburgMapGreen GettysburgMapGreen

My wife and I studied all Thursday evening and again on Saturday morning before starting on our caravan to the battlefields.

The President drove a Mercury with the top down. Jacqueline and Caroline were in the front seat, and Anita, Sally and I had the back seat. Our other two children, Kathy and Paul, were directly behind us in the first of four Secret Service cars.

Just before we reached the battlefield area, we picked up a history teacher from the local high school who doubled as a guide.

Rarely did a man have a more miserable time. The Fays, crammed with facts and figures, were ready to challenge him or demand clarification on every point. When I'd get too obnoxious, the President would interject: "Professor _______, don't hesitate to give us the facts. I happen to know the extent of Secretary Fay's Civil War knowledge."

As we travelled from battle area to battle area, I was fascinated by the reaction of other people visiting the battlefields. As the first family was dressed very informally, and the Mercury convertible was not what you would normally expect a President of the United States to come driving up in, most people didn't realize it was the President until they practically bumped into him. Most of them respected his privacy, but they would almost fall over themselves to observe his every move.

The knowledge the President displayed about the Civil War amazed me. When we came to a certain area where a Boston or Massachusetts unit had fought, he recounted the battle with such detail that I could almost see it taking place. I kept expecting a Kelly or a Murphy to come charging up the gorge.

When we reached the place from which Pickett launched his charge, the battle was discussed at length. Before many minutes had passed, one of my previous idols, Robert E Lee, was toppled from his pedestal. It seemed incomprehensible that he would have committed such a great force on a frontal attack uphill without waiting to learn whether Stuart's cavalry was ready to attack the Union forces from the rear. Stuart never appeared. Pickett's men were slaughtered.

"Mr President, I'm surprised that Lee is held in such high esteem by the Southerners after such a catastrophe", I said.

"I'm sure there were some conditions behind his decisions that even the historians missed", the President said. "Besides, it had been a long campaign, and that may have sapped his strength. It's not fair to judge him a failure because of one defeat. Besides, he was more than just a military leader"....

~ end quoting Pleasure of His Company by Fay ~

The Gettysburg battlefield guide who conducted JFK's 1963 tour documented the experience and in 2009 the tour was re-enacted with real-time photos of JFK at the monuments -- excerpts of which are scanned below:


conducted March 1963 by Licensed Battlefield Guide (Colonel) Jacob Sheads
(re-enacted February 2009 by LBG Richard Goedkoop)
Gettysburg Daily

On Sunday, March 31, 1963, President John F. Kennedy with some friends and members of his family drove from a church service at Camp David, Maryland, to tour the Gettysburg Battlefield.


Their guide was Jacob Melchior Sheads, a longtime Gettysburg High School History Teacher and seasonal historian with the National Park Service... After President Kennedy called Sheads at his home in Gettysburg...the Secret Service showed up at Sheads's house on the afternoon of March 30, 1963, and he gave them a quick tour around the battlefield. They rehearsed a tour beginning on the first day's (July 1, 1863) field. They were then to progress down Seminary Ridge, concentrating on the second day, and driving down to Little Round Top, Devil's Den, and the Wheatfield. They were to end the tour at the High Water Mark, where Pickett's Charge did not succeed on July 3, 1863. Sheads and his family were told not to let anyone know about the Kennedy visit. Sheads was also told by the Secret Service to not let the President out of the car, and to tell reporters that the President was very knowledgeable... According to the schedule for March 31, 1963, the Kennedy party drove from Camp David to Gettysburg... There were three cars in the party. One car held White House reporters and photographers. One car was the Secret Service, and the lead car was President Kennedy's vehicle, with the President behind the wheel. Waiting at Edgewood Bowling lanes on the Emmitsburg Road, Colonel Sheads expected a Secret Service Agent to be driving the car, as he had been told on the previous day. When they pulled into the parking lot, however, Kennedy was behind the wheel....)


After President Kennedy picked up Colonel Sheads at the Edgewood Lanes Bowling Alley, they headed up the Emmitsburg Road, and Colonel Sheads began giving the tour. They drove by the high ground at the Peach Orchard and past the Klingel Farm... Colonel Sheads, who planned to take the President as quickly as possible to the first day's field was trying to set up the battle by bringing the armies to Gettysburg... Whatever happened, by the time that they reached the National Park Service entrance signs and driveway to the Cyclorama Visitor Center, Sheads recalled, "He said 'I want to turn here'."... So the President, with a carload of Secret Service agents and a carload of reporters and photographers behind him began making his way up Cemetery Ridge instead of to the first day's field... The President then made a right on Hancock Avenue... The President didn't want to stop at the new Cyclorama building. He kept driving south toward the Brian Farm... President Kennedy drove past the Brian buildings towards the High Water Mark... Colonel Sheads continued his narrative, "So he went right up to where the Angle is, you know"... Sheads said, "The Secret Service said never let him out. I couldn't stop the President, could I? He wanted to get out".

JFKgroupGuide JFKreadplaqueJackie

This would be the first of at least three times that President Kennedy got out of the car on this tour... As Sheads began talking, a crowd began to gather, and Caroline bent down to pick flowers... The Kennedy party then got back in their cars. They drove south just past the "clump of trees" or "copse of trees" at the High Water Mark when Colonel Sheads pointed out the monument to the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment... This monument is distinctive to its "pudding stone" surface... Colonel Sheads informed the President about the history of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.

After getting out at the "Angle", at the "High Water Mark" area, President Kennedy began driving south on Cemetery Ridge's Hancock Avenue. Kennedy's thoughtful questions led Sheads to think that Kennedy had prepared for the tour... When the President and his party (two or three other cars behind him) reached Little Round Top they walked to the summit along the path....

RoundTopHill RoundTopCannon

After visiting Little Round Top, the Kennedy party saw Devil's Den. However they drove through the area and did not get out. The group then drove by Rose's Wheatfield through which the Irish Brigade charged on July 2, 1863...towards the Stony Hill which the Irish temporarily occupied late in the afternoon of July 2, 1863. The monument to the 28th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment of the Irish Brigade is at the top of the Stony Hill/Loop area... Colonel Sheads decided to use a phrase on this monument to test how much President Kennedy knew about the Irish language... He pointed to the words on top of the monument that say FAUCH A BALLAUGH and asked President Kennedy if he knew what that meant. President Kennedy immediately said CLEAR THE WAY and Colonel Sheads knew Kennedy knew something about that Irish battle cry that dates back to 1798. In this area on July 2nd, 1863, Colonel Patrick Kelly's Irish Brigade swept into this area, confronted Kershaw's South Carolinians and were much later driven back further down the hill....

The Kennedy group left the Wheatfield area, then drove north along Seminary Ridge's West Confederate Avenue. They drove around the Virginia monument... After seeing the area around the North Carolina Monument, the tour wasn't over, but the President appears to have been anxious to get to the next part of the tour.


Here he waits for the rest of this party at the wheel of the Mercury... As Caroline and Mrs Kennedy reach the vehicle, the President might be pointing out how the Round Tops can be seen> from this location...

The Kennedy party reached Oak Hill and paused to look at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial (Peace Light).


Thanks to Mrs Deborah Deitch Mason we are able to show you a brief video clip... The video shows President John F Kennedy driving the vehicle to Oak Hill and his party looking at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.

At the end of the video, he is turned around and is driving back towards the camera. The video is sixteen seconds of footage that has not been seen by the general public. The video was shot by Betty J Ridinger Deitch and is courtesy of Mrs Deborah Deitch Mason. It was taken at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963. Let's take a moment and discover how the video was shot. Druid C Deitch was a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide at the time President Kennedy visited Gettysburg. He lived along the Mummasburg Road in the area where Oak Hill becomes Oak Ridge....


Druid Deitch's daughter, Mrs Deborah Deitch Mason e-mailed us: "On March 31, 1963, (I was 7 yrs old but remember it well) my Dad was giving tours on the battlefield and called our house to notify my Mom about the Kennedy visit and told us to get up to the Peace Light with the movie camera fast... I believe that my father just heard that Kennedy was on the field (probably from other guides -- his twin brother, David Deitch, was a guide too). I don't remember him saying he had encountered Kennedy himself. We went running up the field in a mad rush to get up the Peace Light. The Kennedy party arrived, with JFK driving the car, and my Mom shot some brief film footage and was warned by a Secret Service agent to not get any closer".

The video shows an earlier time in America when a President of the United States could drive around a public area without a top on the car. A time in America when an American citizen could walk up and be very close to the President with her movie camera until she was warned not to get any closer. To us, any closer and she would have been in the car with them....

The first frame of the film shows President Kennedy driving and looking... Frame #83 of the film shows Colonel Sheads in the front right of the vehicle pointing to the flame on the top of the Peace Light...

GettysburgFlame JFKflameJackie

Frames #177 and #302 of the film show President Kennedy and Mrs Kennedy looking at the Peace Light Monument/Eternal Flame...

There is some type of interruption to the filming (possibly the Secret Service Agent warning them to not get closer) and the Kennedys drive away. Then they came speeding back, driving in the opposite direction...and drove to the Mummasburg Road...turned right and sped off to the airport where Kennedy and his party boarded a helicopter and flew to Camp David. The motorcade of tourists was caught by surprise and the presidential party 'shook them off' in an easy fashion. Kennedy was gone before they realized what was happening....

Colonel Sheads would later say that Mrs Kennedy got the idea for President Kennedy's Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery from Eternal Light Peace Memorial at Gettysburg. She questioned him about it according to Colonel Sheads. If she didn't have a lot of time to do it at the monument, she certainly had a couple of minutes on the drive to the airport...

229 days after the visit to Gettysburg, Mrs Kennedy would light an eternal flame on her husband's grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

~ end quoting Gettysburg battlefield guide ~

In his Inaugural Address JFK had said, in language as stirring as Lincoln's, that freedom around the world was in maximum danger and that our generation would be called upon to defend it. I didn't really understand what he meant -- the world felt safe when JFK was alive.


Now, in these 50 years since JFK's death, I understand the danger. But the flame on JFK's grave is still flickering and the glow from that fire is truly lighting the world."

All the best,
Jackie Jura, 2013

watch Video Clip of President Kennedy at the Peace Light, Gettysburg Daily

John F Kennedy's Gettysburg Visit, Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 and Part 5 and Part 6, Gettysburg Daily, February 2009

JFKjohnCaroline Camp David, Wikipedia (Camp David is the country retreat of the President of the United States. It is located in wooded hills about 62 miles north-northwest of Washington, DC, in Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland.... John F. Kennedy and his family often enjoyed horseback riding and other recreational activities. Kennedy often allowed White House staff and cabinet members to use the retreat when he or his family were not there...)

watch Lincon At Gettysburg, 1951 Newsreel, YouTube

Gettysburg150mag2 Gettysburg150mag Gettysburg150magazines Battle of Gettysburg 150th Anniversary magazines

RevolutionWarBks LincolnBooks CivilWarBooksDVDs LincolnBksAssassination Washington/Lincoln/Civil War Books/DVDs owned by Jackie Jura

WhitmanCollectCvr PottsOrwellFriendCvr OrwellFace
(Whitman Press almost published Animal Farm)
LincolnMaliceNone CaptainMyCaptain
listen O Captain! My Captain! by Whitman watch
Email/YouTube, Sep 20, 2013
8.Classes of People

watch The American Revolutionary War
(from 1775 Lexington to 1781 Yorktown)
Declaration Independence crimethink in 1984
JFK reads Declaration Independence July 4, 1776
WashingtonRevolution WashingtonHorseback WashingtonCDsLife
Four score and seven years ago our fathers...
GettysburgLincolnPlaque LincolnGettysburgStage
Guide to Battle of Gettysburg 150th anniversary
(300,000 Civil War buffs/tourists at Gettysburg)
CivilWarBooks Gettysburg150magazines
(buff Jura's Civil War books/dvds/magazines)
Day1Map Day2Map Day3Map
(50,000 dead/wounded/captured)
July 1-3, 1863-2013
watch JFK visits Gettysburg 1963 video


















4.Old World Destruction

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~