The memorial was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 3rd, 1938, the 75th anniversary of the battle. One Union and one Confederate veteran unveiled the 47 1/2 foot tall shaft. Roosevelt compared the task of the men of the 1860’s with the men of his day: “All of them we honor, not asking under which Flag they fought then – thankful that they stand together under one Flag now.” In less than five years the sons and grandsons of these veterans would be standing together in unimaginably terrible battles against enemies around the world.
Over 250,000 people attended the dedication, with an estimated 100,000 more unable to make it due to overcrowded highways. Over 1,800 Civil War veterans attended what was to be the last reunion, all of them at least in their nineties. They lived in a luxurious tent camp complete with electricity and boardwalks set up in the fields north of Gettysburg College, attended by a host of Boy Scouts.
The memorial’s $60,000 cost was provided by donations from state both north and south. Its base is made of Maine granite, while the shaft is of a lighter colored Alabama limestone. The gas-lit eternal flame burned until 1979 when it was replaced by electricity, but it was restored in 1988. The monument was the inspiration for the eternal flame on President Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery.
From the monument:
Eternal Light Peace Memorial. Dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the observance of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1938
An enduring light to guide us in unity and fellowship.
With firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right. – Lincoln