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Today in history: The Battle of Gettysburg rages on
In 1863, the final day of the Civil War's most pivotal battle
 
Visitors to the Soldiers' National Cemetery stand in front of the site of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on July 2, 2013 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Visitors to the Soldiers' National Cemetery stand in front of the site of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on July 2, 2013 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. John Moore/Getty Images

July 3, 1863: America's future was much in doubt on this day in 1863 — as the final day of the Civil War's most pivotal battle, Gettysburg — unfolded. Many historians call the Battle of Gettysburg the turning point of the Civil War, when Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North was stopped. But the Union victory came at a horrendous price. The battle lasted three days and produced the greatest number of casualties in the entire Civil War: 46,286 dead, wounded, or missing. The Civil War killed some 618,000 Americans in four years — about 2 percent of the nation's population.

July 3, 1938: On the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, President Roosevelt dedicated an Eternal Light Memorial, an event attended by 1,870 Civil War veterans (average age: 94). The eternal flame at Gettysburg (now powered by electricity) was Jacqueline Kennedy's inspiration, a quarter-century later, for the eternal flame over her husband's grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

July 3, 1958: President Eisenhower signed the Rivers and Harbors Flood Control Bill, which allocated funds to improve flood-control and water-storage systems across the country.

July 3, 1979: President Carter signed a secret directive ordering aid to opponents of a pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan.

July 3, 1986: President Reagan presided over the relighting of the renovated Statue of Liberty. It was Lady Liberty's 100th anniversary.

Quotes of the Day

"All of them we honor, not asking under which Flag they fought then — thankful that they stand together under one Flag now." —Franklin D. Roosevelt at the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial

“We too dare to hope — hope that our children will always find here the land of liberty in a land that is free." —Ronald Reagan

"Leadership to me means duty, honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time." —George W. Bush

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