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
"Leadership to me means duty, honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time." —George W. Bush
More from West Wing Reports...
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How Ronald Reagan turned America into a nation of children
- Why Mitt Romney is perfectly poised for a comeback in 2016
- The Nazi smart bomb that inspired China's most dangerous weapon
- The crusade against Iraq War supporters has forgotten someone: Hillary Clinton
- 8 things the world's most extraordinary survivors can teach you about resilience
- Why is the West so afraid of Islam?
- This week I learned the moon might be littered with dinosaur fossils, and more
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Why scientists can't kill HIV
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week