Gettysburg on My Mind

Meet William and William.

William Franklin Hiatt

William Benjamin Van Hook

These are two of my great-great-grandfathers, who both served in the Civil War. Their grandson and granddaughter would later meet and marry because of World War II.

One, from Kansas, fought for the Union. He was likely still in his teens when this picture was taken. The other, from Kentucky, was one of Morgan’s Raiders who fought for the Confederacy. He was captured and held as a POW. His grandfather and their family fought in the American Revolution. His sons fought overseas in World War I.

Both survived the war and lived past the age of 80. About 750,000 of their fellow soldiers didn’t make it out of the war alive.

These facts are particularly sobering given that we are standing at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Most Americans have heard of the Gettysburg address. Fewer know what actually happened there, It was a three day long battle pitting friend against friend and brother against brother. There were over 50,000 casualties as the Confederate troops almost overwhelmed the Union troops but were then defeated. What happened at Gettysburg really determined the course of the Civil War.

It was carnage. Limbs flew and blood rained down upon the earth. Many of the soldiers who survived would later die of infections and other complications. Townspeople tended to the wounded at their own risk and certain parts of the battle were so convoluted that troops were ordered to stop shooting lest they hit their own men.

It was hell on earth.

Gettysburg Dead 2

After a busy day I just needed to sit down and take a moment to acknowledge what happened at Gettysburg. From a military history perspective, the strategy and personalities involved are fascinating. From a human perspective, the cost in lives was staggering. And 150 years later, we still have deep rifts in this country that pit friend against friend and brother against brother.

We are Americans. We must learn how to stand united in the face of the all the evil and darkness this world has to offer. There are forces that want to destroy our country and our way of life. We will not triumph over them unless we are able to stand together against them in spite of our differences.

In the year 2163, which is a century and a half from now, the same length of time it’s been since Gettysburg, I pray that the great-great-granddaughters of our current soldiers can still declare that they are free Americans thanks to the courage, loyalty, and fortitude of their forefathers.

I thank mine for being true to what they believed in and putting their lives on the line to defend it even though, technically, they were fighting against each other.



The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. -G. K. Chesterton


©2013 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

5 thoughts on “Gettysburg on My Mind

  1. HI Cousin, My grandmother was a VanHook. Her father was grandson to William VanHook. I’m so glad I found this sight. Was talking to my mother about her mom an my DNA test I just recently had done. An I did a google search on William VanHook an a picture I have of him and it happens to be the one you have ( the second one). Hoping we could get to know each other. Thank you for
    writing this. I read it to my mom while on the phone with her an she enjoyed it.


    1. Hi! If you reply with a comment that has an email address, please remind me not to approve it so that it’s not posted publicly. I’ll email you back. Glad to “meet” you!


  2. Your ancestor William Van Hook is my 4th cousin 3x removed, if I’m close to figuring the line. Can I add his photo to my ancestry database for him? Larry M. Van Hook, Fort Bragg, NC


    1. Hi cousin! Sure, feel free. Good to meet another Van Hook. We have a long, proud history. William was one of Morgan’s Men (aka Morgan’s Raiders).


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