SCHOHARIE, NY--(Marketwire - July 13, 2010) -  Every summer while many Americans get ready for Fourth of July barbecues, one of the most significant events in U.S. history often gets overlooked -- The Battle of Gettysburg, which took place July 1-3, 1863.

"The commercialization of Independence Day tends to overshadow this turning point in our history," said Frank Meredith, Civil War expert and author of the Civil War novel The Unfinished Work ( "Most people don't realize that if Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had managed to take Harrisburg and threaten Philadelphia, public pressure on President Abraham Lincoln to end the war would probably have been overwhelming."

On the Fourth of July, 1863, Lee's Army retreated from Northern soil. The Union victory and the dramatic number of casualties -- nearly 51,000 Americans -- set the stage for Lincoln's trip to Gettysburg later in November to share a "few brief remarks" at the dedication of the National Cemetery. Known today as the Gettysburg Address, his words are widely regarded as the most important speech in American history.

"That's the reason I called my book The Unfinished Work," Meredith said. "It's a phrase that Lincoln used to refer to the unfinished work of the Founding Fathers, who had failed in their attempt to outlaw slavery from the very beginning of our country. Though the Civil War won the freedom of four million enslaved African-Americans, it did not win their equality. It took the Civil Rights movement one hundred years later to finally move that process forward."

While Lincoln encouraged his listeners in 1863 "to be dedicated here to the unfinished work," Meredith believes this challenge is just as important today.

"Achieving freedom for all, while esteeming each other as equals, is humankind's unfinished work. To rid the world of bigotry, we need only to treat each other with dignity and respect. After all, isn't that what everyone wants? Then we will truly live up to Lincoln's words that 'these dead shall not have died in vain.'"

About Frank Meredith

Frank Meredith grew up in Hanover, Pennsylvania, and he has been a Civil War buff since witnessing the 100th Anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Hanover in 1963. His non-fiction writing has appeared in several newspapers and journals, and he working on three more Civil War books.

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Rachel Friedman