Trump's Campaign Stops Draw Parallels With Civil War Battles Trump visited the site of Pickett's Charge, a failed Confederate assault on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
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A Civil War History Lesson On Trump's Visit To Gettysburg

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A Civil War History Lesson On Trump's Visit To Gettysburg

A Civil War History Lesson On Trump's Visit To Gettysburg

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to finish up today's program talking about politics, as the 2016 presidential campaign draws to a close. Don't worry though, there's a sweet ending you'll find out in a minute. But first, over the weekend, Republican Donald Trump and his campaign invoked historic metaphors in stops at Civil War battlefields over the weekend. That could be a useful lens, as NPR's Sarah McCammon reports.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: As Donald Trump laid out his closing pitch to voters in the key state of Pennsylvania, what better setting than an actual battleground?

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DONALD TRUMP: It's my privilege to be here in Gettysburg, hallowed ground, where so many lives were given.

MCCAMMON: Trump reiterated the major themes of his campaign, like cracking down on illegal immigration. He also promised to sue women who've come forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual contact. But first, he drew a parallel to the state of the nation during the Civil War.

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TRUMP: President Lincoln served in a time of division like we've never seen before. It is my hope that we can look at his example to heal the divisions we are living through right now.

MCCAMMON: Afterward, Trump visited the site of Pickett's Charge, a failed Confederate assault on the Union on the last day of the Battle at Gettysburg. Ahead of Trump's next stop at the conservative Christian Regent University in Virginia Beach, another Civil War battle came to mind.

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FRANK WAGNER: A-hundred-and-sixty-two years ago, in a place called the Wilderness right here in Virginia...

MCCAMMON: State Senator Frank Wagner told the large open-air crowd about a battle where the Confederate general refused to give up.

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WAGNER: The entire center or the rebel line was collapsing. Lee saw it. He ran to the sound of the gunfire.

MCCAMMON: We were in a war, Wagner said. And it's time to take the country back by getting out the vote for Trump.

JOHN FEA: That's an amazing metaphor, isn't it?

MCCAMMON: That's John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. He was attending a conference for Christian historians on the Regent campus. Fea noted that Pickett's Charge, a last-ditch effort at the end of a losing battle, could be seen as an unfortunate symbolic choice.

FEA: It was a big-time slaughter, but that was their only chance of getting out of Gettysburg alive with a victory. And that's pretty much what Trump's trying to do right now, right?

MCCAMMON: Whatever the outcome of the battle that will end on Election Day, Fea says he wonders about the direction of the civil war within the Republican Party that will rage on. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Virginia Beach.

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