"GETTYSBURG: The Third Day is a tone poem in three continuous sections composed by Jay Dawson. While it describes actual chronological events, it seeks also to portray the human experience and tragedy of these events.
July 3, 1863 dawned oppressively hot. Whatever sounds of nature had not been silenced by the previous two days of fighting could be heard in the early hours. For many, it was a time of waiting, reflecting, dozing. The sounds of distant rumbling, restless horses, a far-off bugle blended into half-conscious dreams. Remnants of a marching song, oddly distorted, lingered in one's mind.
Shortly after 1:00 p.m., a cannon shot broke the eerie stillness, quickly followed by another. From this signal, the air was suddenly filled with Confederate artillery fire. For the next 90 minutes, a cannonade ensued, thought to be the loudest sound ever heard in this hemisphere. Far from routing the Union troops, however, it confirmed their expectations of what was about to happen.
At 3:00 o'clock, in perfect order, wave after wave of Rebel infantry emerged from a line of trees as far as the eye could see. Crossing gently rolling fields, over 10,000 men created one of the most awesome spectacles in military history. At first the Union troops held their fire, waiting carefully until the enemy was within effective range. Finally their guns opened in murderous combat. Screams of men could be heard over the din of weaponry. Against the seemingly endless onslaught of Confederates, the Federal lines held. Each participant must have had his own sense of turning point. Slowly the battle dissipated. The Southern forces retreated across the same fields now littered with dead and dying. Soon a warm rain was falling.
The gentle, serene countryside belies the unspeakable violence that took place that day in July. In the years that have passed, Gettysburg has indeed become 'hallowed ground.' The piece ends as solemn remembrance of the sacrifice and heroism exhibited there."