This series of Everyday Conversations is about a family traveling to each of the 50 states in the U.S. Join the family members as they learn about local pastimes and history. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

In this conversation, the family plans a trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a significant place in American Civil War history.


Paul: I know that you want to go to Philadelphia, but first we’re going to spend some time in Gettysburg. It’s an important historical place.

Gina: Absolutely. The U.S. might be different today if the Confederate States Army had won the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

Claudine: Why was that battle so important?

Paul: It was a turning point in the war. The Confederate Army tried to invade the North, but the Union Army won the battle. The Confederate Army retreated.

Gina: And shortly after the Union won the battle, President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address.

Paul: And in his speech, he reminded people of the Founding Fathers’ idea that “all men are created equal.”

Claudine: I believe that. All men and women deserve the same freedoms and rights. I think I’m going to like Gettysburg.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

Gettysburg is an area in the state of Pennsylvania. It is the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the largest battles of the American Civil War.

A Confederate was a soldier or person who supported the Confederacy during the Civil War in the United States. The Confederacy (or The Confederate States of America) consisted of states in the southern region of the U.S. The Confederacy declared its secession (secession: the act of separating from a nation) from the U.S. following the election of President Lincoln. President Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery (and later ended slavery), which the Confederacy did not agree with. The U.S. government rejected the Confederacy’s secession.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a three-day battle (July 1–3, 1863) during the American Civil War. It had the largest number of casualties (casualties: the people who are killed or injured) in the entire war.

A turning point is a time when an important change takes place.

In a battle, to retreat is to move away from the opposing side.

The American Civil War (or, simply the Civil War) was a war between the Confederacy (sometimes called the South) and the Union (sometimes called the North). The war was fought from 1861 to 1865 to decide if the Confederacy would become independent. After four years of fighting, the Confederacy lost and slavery was abolished (abolished: officially ended).

President Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. He served from 1861 until he was killed in April 1865. Lincoln led the U.S. through the Civil War, abolished slavery in the U.S., and strengthened the government.

The Gettysburg Address was a speech given by President Lincoln a few months after the Battle of Gettysburg. In his speech, he reminded the audience of the Founding Fathers’ ideas for the future.

The Founding Fathers refers to some of the individuals of the first U.S. colonies who helped separate from the rule of the British government, leading to the formation of the United States. A few key Founding Fathers include Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily. The American English for Educators Facebook page posts teaching materials for English-language teachers daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Learn more about planning a trip to the U.S. and applying for a tourist visa.