Robert E. Lee's battered army limped southward 150 years ago, struggling to regroup after the ordeals of Gettysburg.

The Union victory at the small Pennsylvania crossroads town helped put the confederacy on the road to defeat, thus helping Abraham Lincoln achieve his goal of preserving the Union.

It was a theme he emphasized four months later in his Gettysburg Address: "... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Today that government, which survived due to the epic sacrifices made at Gettysburg and elsewhere, sometimes can't get out of its own way.

The 150th anniversary of the battle was a perfect time for the federal government to acquire the historic train station where Mr. Lincoln arrived to make his address, and 45 nearby acres for inclusion in the Gettysburg National Military Park.

It's a no-brainer. The private Gettysburg Foundation plans to buy the property from Gettysburg Borough and donate it to the federal government.

Yet Congress hasn't been able to reconcile different House and Senate versions of the bill, even though neither version commits the government to spending any money.

Sen. Bob Casey's bill would enable the Department of the Interior to buy land from willing sellers when it fails to acquire it at no cost, while prohibiting the use of eminent domain.

Rep. Scott Perry, a York County Republican, has sponsored the House bill, which deals with the Gettysburg property alone. He says the Casey version could open the door to future spending by the Interior Department, but Congress controls that budget, like all other federal budgets

Congress should see to the acquisition by Nov. 19, the 150th anniversary of Mr. Lincoln's speech, thus validating his faith in government of, by and for the people.