In July 2013, my family and I visited Gettysburg, PA on the way home from a family vacation. We specifically stopped here because we knew the town of the infamous battle was celebrating a 150th anniversary. It was supposed to be huge.
And it was. There are obviously perks to visiting a small town during a national remembrance. However, what comes with it are headaches, lots of waiting (everywhere!), no parking, and dealing with lots and lots of people. We still decided to spend two days there, knowing that the visiting conditions would not be ideal for us. I have to add also, it was over 90 degrees with very high humidity. It was going to be a sticky few days.
In addition to special events being held at the Visitor’s Center, there was a massive battle reenactment that we were going to see outside of town. Even though we had reservations for the grandstands, we still arrived at the site a few hours earlier than the battle, just to ensure getting a good seat.
Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to participate in the big event. They even stayed in camps near the battlefield. These reenactors are serious business – they live and breathe like the soldiers, many even bringing their families to reenact with them.
The North, in their navy uniforms, arrived first, on foot and on horseback. (Keep in mind it was incredibly hot and these reenactors were wearing wool uniforms!)
The Southern soldiers took their places, waving their confederate flags, as the North approached.
As the front lines prepared to fight, President Lincoln was at the back of the battle, as were the other senior military advisors. More Northern troops and canons gathered far behind the front lines.
As the battle began, the soldiers, in the stifling heat, shot off their rounds and engaged in combat. The North kept their line while the South had a weaker formation and fewer numbers. Wounded warriors on both sides fell to the ground, canons fired, and drums sounded.
There was so much activity going on. The soldiers were battling all over the field. Some in hand to hand combat, others with guns or canons. I couldn’t get over the number of reenactors. My hats off to them – they did a wonderful job.
The battle eventually ended with the South retreating. The Northern soldiers trotted off the battlefield on horseback and on foot, marking the end of the reenactment.
Overall, it was a unique experience for my family and I. It was so well done we felt like we stepped back in time. There was so much to see during battle – you always had something new to watch. I know the reenactment is done each year, but I don’t think it’s done with the magnitude of reenactors as this occasion was. Celebrating 150 years was a big deal.
If you are ever near Gettysburg, be sure to stop and visit the National Military Park. Visit around the 4th of July for special events and battle reenactments. Visit Soldiers’ National Cemetery and take the driving tour around the park.
Walking by the empty battlefields seem can eerie at times…as if time just stopped. Come to Gettysburg, remember the battle, and honor those whose lives were lost.