It’s not exactly party time. Dramatic observance? Well, yeah. More than 300,000 curious, enthusiastic, reverent and occasionally overwhelmed Americans and international visitors are expected to descend upon Pennsylvania to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg, fought 15 decades ago from July 1 to July 3, 1863.
By the battle’s end, the Union’s Army of the Potomac repelled the second invasion of the North by the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia, and more than 51,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were wounded, missing, or dead.
Folks can’t forget that these days.
The region around the battlefield began a one-week commemoration of the historic events on Saturday; it is good for the local economy, and good for those with imaginative interpretation skills. There are 400 official events, countless hotel and inn specials, hallowed trail walks, ceremonies, speeches, silent moments, a culinary tour - this conducted right at the Gettysburg National Military Park.
“The fare will be based on dishes from the Civil War period, yet will add a contemporary twist. This is a patriotic event,” notes Brian Stapleton, spokesman for Aramark, the commercial food service group providing such fare as pan seared red snapper, cod and red rum cake.
Two major reenactments organized by the Blue Gray Alliance and the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee will be staged on private lands near the actual battlefield, which is overseen by the less bellicose National Park Service. The aforementioned committee reports that its 10,000 reeneactors hail from 16 foreign countries and all 50 states.
There are 375 horses involved, and 135 cannons. Naturally, the organizing “generals” behind it all have carefully planned their own battles, using Powerpoint presentations to map out their days, not to mention a mammoth registration and check-in.
“The power point presentation actually included troop movements during each scenario. Kudos to the command staff for their hard work,” reports an eyewitness to the planning meeting earlier this month.
“The feeling that prevailed was that the boys are ready to hit the battlefield for this very special event.”
And from the Blue Gray Alliance, a sampling of a few reenactor regulations:
“No discharge of any firearm before 8:30 a.m. or after 11:00 p.m. No pedestrian traffic on any paved roads in the area. Event boundaries are marked and must be respected; no trespassing on neighboring properties. No alcohol. No latrines.”