Gettysburg 150th Brings Thousands To Programs, Battlefield, Reenactments
By Kathryn Jorgensen
(August 2013 Civil War News)
An estimated 15,000 marchers fell in with NPS ranger-led brigades to follow the route of Pickett’s Charge on July 3. (Nancy Jennis Olds)
Rep. Scott Perry delivers greetings of Congress for the 75th anniversary of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial dedication. At right is Charles E. Kuhn Jr., past commander of the Pennsylvania Department, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, which hosted the program. (Helen S. Schwartz)
GETTYSBURG, Pa. — By almost any standard the Battle of Gettysburg 150th anniversary commemoration from June 28 to July 7 was a success.
Gettysburg National Military Park spokesman Katie Lawhon said the commemoration was “really satisfying and really rewarding.” She added, “We feel we met our goal of trying to engage visitors with the meaning of Gettysburg and why places like Gettysburg are important to save for future generations.”
Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau Norris Flowers said, “The 150th anniversary was a great success. We saw visitors from around the world, both as spectators and as participants in the many events that took place during this commemoration.”
The National Park Service had some extra stress shortly before anniversary programs began. The most upsetting was the unexpected death of Supervisory Ranger Clyde Bell (see obituary this issue). He oversaw the park’s museum and visitor center operations and interpretive staff operations.
In announcing his death to the park community Lawhon wrote, “This news comes as a huge blow to park and Foundation staff and LBGs [Guides] who have worked with Clyde for many years.”
Then on the evening of June 25 a storm tore through parts of the battlefield, taking down trees and branches, ripping the bronze Mahone’s Brigade tablet off its pedestal on West Confederate Avenue and lifting the 72nd Pennsylvania Regiment bronze soldier off the monument’s granite base at The Angle.
The statue of the Zouave swinging his rifle two-handed like a club was put back in place the next day to await repairs after the 150th.
No serious incidents or accidents were reported at the park despite thousands of people attending lectures, tours and living history programs.
People who stayed home could watch 12 hours of live coverage on CPAN-3’s American History TV, see a webcast of the July 7 Pickett’s Charge, watch videos on Breitbart TV, follow social media and read, hear and see coverage in USA Today and other newspapers and on NPR and TV across the country.
Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) ran live coverage of the June 30 ceremony and three days of live coverage with battle walks, historian and author interviews.
Here are some facts and figures about the 10 days of events:
NPS & Gettysburg Foundation
- 8,000 to 10,000 people attended the June 30 commemorative ceremony, “Gettysburg: a New Birth of Freedom”
- After the ceremony the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment — The Old Guard, the Army’s memorial and ceremonial unit, fired a 21-gun howitzer salute to start the procession to Soldiers’ National Cemetery where luminaries lit 3,500 graves
- 750 children earned Junior Ranger badges and certificates
- Rangers led nine Confederate brigades estimated at 15,000 people on the mile walk across Pickett’s Charge field on July 3
- 20,000-25,000 people watched them from the Union battle line
- 12 buglers played echo Taps along the line when the sides met
- Rangers provided 287 programs to approximately 111,000 visitors from July 1-4
- Museum and Visitor Center attendance of 15,000 on the busiest days broke records
- More than 900,000 people viewed the park’s Facebook updates
- 10 additional NPS public information officers assisted at the park. Among the foreign media Lawhon spoke to were Voice of Russia and a TV crew from Czechoslovakia.
- 235,000 people visited Gettysburg
- 400 events were held during the 10 days
- 700 media representatives from 150 outlets including network television outlets, metro newspapers, wire services, international publications, broadcast outlets and hundreds of local journalists were credentialed.
- 67,613 people rode the free Freedom Transit trolleys
- approximately 40,000 people visited information tents in the satellite parking lots
- 50,000 free bottles of water were handed out at the information tents
- Gettysburg photography historian and author William Frassanito was featured in a Washington Post story in which Frassanito talked about his study of the battlefield’s photography and topography.
Thanks to him we know that photographer Alexander Gardner staged the dead Confederate sharpshooter at Devil’s Den. By searching the battlefield for a split rock, Frassanito determined that a series of Gardner photos were of the same dead taken from different angles.
- Ruth Angeli, 90, of St. Petersburg, Fla., who had attended the 1938 Eternal Light Peace Memorial dedication, visited in June. She posed for the Gettysburg Times with the Evergreen Cemetery statue of her great-grandmother, Elizabeth Thorn. Angeli spent a night in Thorn’s bed and bedroom at the cemetery gatehouse.
When Thorn, whose husband was away with the 138th Pennsylvania Infantry, returned to her gatehouse home after the battle to find the area strewn with dead. Though pregnant, she buried 91 bodies.
- The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee (GAC), host of the July 4-7 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment, presented $50,000 from reenactor registration fees to five local preservation and service groups.
- The borough’s July 3 evening Independence Day parade was cancelled on short notice after a stolen car crashed into a house on Highland Avenue. Not knowing what they were dealing with, and needing manpower for the scene, the police chief cancelled the parade, but the fireworks show went on.
- More than 50 volunteers from the United States Volunteers did site preparation for the Blue-Gray Alliance’s June 28-30 Battle of Gettysburg 150th Commemoration and Reenactment. They used 80 tons of stone and 1,400 feet of fencing to make an exact replica of the July 3 Union defensive positions against the Confederate assault.
The horizontal 400-foot front wall and rear stone wall were connected by a third wall making the “angle.” Rail fencing and a copse of trees recreated the original scene.
- Gettysburg College has a free app titled “The Gettysburg College: Witness to History,” a 1.2-mile historical walking tour through the campus and town. The college’s Majestic Theater is showing “Addressing Gettysburg,” a 15-minute film about the Gettysburg Address, every half hour from 12 to 6 p.m. this summer.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a Gettysburg site updated daily with video, contemporary and historical stories and front page reprints. Viewers learned that on July 3, 1863, copies of The Philadelphia Inquirer with the first day’s battle account were sold on the battlefield by a newsboy who brought the papers on horseback from Westminster, Md.
The story was written by Uriah Hunt Painter. He arrived in Gettysburg the night of July 1, wrote the story, returned to Baltimore July 2 and received War Department approval to telegraph it to his newspaper.
The Inquirer launched the story of the dead Union soldier found clutching an image of his three children. Publications across the country were asked to help identify him and copies of the ambrotype image were sold to raise funds. Sgt. Amos Humiston of Portville, N.Y., Co. C, 154th New York, is remembered with a monument on Stratton Street near where he died.
- Reenactors from 22 countries including Bahamas, Brazil, Denmark, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and Wales attended the GAC event.