Ten thousand re-enactors take part in 150th anniversary of Gettysburg
Starting this weekend, the Gettysburg National Military Park will host dozens of events to commemorate the famous battle that took place July 1-3 in that small Pennsylvania town.
One of the highlights will be a re-enactment of the battle featuring about 10,000 men. This will be one of the largest civil war re-enactments ever undertaken as participants will seek to recreate Pickett's charge.
This weekend and through July 7, between 200,000 and 300,000 visitors -- more than the number of combatants -- will flock to the town and fields of Gettysburg National Military Park to mark the 150th anniversary of the three-day clash, which cost an incredible 51,000 casualties.
Pickett's Charge will be the climactic event of a large re-enactment this weekend outside of park boundaries. On July 3, the actual anniversary of the attack, National Park Service rangers will guide thousands of visitors in loose formation across a gently rolling field. Others will stand where Federal regiments poured rifle and artillery fire into the arc of Confederates.
The event ends with the playing of Taps by multiple musicians, a solemn remembrance of selfless sacrifice by the warriors at Gettysburg.
Times have changed since previous anniversary observances, including the 1938 reunion, at which grizzled veterans of the battle met at Gettysburg one last time in an event known for reconciliation. They shook hands across that famous wall at the Angle. Some let out the haunting Rebel Yell.
The 150th commemoration of the battle will tell a wider story than previous observances, officials told CNN.
"For decades, people came here for military and black powder," said Carl Whitehill, media relations manager for the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Now they want to know about the civilians and what they endured during and after the battle."
Mike Litterst of the National Park Service said interpretations at federal Civil War battlefields have evolved in the past 25 years. Besides telling the story of the battles and the homefront, exhibits increasingly stress the importance of the conflict to civil rights and the role of African-Americans, thousands of whom served in the Union Army.
About 400 events are planned over 10 days, including a second battle re-enactment next weekend.
There were 13,000 re-enactors who spent several days in and around Gettybsurg for the film of that name. They paid their own way, provided their own props and uniforms and fought the battles presented on screen using the same tactics used by the combatants at the time.
Re-enacting looks romantic, but is actually very hard work and you can spend a small fortune acquiring all the accoutrements necessary. The uniforms are made of wool and are incredibly uncomfortable in hot weather.
But it is a labor of love and the authenticity of the re-enactors is awesome - right down to the salt pork and hard tack they would eat for meals.
The Gettysburg battlefield is one of the most astounding National Parks we have. If you ever get the chance to go, I would highly recommend it.