Two months have passed since Pat Horne, Bob Hale, and I arrived in Gettysburg during the 150th anniversary festivities honoring the warriors who fought there in ’63. Let me literally set the stage for one popular aspect of the historic week: an official Civil War re-enactment.
Two such re-enactments of Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary took place, the first on June 28-30 and the second on July 4-7. Pat, Bob, and I attended the latter, titled “The 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.”
Organizers sited this re-enactment on Table Rock Road, which intersects with Carlisle Road (Route 34) a few miles north of Gettysburg. Where Table Rock Road passes between two ridges — higher than Cemetery or Seminary — the opposing armies established their camps, the Confederates along the mixed open fields and wooded slopes to the west and the Union boys atop the open ridge to the east. Woods covered the northern edge of “Union Ridge” (my designation) and provided good shade for the cavalry and artillery horses.
From the valley created by the ridges, Civil War buffs pulling into the visitor parking area (we never used it, but we walked through it) could see all the re-enactment facilities spreading up and over “Union Ridge.” Nearest and perpendicular to Table Rock Road was the topographically and appropriately named Lower Grandstand, as impressive a grandstand as any found on a Maine collegiate football field. People sitting there (for an additional $10 per person) looked north across the fields and woods where the battles took place.
A farm lane rising uphill behind the Lower Grandstand provided access to vendors along the lower slope and to the ridge top-perched Upper Grandstand, which in its sheer size could rival any collegiate grandstand in northern New England. Set parallel to Table Rock Road, the Upper Grandstand faced west.
Placed near the Upper Grandstand were an Activities Tent, an Authors and Artists Tent, and a Patriotic Tent. A few farm buildings stood behind the Upper Grandstand, and just east of these buildings was the Living History Village.
Of all the Civil War re-enactments that I have attended, this particular one provided the best overall camp and battlefield views. From atop “Union Ridge,” visitors enjoyed excellent views to the west and northwest of Table Rock Road valley and “Confederate Ridge” (my designation), where a hardwood forest obscured most camp sites. Where the ridge’s lower slope emerged from the trees, white tents spread across a fence-enclosed paddock that reached the road. Confederate battle and regimental flags fluttered where specific units had camped.
Throughout the four-day re-enactment, visitors could walk through the various camps and meet and talk with re-enactors. The 90-plus degree heat seemed stifling to shorts- and T-shirt-clad visitors; I cannot imagine how men and women — yes, female re-enactors took up arms on both sides, at least in this modern version of the Civil War — wearing heavy wool could withstand the heat.
We did hear that the morning battle on July 4 ended early after at least one re-enactor passed out on the battlefield.
Fortunately for visitors, food vendors were liberally scattered around “Union Ridge.” Cold bottled water and fresh-squeezed lemonade were in high demand, and I discovered that a $5 pulled pork sandwich was best enjoyed in a shady spot.
Beneath the broiling Adams County sun, even a tent’s shadow provided some relief.
During the next few weeks I will discuss various aspects of this particular re-enactment. Organizers pulled out all the stops, except for sufficient water for deployed Confederate re-enactors prior to the evening battle on July 4 (and that situation was quickly remedied), and any visitor who left without learning more about the Civil War simply did not pay attention.