GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) Ñ Sweat soaking their wool uniforms, the Union and
Confederate soldiers met near the stone wall to exchange handshakes,
pleasantries and even a few jokes.
On this warm, sticky Sunday afternoon, both North and South went home happy
after the Battle of Gettysburg.
Thousands of history buffs recreated the Confederate Army’s ill-fated
Pickett’s Charge to end the first of two massive re-enactments held in honor
of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s pivotal conflict.
But the events to remember the battle that took place July 1-3, 1863 are far
from over. The National Park Service took the spotlight Sunday night with
its commemoration ceremony, just about 100 yards from the actual point in
the battlefield where Pickett’s Charge was rebuffed.
“Tonight, we’re here to honor the dead; to recognize their courage and
heroism; and to mark this major event in American history,” Park Service
director Jonathan Jarvis told a crowd of several thousand that assembled at
dusk, facing a stage set against the picturesque backdrop of the fields and
hills where the fierce fighting took place.
“But I would suggest we’re also here to reaffirm the principles that
demanded such terrible sacrifices in the summer of 1863,” Jarvis continued.
“The ‘new birth of freedom’ President (Abraham) Lincoln spoke of was not a
finite event .... It was part of a process that continued long after the
Civil War and which, today, requires our constant vigilance.”
Up to 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died at Gettysburg, considered
the war’s turning point.
Earlier Sunday, Union re-enactor William Hincks was awed by the chance to
take part in the re-creation of the crucial battle.
“This has been unbelievable. The scale of it and the intensity those men
must have gone through,” Hincks, 40, of East Hampton, Conn., said. “It’s
intense without flying lead.”
More than 200,000 visitors were expected to swarm the south-central
Pennsylvania town of roughly 7,500 residents over the 10-day milestone
anniversary period ending July 7. Organizers said things were going smoothly
A different group is holding a second re-enactment, described by local
organizers as even larger in scale, set to begin on Independence Day.
Re-enactments are held on private properties, miles from the actual
In between, the Park Service hosts most of the spotlight events on the
actual anniversary days of the encounter, including popular battlefield
historical tours led by rangers.
“We expect to be ramping up as we head into July 1,” said Carl Whitehill,
spokesman for the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The
re-enactment at the end of the week is expected to be the big, big event.”
Yet another opportunity to see Pickett’s Charge Ñ the famous attack named
after Gen. George Pickett, the Virginia-born U.S. military officer who went
on to become one of the most recognizable names of the Confederate military.
The Confederate commander, Gen. Robert E. Lee decided to use Pickett’s men
to lead the assault on Union lines on July 3, 1863.
On Sunday, across an open stretch of grass as wide as two football fields,
Confederate re-enactors gathered in orderly lines and marched on federal
counterparts as thousands of spectators snapped pictures and took video.
“I got total, complete chills when I saw the Rebel line approaching,” said
Jackie Ulloa, 47, of Atlanta, who cheered on a friend taking part in the
re-enactment. “It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.”
That Confederate soldier who played “dead” but sneaked an iPhone out of his
pocket to snap a picture? Not realistic.
For rookie re-enactor Hincks, Pickett’s Charge was a chance to follow in the
footsteps of his great, great grandfather, Congressional Medal of Honor
winner William Bliss Hincks. Fighting for a unit from Connecticut, Hincks’
ancestor grabbed the colors of a Tennessee infantry unit during the
“high-water mark” of battle, which was also the northernmost advance by
Confederates on Union soil.
In a bit of cooperation unseen during the actual war, the Connecticut group
contacted the Confederate re-enactors portraying the Tennessee soldiers to
play out the scene again with Hincks grabbing the flag. Kierran Broatch, 30,
of Milford, Conn., also raced out with Hincks for the flag Ñ just like his
great, great grandfather, John C. Broatch, did 150 years ago.
A proud Hincks has his great, great grandfather’s sabre, too. It’s highly
unusual for a first-time re-enactor to be granted such a key role.
“It’s history, you want to understand your family and your past,” Hincks
said when asked why he took part this week.
Months of preparation later, Sandy Andrews, 55, of Hagerstown, Md.,
pronounced the scene a smashing success. He heads the group portraying the
“It worked to perfection,” he said. “To be on the field with two descendants
of the original men, you don’t get more special than that. On this day, on
Historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin delivered the keynote address. Her
best-selling novel “Team of Rivals” in part inspired last year’s
Oscar-winning film “Lincoln.”