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Tens of thousands expected at 150th Gettysburg Battle Re-enactment

Richard D. L. Fulton

(12/19) The Battle of Gettysburg, fought between the forces of Union President Abraham Lincoln and those of the Confederate States of America from July 1 through July 3, 1863, was one of the bloodiest stalemates ever fought by American troops.

For three days, more than 150,000 combatants hammered away at each other in and around the then almost-unheard of village Gettysburg in rural Adams County, Pennsylvania, ultimately leaving behind a trail of destruction that included nearly 35,000 casualties almost equally divided among the two sides.

By day three of the engagement, neither side could make any headway against the other, leading Confederate General Robert E. Lee to attempt one last effort on July 3, an ill-fated thrust of 15,000 men (and women) at the Union lines that came to be known as Pickettís Charge.

When the smoke had cleared and the Southern forces began to fall back to Virginia, it took days to count the dead, the bodies of more than 1,000 of which have never been found, and months to burn the horses left behind on the so-called "fields of glory." The debris of battle remains beneath the soil of Gettysburg and the surrounding areas to this day.

In July, this year, thousands of Civil War reenactors will converge on the Gettysburg area for what will likely be an unparalleled reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg in recognition of its 150th anniversary, and itís entirely possible that the numbers of soldiers will set a new record for the size of a historical reenactment in the United States.

Adams County Commissioner Randy Phiel has acted as the operations and incident commander for the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee for the past 18 years.

Phiel told the News-Journal that between 8,000 and 15,000 reenactors were expected at this yearís landmark event, "plus several hundreds of horses and over 100 cannons already registered to participate."

From 50,000 to 75,000 spectators are expected to attend the event over the course of its four days.

Phiel stated that rooms in the area were "booked within 20 minutes" of the eventís announced dates and plans, "but are still available within 30 minutes (from town, such as in Hanover, Westminster, Carlisle, York, Chambersburg, or Frederick."

The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee is planning a four-day event this year, from July 4 through July 7, to be held on approximately 1,000 acres at the Redding and Entwistle family properties along Table Rock Road.

Reenactors and spectators are expected from around the world. Gernot Duda, a Confederate cavalry reennactor in GroBostheim, Bavaria, told the News-Journal, he is booking his flight this month to attend. "To participate in the 150th Gettysburg reenactment was a big dream of mine, and it's also a good opportunity to meet some members of our US sister companies of the 1st North Carolina Cavalry."

The event will consist of a myriad of battle reenactments and period medical, home front and music demonstrations and presentations, as well as food and merchandise vendors. The event will hold two battle reenactments a day, except on Saturday when there will be three.

A special medal will also be presented during the event honoring reenactors who were present at the historic 100th anniversary of the battle in 1963. "During the 150th Gettysburg National Reenactment you (100th anniversary reenactors) will be recognized with a special pin, a proclamation from the state Senate of Pennsylvania and will be honored at the Pickettís Charge wall with a 100-gun salute," the committee stated.

For additional information, visit the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee website at gettysburgreenactment.com.

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