Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary taking shape

Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary taking shape

Visitors from around the world are expected to converge on Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 2013 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War’s most famous battle.

The historic town is observing this important anniversary through 10 continuous days of ceremonies, programs, re-enactments and the opening of the Seminary Ridge Museum, ranging from June 28 through July 7, 2013.

“This is an exciting time for Gettysburg,” said Norris Flowers, President of the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau. “These 10 days will highlight not only the battle, but the fighting that occurred before and after Gettysburg, along with the heroic and tragic stories of the town’s own citizens in 1863.”

The commemoration will begin with the Gettysburg Foundation’s Sacred Trust Series, a collection of speakers and panelists focusing on a variety of Civil War-related subjects, along with living history encampments, programs, ceremonies and observances throughout the historic town and in nearby communities as part of the Gettysburg Campaign.

On June 30, Gettysburg National Military Park will hold a special commemorative ceremony, “Gettysburg: A New Birth of Freedom” on an outdoor stage near U.S. Gen. George Meade’s Headquarters on the Gettysburg battlefield. The event will include music, a keynote address, and “Voices of History,” a dramatic reading of eye witness accounts written by soldiers and citizens swept into the events of the battle and its tragic aftermath. The ceremony ends with a procession to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery where luminaries marking each of the more than 3,500 graves of soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg will be lit. National Park Service battle anniversary events will continue through July 4 with guided walks on the battlefield led by National Park Rangers and other special programs on the battlefield and in the park’s Museum and Visitor Center.  The June 30 ceremony is sponsored by Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation.

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On July 1, the grand opening of the Seminary Ridge Museum will take place on the campus of the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary. This museum will highlight the first day’s battle - of which it played a significant role - along with Civil War medicine and faith in battle.

“This museum is expected to provide an extraordinary experience,” said Flowers. “The building - used as a Civil War hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers - is one of the most historic in the United States. Soon visitors can walk the halls and learn about the important part it played in the war’s most famous battle.”

The Gettysburg Re-enactment, always a significant draw for visitors, will take place July 4-7. Over these four days, soldier and civilian re-enactors will re-create the 1860s, through battles, encampments and demonstrations. Visitors can get an up-close look at cavalry, artillery and the lives that soldiers led during the Civil War. Re-enactment organizers are expecting 15,000 re-enactors, thousands more civilian interpreters, 400 horses and 100 cannons.

Throughout the 10-day commemoration, several nearby towns will commemorate their respective roles in the Gettysburg campaign, including Union Mills, Md.; and Hanover, Cashtown, and Hunterstown, Pa. In each of these communities, fighting occurred that had a big impact on the battle in Gettysburg.

“To fully understand the battle of Gettysburg, it’s important that visitors take the time to learn about these smaller battles that helped shape the major conflict in Gettysburg,” said Flowers. “Our visitors are always hungry for more history, and the anniversary commemoration will provide people with some lesser-told stories of the Civil War.”

The Battle of Gettysburg - the only major battle of the American Civil War that took place in the north - took place July 1-3, 1863. The battle, a Union victory, resulted in 51,000 casualties over the three days. Nearly five months later, President Abraham Lincoln visited this small town to deliver that would become the Gettysburg Address, a short speech that forever changed history.