MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Next up: Remembering the pivotal moment of the Civil War.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today, July 3rd, marked the end of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. While the Civil War lasted two more years, Gettysburg was the defining moment of the conflict, as the Union army repelled a Confederate incursion into Pennsylvania. The two sides suffered a combined 51,000 casualties.
BASHAM: In 2013, at the 150th anniversary of the battle, managing editor J.C. Derrick produced this short piece on the thousands gathered there to re-enact, and remember.
AUDIO: [Battle yell]
Morning rain gave way to partly sunny skies as the charge took place. Thousands of civilians were lined into nine brigades and at 3 p.m. began the nearly one-mile uphill hike to where a sea of humanity stood representing Union troops.
AUDIO: Over the fence! Form up a line!
Citizen soldiers broke through war-era fence boundaries, just as Pickett’s men did on similar terrain in 1863. In addition to American and Confederate flags, many brigades made their solemn marches flying a flag with the name of one of their generals: Kemper, Garnett, Armistead.
The re-creation of Pickett’s charge was unprecedented in the park’s history. Park rangers chose not to have a commemoration event on the battlefield in 1988 for the 125th anniversary, but organizer Katie Lawhon said thousands showed up anyway for an unofficial event.
LAWHON: This year we decided we needed to get our arms around Pickett’s charge…
Another organizer, who was working at the park in 1988, told me more people were in Gettysburg for Wednesday’s event than at any point since the iconic battle took place 150 years ago.
The march came amid a week of festivities commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. As I made my way through the Union camp, I stumbled upon 74-year-old John Grant Griffiths, the great-great grandson of Union general and future U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant.
GRIFFITHS: I had three ancestors who were in the federal army during the civil war. At this time they were all with the federal army of Tennessee, which Grant commanded.
Another man playing a Union soldier, Eric Mueller, traveled all the way from Hawaii for the week-long commemoration.
MUELLER: I’m out here today…Hawaiians in the Civil War.
Mueller said it’s important for Americans not to forget what happened at Gettysburg.
MUELLER: History is important…
SINGING: “Angels to beckon me, nearer my God to thee.”
I’m J.C. Derrick in Gettysburg, Virginia.