International Perspectives on Gettysburg’s 150th: Civil War to Civil Rights

On March 22, 2013, the U.S. Department of State organized a foreign media visit to Gettysburg National Military Park to offer information about plans for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

International journalists hear a presentatation at Gettysburg about battle anniversary plans

International journalists hear a presentation at Gettysburg about battle anniversary plans

The group included more than a dozen reporters from all over the world: Die Presse, Austria; Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Germany; Euronews, France; Indo-Asian News Service, India; Macedonian Radio and TV; Politika Newspaper and Magazines, Serbia; Publico, Portugal; Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corp.; The Epoch Times, China; The National News, United Arab Emirates; The Straits Times, Singapore; The Times of London; and the Vietnam News Agency.

They started their day with a trip to the Library of Congress to view the Hay copy of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

William Coe, reenactor, speaks to the reporters

William Coe, reenactor, speaks to the reporters

Gettysburg’s visit began at the Museum and Visitor Center with presentations on the plans for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address, and why we have chosen these activities.  Speakers included Bob Kirby, Superintendent Gettysburg National Military Park; Joanne Hanley, President, Gettysburg Foundation; Norris Flowers, President, Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau; and William Coe, Confederate Civil War reenactor (South Carolina).

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Photographers capture the scene along Hancock Avenue

A question and answer session followed where the group had numerous questions about why Coe is a reenactor, his family connections to the war, and much more.  One reporter asked how he feels about “representing the Confederacy even though they lost the war?”

Before getting out onto the battlefield the group saw the museum film, A New Birth of Freedom,

Ranger Chris Gwinn with the reporters at The Angle

Ranger Chris Gwinn with the reporters at The Angle

sponsored by the History Channel and narrated by Morgan Freeman.  The film tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War.  

To cap off the day, Gettysburg Park Ranger Chris Gwinn provided a 90 guided visit to battlefield including a stop at the Angle and a walk through the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, where more than 3500 soldiers who were killed in the Battle of Gettysburg are buried and  where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. 

Ranger Chris Gwinn spoke at the grave of Isaac Osborne of the 62nd Pennsylvania, killed in the Wheatfield on July 2, 1863.

Ranger Chris Gwinn spoke at the grave of Isaac Osborne of the 62nd Pennsylvania, killed in the Wheatfield on July 2, 1863.

In a fiercely cold wind, Ranger Gwinn talked about the fighting of the battle and its tragic aftermath.  It was exhilarating and astonishing to see the reporters’ enthusiasm.  They soaked in Gettysburg’s stories and landscapes and peppered the ranger with thoughtful questions, some of them quite unique.

Have you ever pondered this one:  “Does any other country commemorate their Civil War in the same way Americans do?  The Spaniards and Rwandan’s don’t. Why do Americans?”

The 150th anniversary of the American Civil war provides an opportunity for the National Park Service and for our visitors from throughout the world.  Gettysburg programs will

Some moments at Gettysburg can't even be planned, like this scene at one of the graves.

Some moments at Gettysburg can’t even be planned, like this scene at one of the graves.

include stories of both well-known and lesser-known events, soldiers and civilians.  An important goal of our 150th efforts — which include this blog, Facebook and Twitter — is to reach new and younger audiences.

National Parks everywhere from Gettysburg to Glorietta Pass are commemorating the defining events of the Civil War and their legacy in the continuing fight for civil rights. The overall theme strikes a special cord for people in many nations throughout the world–in struggling democracies and elsewhere: Civil War to Civil Rights.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, March 28, 2013

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2 Responses to International Perspectives on Gettysburg’s 150th: Civil War to Civil Rights

  1. Fascinating stuff! I went to Gettysburg just four days after this took place. It’s great to know other nations have shown such an interest in America’s history.

  2. Kurt Eberly says:

    The reporter’s question to Mr. Coe about why he portrays a soldier on the side that “lost” is really dumb. Many people in the living history/reenactor world portray forces that did not “win.” We do living history to educate the public not to glorify a winning side.

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