The Multitudes experience Gettysburg 150th

The battle has ended.  Troops have retreated.  The community is left to gather the wounded and return to their devastated farms, while a divided country mourns. That was the scene in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 150 years ago. 

photo (13)Flash forward to 2013 – last week, the NPS GETT 150th Commemoration battled heat, severe storms, and traffic to welcome visitors from all over the world to commemorate this poignant moment in our nation’s history.

An inspiring stage presentation, Gettysburg: A New Birth of Freedom, commenced the event. Country music artist Trace Adkins sang the National Anthem, and Charlie Gibson emceed.  Superintendent Bob Kirby, Joanne Hanley, president Gettysburg Foundation, and NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis greeted the crowd of (8,000-10,000).  Civil War historian Doris Kearns Goodwin provided the keynote address, followed by a multimedia mix of period images and eyewitness accounts of soldiers and citizens.  A 21-gun Howitzer salute signaled a candlelight walk to the National Cemetery, led by the Army Old Guard, where luminaries marked 3,500 graves.

Throughout the week, visitors walked the battlefield from sunrise to sunset, hiking alongside rangers who explained the three-day battle – rangers sought out stumps and high points to reach the overflowing crowds.  Park staff coordinated activities at Museum and Visitor Center, across the Park, and a Family Tent where thousands of children earned Junior Ranger status.

Visitors to the Pitzer Woods Confederate Camp and the Union Camp at the Pennsylvania Memorial, experienced soldier-life portrayed by park volunteers.  Spectators strolled through rows of tents where soldiers slept on the ground, saw the wool uniforms they wore, smelled campfire cooking and musket shots, and listened to stories of the battles of the past.  Excited children marched with the soldiers, and covered their ears at cannon blasts.

The afternoon of July 3rd was Pickett’s Charge, the last battle. Visitors were invited to fan out across the battlefield to commemorate the march; approximately 40,000 people participated.  The Park and community provided shuttles to the Confederate lines on Seminary Ridge, and Union lines on Cemetery Ridge.  Rangers led nine Confederate brigades on a mile walk to meet three Union divisions. When the sides met, twelve buglers positioned along the expanse of the line played echo-Taps.

As Gettysburg 150th anniversary concludes, thousands of spectators and participants head home with stories to tell for years to come.  Whether it was their first visit to Gettysburg, or their hundredth, the memories of this week will live on into the future for the generations to come.

photo (11)The GETT 150th was made possible because of the Park’s partnership with the Gettysburg Foundation, the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, the York-Adams Transportation Authority, Gettysburg College, Main Street Gettysburg, Borough of Gettysburg, Licensed Battlefield Guides, and other community partners.

By Tami Heilemann, Department of Interior photographer






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7 Responses to The Multitudes experience Gettysburg 150th

  1. Gordon Campbell says:

    Thank you. It was unique and inspiring experience. Hats off to the Park Service and Rangers who made this a most worthy commemoration. Already looking forward to 175th activities 🙂

  2. Rex Trautman says:

    I was one of the 15,000 who participated in the Confederate Kemper’s Division..of Pickett’s Charge. What a rush, to walk the battlefield exactly 150 years to the minute! A great presentation by the Park Ranger along the way made this unforgettable! THANK YOU!!

  3. The 150th commemoration was **amazing**!! Unfortunately I couldn’t be there in person, but the NPS did a fantastic job of posting photos and videos so I could still experience the events. Kudos to the Gettysburg NPS! I was especially touched by the Pickett’s Charge walk — brought me to tears, and still does whenever I think of it . . .

  4. Ray Glennon says:

    It was a privilege to drive from Columbia, Maryland on Sunday evening to attend the moving presentation — the highlight of which was the multimedia “Voices” presentation — and to walk among the illuminated graves in the Cemetery. For me, the Gettysburg National Military Park is sacred ground. And I returned on Wednesday, July 3rd to attend the battlefield talk at 6:00 a.m. in The Peach Orchard, 150 years after Generals Lee and Longstreet met at that same time and place. I toured most of the battlefield by bicycle throughout the day covering 28 miles before ending the day in the third row of the Union lines just north of the Copse of Trees on Cemetery Ridge. I want to extend my thanks to the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation for their efforts to make this an unforgettable experience for me and the thousands of others who made the journey.

  5. steven1863 says:

    Mr. Robert Kirby
    Gettysburg National Military Park
    1195 Baltimore Pike #100
    Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 17325

    Dear Mr. Kirby,

    I would like to take a moment to convey my personal thanks to both you and the entire staff at Gettysburg National Military Park, The National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation. From June 28 through July 3, 2013, I spent my entire time at Gettysburg to commemorate the 150th Anniversary.

    Having been a former Licensed Battlefield Guide, Gettysburg buff, and an active member and founding member of the Gettysburg Foundation, I, like so many others, have been to the battlefield countless times under countless conditions. I have toured thousands of people through the battlefield from all walks of life. I must say however, this past trip, during this very historic time in the battlefield’s history will be considered one of my most personally moving and sacred times to be there.

    During my visit, I met so many interesting people visiting from all over the country and I felt so proud and personally grateful to be there and share that special period in time with so many who value Gettysburg and its’ importance to all of us.

    To be at such places like McPherson’s Ridge, Meade’s Headquarters, Devil’s Den or Climbing East Cemetery Hill at the same time the events actually occurred only 150 years later, was both inspiring and emotionally touching beyond what words can express.

    These enduring memories were made in part, by the extraordinary work that The National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation combined to create. To accommodate such crowds and facilitate all the activities was a crowning achievement of which your leadership and the commitment of so many made possible. To see rangers from all over the northeast there for the many days activities really showed the tremendous passion of all those involved.

    Please pass along many thanks for a job well done. I appreciate your work and thank you for giving Gettysburg the upmost care it deserved on such an historic Anniversary.

    My best regards,

    Steven J. Pacholyk
    Madison, Connecticut

  6. Glenda Meek says:

    I can’t say enough about the 150th experience. It was excellent in every way. I was there from June 29th to July 3rd and participated in the activities from the first program, Day One, to joining Garnett’s brigade in Pickett’s Charge. It was literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Park Service, the Rangers, the field guides, everyone involved went above and beyond their call of duty to make it a wonderful experience. I cannot thank them enough. I will be back to Gettysburg!

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