Saturday, May 18, 2013

Step into history: How you can be part of Pickett's Charge commemorative march

1882 view showing ground Pettigrew’s and Trimble’s brigades walked (NPS).

It was an incredible sight: Some 12,000 men lined up in a one-mile arc, regimental flags before them, barely fluttering on a hot Pennsylvania day. Then they came forward, down into a slight valley, beginning a 20-minute march that became part of the lexicon of America’s military history.

Pickett’s Charge, meant to break the Union center, ended in bloody failure on July 3, 1863, dashing the hopes of the South to extinguish the North’s will to continue the war. Only a few Confederates soldiers made it the Union lines.

This year, on the exact spot, at about the same time, visitors flocking to Gettysburg National Military Park for events marking the 150th anniversary of the momentous battle will have an opportunity to stand where the Federal defenders fought or take part in the mile-long march across undulating fields.

“For the Confederate groups the interpretive experience will be the march itself; moving in line of battle, seeing the other groups moving about you, and walking in the footsteps of the men who made this march under the fire of shell, shrapnel and bullets,” writes park supervisory historian D. Scott Hartwig in the “From the Fields of Gettysburg” blog, posted Friday.

High water mark of Confederacy monument (Wikipedia/public domain)
Park rangers and volunteers will lead groups representing each of the nine assaulting Rebel brigades.They will put those commemorative marchers in the actual line of battle.
"We don't know how many will do it," Katie Lawhon, management assistant at the park, told the Picket. "We're getting a lot of interest but the weather will play a role in how big the event becomes."

Rangers also will assemble groups where men of Alexander Hays’, John Gibbon’s and Abner Doubleday’s Union divisions waited to receive the attack, according to Hartwig.

“The idea is there is somewhere for everyone to participate in this program,” wrote Hartwig.

Artillery fire at 3 p.m. will launch the July 3 commemorative march program, which will last about an hour. When the Confederate brigade groups reach Cemetery Ridge the march will stop for the playing of echo Taps, which will conclude the event.

The commemorative march has never been done to this scale, according to Lawhon.

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