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August 10, 2016

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Every month, TAB editor Kristin will be sharing her thoughts on five titles from our… Read More

June 1, 2016

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Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

Thousands gathered today at the Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania to memorialize President Lincoln’s famous speech. Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

Sadly I couldn’t make the ceremony this year. But this past July, my family and I—along with 235,000 people from all over—did travel to Gettysburg to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle.

Thousands of professional Confederate and Union reenactors took to the battlefield to pretend fight through the campaign as if it were real. They demonstrated what it might have been like to stand on the field during those July days in 1863. It was a harrowing scene, watching two sides march at each other on a battlefield, even if it was only make-believe.
The reenactment started before sunrise with early-morning grumbles, when the Confederate cavalry first scouted Union soldiers entrenched near Seminary Ridge.

It’s amazing—really—how long it takes for a large-scale battle to unfold in front of you. A small company of Union cavalrymen approached the battlefield from miles off. When I first looked up they only were only a tiny dark speck in distance. Without binoculars they were hardly soldiers at all. Over an hour later they arrived, one hundred of them, hollering and stomping their horses down the hill.

Some of the infantrymen we met even reenacted their own march to Gettysburg. Some walked from Maine, others from Ohio. One solider marched all the way from Illinois. He didn’t once change his shoes (they didn’t always get new boots back then), and they looked like smeared rubber.

A Confederate solider shared his experience with an audience. He had been camped out in the woods eating only salted pork and hardtack for three weeks prior to the reenactment. He wore a Confederate uniform. Using a rolled-up pack that hung over his shoulders, he slept tent-less under the stars. He cooked pork with a bayonet over a fire. He planned to camp in the woods until the end of July with one or two others from his regiment.

We meandered through a Union camp that resembled a small town. Tents were pitched in rows organized by rank. Officers and medical staff were quartered together and infantrymen gathered in their own section. The reenactors slept in tents the size of large cupboards, but the camp had various medical tents, eating zones, a post office, a smithy, and even a general store.

The battle was awe inspiring. The sea of blue Union soldiers made its way foot by foot down the slope. The soldiers marched with heavy muskets at right angles resting on stiff shoulders. The sun beat hard while the bugle boy played a battle song. A flag waved on the front lines. Slowly the soldiers descended into the pit where they faced their grey Confederate enemies, who stood tall, proud, and tarnished. Standing face to face, they took turns mock firing at each other and falling to the ground.

The “dead” lay there for hours. Literally. Playing dead like possums in the hot open air.

Cannons wheeled around and were pulled by crews throughout the blazing field. BANG! They blasted frequently. Grey clouds of gunpowder poofed in the air. After 20 minutes my ears began to ring, and they did so for the rest of the day.

This went on for quite a while. A man narrated the battle over a loudspeaker like a football game broadcaster. Over time the two sides slowly fell back, and the Union soldiers claimed defense on Cemetery Hill.
For further reading about President Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the American Civil War, the following titles are available through Scholastic Reading Club online now:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman

 

DK: The Civil War: A Visual History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gettysburg by John Perritano

 

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Civil War Spies: Behind Enemy Lines by Camilla J. Wilson

 

 

 

Bio on Author: Jamie is a Scholastic Reading Club blogger who has been to Gettysburg 3 times.

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November 19, 2013