WASHINGTON – Plenty of commemorative events have been held and planned to remember the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, but the biggest of them may be at Gettysburg next month.
The battle of Gettysburg took place between July 1, 1863 and July 3, 1863. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia invaded Pennsylvania as part of his strategy to take the war to the North and force a negotiated peace that would bring Southern independence.
But the battle was a Union victory and it proved to be a major turning point in the war. The Union victory was secured in 1865 and the end of the war helped solidify the freedom of four million slaves.
“This is the most important battle on U.S. soil in American history,” says Bob Kirby, superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park.
Kirby says the Battle of Gettysburg turned the tide of the Civil War.
“It set the course of this country and solidified our unity as a nation,” he says.
But it also was a bloody campaign. There were 51,000 casualties, including those who were dead and wounded, during the battle and more than 8,000 Americans from both the North and the South were killed.
Starting on June 29 and running through July 7, more than 200 events are planned on or around the battlefield, which is about a two-hour drive from D.C.
More than 300,000 visitors are expected at places, including Little Round Top, Seminary Ridge and Bloody Angle.
Two large re-enactments of the battle are planned on nearby private land. The National Park Service prohibits such events on the actual site.