WASHINGTON – As many as 300,000 people could converge on the small town of Gettysburg, Pa., between June 30 and July 4 for what is likely to be the nation’s biggest commemoration of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.
This time, there will not be an invading army from the South or a defensive force from the North, like there was from July 1, 1863 through 3, 1863.
Gettysburg National Battlefield Park Superintendent Bob Kirby says there are hundreds of events planned to celebrate the anniversary. The first will be held on June 30, when country star Trace Atkins will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and historian Doris Kerns Goodwin will give a keynote speech.
“We’ll have battlefield experience programs that will bring visitors to a certain spot and talk at a certain time of the day only 150 years hence,” Kirby said.
Since re-enactments are banned by the National Park Service, one will not be held on the actual battlefield. However, there will be overview hikes on the battlefield and other interpretations of the historical events that took place there.
“Some viewed that it was inappropriate and trivialized the sacrifices that occurred on the battlefield,” said Kirby of the park service’s policy not to re-enact the battle in its location.
Several re-enactments will still be held on private land nearby during the commemoration.
At Gettysburg, there were 51,000 casualties and more than 8,000 Americans from both the North and the South were killed.
The park service is completing efforts to restore the battlefield to the way it was on the dates of the battle.
“It’s about as close an approximation as you can get,” said Kirby.
For history buffs who want to take part in the festivities, Journey Through Hallowed Ground is offering special packages.