Gettysburg draws record crowd of re-enactors

July 05, 1998

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

click image to enlarge

GettysburgBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer

GETTYSBURG, Pa. - An estimated 15,000 re-enactors charged against each other with rifles and cannons Saturday, the second day of the 135th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg.

A day earlier, one of the re-enactors was hit in the neck with a live bullet, authorities said.

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A Pennsylvania State Police spokesman in Gettysburg confirmed that police were investigating Friday's incident.

The name of the victim, who was taken to an area hospital for treatment, could not be obtained from police. His injuries were believed not to be serious, police and event officials said.


A spokeswoman at Gettysburg Hospital said Saturday night that the re-enactor was transferred to another hospital after being treated in the emergency room.

"We don't know who fired it, but it's being classified as an accident," said Timon Linn, head of the operations department for the re-enactment. "He probably had an extra round in his rifle from when he was practicing and forgot about it."

A woman re-enactor suffered a fatal heart attack following Friday's activities in the three-day event that ends today, Linn said. She was stricken around 5 p.m. in her camp trailer, he said.

face to face    southern dead

Confederate dead litter the rear of the Southern line as the armies shift right.

The woman was among an estimated 2,000 civilian re-enactors in period dress who set up encampments around the battlefield, Linn said.

Between Friday and Saturday about 20 re-enactors were transported to area hospitals for heat-related and other injuries suffered during battle simulations, Linn said. All were treated and released.

A cavalry battle had to be delayed Saturday afternoon while an ambulance crew picked up a rider who was hurt. His name and injuries were not available.

Glenn LeBoeuf, an event coordinator, said 15,000 re-enactors were participating, "but that might be on the low side," and estimated that 35,000 spectators attended. Linn estimated the attendance at 30,000 to 40,000 spectators.

Organizers were limited to 15,000 re-enactors and 35,000 spectators on each of the three days by local zoning regulations.

The 135th re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg last September drew an estimated 12,500 re-enactors, making Gettysburg the largest assembly of soldiers in blue and gray since the real Civil War in the 1860s.

The event ends today following the re-enactment of Confederate Gen. George Pickett's famous charge at 1:30 p.m., a sight that Linn said would "give you goose bumps."

The battles are being staged on the 400-acre Bushey Farm and surrounding farmland about five miles from where the actual battle took place July 1 through 3, 1863.

At that time 91,000 Yankees defeated 71,000 Rebels in what historians call the turning point of the Civil War.

Saturday's highlight was the fight for Culp's Hill, the Confederacy's attempt to gain the high ground, which kicked off around 4 p.m. with the ground-shaking roar of Rebel cannons in front of the viewing stands.

Children delighted in the giant smoke rings that the cannons shot more than 100 feet into the air.

Earlier in the day the 33 men of Clark's Battery from Charleston, Mo., a Rebel outfit named after early 19th century explorer Merriweather Lewis's nephew, were resting in the shade after manning the outfit's three cannons in the battles of the Wheatfield and Little Round Top.

The unit was pulled together by Fred DeField, 73, of Charleston. A Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, DeField owns the three cannons and needed a crew of seven to man each one.


rebel gunners

Rebel gunners open fire on the Federal forces at the start of the morning battle at "Gettysburg."Confederate artillery unit marches into place before the battle begins.

The members live in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois. They come together for re-enactments. They missed the big one at Antietam last year, but did participate in the one at Spring Hill in Tennessee with 8,000 other re-enactors.

The battery fought for the Confederacy on Saturday. They often don blue coats and fight for the Union if a re-enactment is too one-sided.

"We portray both sides, depending on who needs us," said Robert Brannon, a private in the battery.

"We all do this because we like history, because we like being near hallowed ground," said DeField, a retired state legislator and county judge back home.

Men of the 20th South Carolina marched by one of the spectator viewing stands late Saturday morning, halted, lined up in battle formation and waited for the order to move forward toward the enemy across the field. Mark Carbonaro, age 4 1/2, caught the eye of Scott Reynolds, a private in the unit.

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