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Baseballs, not cannonballs, fly as Battle of Gettysburg 150th anniversary celebration begins

More than 10,000 re-enactors taking part in events near site of pivotal Civil War battle

June 27, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • Re-enactors from Cushing/Taylor Battery in Erie, Pa., participate in the cannon firing for the Opening Ceremony for The 150th Commemoration and Re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Phographer

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Re-enactors portraying Union and Confederate soldiers focused not on fighting but on baseball during their kickoff for the Battle of Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary commemoration.

North and South amiably intermingled during the late-afternoon Blue Gray Alliance event as a baseball, not cannonballs, flew. However, the more than 10,000 living historians are camping separately, as the two sides prepare for battle re-enactments.

Two hundred programs from the Gettysburg National Military Park, the Gettysburg Foundation and community partners are scheduled between Saturday, June 29, and Sunday, July 7.

A commemorative march for Pickett’s Charge will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 3.

Thursday’s baseball game was open to re-enactors and the media.

Jim Trent drove from Oklahoma to portray Brig. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, a Maine college professor who volunteered to join the Union forces.

“I couldn’t miss the 150th or how we call it — ‘The big one,’” Trent said.

John and Deana Baddick opened up their 107-acre farm to the Blue Gray Alliance, an umbrella organization for re-enactment groups. They also contributed more than 1,000 bales of hay and straw for the week’s events.

John Baddick said he sent an email to the Blue Gray Alliance saying his family was willing to help however they could. In the response message, he learned the organization had already been trying to reach him.

“It was a matter of fate, I think,” Baddick said.

Asher Baddick, 10, joined the baseball game, which was his father’s idea and based on tales of Union Gen. Abner Doubleday — whom many mistakenly believe invented the game — camping at what is now the farm.

The Civil War-era game resembling baseball was called rounders and had varying rules, according to Kris Shelton, media and marketing coordinator for the Blue Gray Alliance.

Shelton described what she called a “rush” associated with living as families did during the Civil War.

“There is something really liberating from freeing yourself from the modern world,” she said.

“For those of us with a true addiction to American history, there is no greater experience,” Trent said.

Trent said he is looking forward to sharing the re-enactments with spectators.

“It’ll truly inspire a generation of Americans,” he said.

Jackson Burns, 9, of Frederick, Md., said he did not know a game similar to baseball served as a pastime during the Civil War.

“I’m just excited to be here,” he said.

“This is history, and we’re part of it,” said his grandmother, Suzanne Yusko.

They are related to the Baddicks.

Kris Shelton’s mother, Gail Kowalski, is relatively new to encampments. She arrived in Gettysburg on Monday and said she was enjoying herself.

“It’s something I wouldn’t want to miss,” she said.

Virginia resident David Palmer steps into a key role this week — portraying Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“I think the draw to Lee for me is the summarization of his life,” Palmer said. “He was a man of faith, duty, family and honor.”

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