Monday, July 20, 2009
Remembering the Gettysburg Reunion of 1913
By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
Do you know who Gen. Robert Edward Lee, Major Gen. George Edward Pickett and Major Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain were? Are children still taught about these men and all those who met on the famous War Between the States battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania? Some call the Gettysburg Battlefield the most haunted place in America as many thousands died on that fateful month of July 1863.
The story of the Battle of Gettysburg and 50th Anniversary Reunion would make for a heart-warming and touching TV Historic mini-series or Hollywood movie.
“Comrades and friends, these splendid statues of marble and granite and bronze shall finally crumble to dust, and in the ages to come, will perhaps be forgotten, but the spirit that has called this great assembly of our people together, on this field, shall live forever.”
—–Dr. Nathaniel D. Cox at 1913 Gettysburg Reunion
The summer heat of July 1913 did not keep the old Confederate and Union Veterans from attending the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It has been written that over 50,000 sons of the North and South came for what has been called the largest combined reunion of War Between the States veterans.
The youngest veteran was reported to be 61 and the oldest was 112 years young.
No one dared to criticize the United States and Confederate flags that flew side by side at the Gettysburg soldier’s reunion of honored men who had been enemies on the field of battle just 50 years earlier. Some of today’s politicians and people’s rights groups could learn something from these grand old men of yesterday. Knowledge is Power!!
The State of Pennsylvania hosted the 1913 reunion at the insisting of state Governor John K. Tener. Tener also encouraged other states to arrange rail transportation for the participants. Down South in Dixie, the United Daughters of the Confederacy helped raise money for the transportation and uniforms for their Confederate veterans.
The soldiers of Blue and Gray, Black and White, came with heads high and full of war stories. It is written that the hosts did not count on Black Confederates attending the meeting and had no place to put them but the White Confederates made room for their Southern brothers. Black Union veterans also attended this event.
It is written that nearly 700,000 meals were served that included fried chicken, roast pork sandwiches, ice cream and Georgia watermelon. The temperature soared to 100 degrees and almost 10,000 veterans were treated for heat exhaustion and several hundred more were hospitalized. The United States Army was also present in support and the old men loved the attention.
A highlight of the reunion was the Confederate Veterans walk on the path of Gen. George Pickett’s charge that was greeted, this time, by a handshake from the Union Veterans.
President Woodrow Wilson spoke to those veterans with compassion and appreciation, and said, “These venerable men crowding here to this famous field have set us a great example of devotion and utter sacrifice. They were willing to die that the people might live. But their task is done. Their day is turned into evening. They look to us to perfect what they have established. Their work is handed to us, to be done in another way but not in another spirit. Our day is not over; it is upon us in full tide.”
These men of Blue and Gray are gone but let’s never forget them. God Bless!!