Sidelined for the past two years because of Covid and concerns over political objection, the annual Remembrance Parade honoring those who fought at Gettysburg returned this weekend to huge crowds and adoring recognition.
There had been some concern that the annual Remembrance Weekend parade in Gettysburg, honoring the Civil War veterans who fought there July 1, 2, and 3, 1863, would be create more animus than excitement – appreciation.
But after missing 2019 and 2020 because of Covid and cultural disapproval, what one Gettysburg citizen call the “grand parade” went off on Saturday without a hitch – in fact, without a dissenting word.
More than a thousand living historians from every imaginable state showed up in full Union and Confederate array to honor the veterans who fought here in 1863 – in fact, 53,548 who either died or were casualties of what was later called the greatest battle on the North American continent.
“It’s fitting that we have this to remember those who fought and died here,” said Greg, a historian from nearby Taneytown, Maryland.
“There’s nothing wrong with honoring our history – to learn from it. And judging from the turnout a lot of people missed it.”
The parade lasted nearly 40 minutes, covered the span of two miles along Middle Street, Baltimore Street, and Steinwehr Avenue, and jammed the sidewalks with interested onlookers, and frankly, a lot of emotion.
Some came from California.
Some came from Texas.
Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and Ohio were well represented.
And Bill Sell and his wife….from Celina (Ohio) had front-row seats on Middle Street while keeping track of the Ohio State-Michigan State game on his phone.
“Wanted to be here,” he smiled. “I taught history so this is something I had to experience.”
Marcela Brum, a nurse from New York City made the trip – her first time – to honor her ancestors who fought in the Civil War.
“I’ve never seen the parade, and I’m going to be in it,” she shared. “I don’t know any of the ladies of the Daughters of Union Veterans, so I’m privileged that they invited me to walk in the parade with them. I got an outfit from one of the local stores.”
The King and Queen of Hawaii were on hand…to pay tribute to the one hundred Hawaiians who took part in various battles of the American Civil War.
Both Union and Confederate units exhibited, with a number of regimental bands, flying colors, with ages from drummers boys to octogenarian Jerry Coates, who made the two-mile route in an authentic Civil War wheelchair.
Many who couldn’t, or didn’t march, saluted from the sidewalks.
Others hung over the bannisters of second-floor hotel rooms, reminiscent of the scene in Frederick, Maryland in September of 1862 when locals waved from upstairs rooms and welcomed the Union soldiers marching to fight in the battle of Antietam at nearby Sharpsburg, Maryland.
There were no disturbances, and no demonstrators…just an atmosphere of patriotism and appreciation for one of the most relevant periods of American history.
“This is our history,” said a shop owner on Baltimore Street.
“Would Gettysburg even matter if it weren’t for what happened here a hundred and fifty eight years ago? How do we learn and get better if we don’t recognize that, and how we became who we are?”
In the end that’s exactly what it was…a celebration by those of differing backgrounds coming together to relate with each other and share fellowship – differences long since forgotten in place of mutual honor and respect.
When it was over they toasted together, dined together, and made plans to share fellowship, stories, and the mutual experiences of being a “by product” of the Civil War.
“I learned a lot about being an American from studying and appreciating the sacrifice of all those old soldiers,” said a historian from Michigan. “How could anyone deny that?”
What it was…was one grand parade!