Sunday, July 1, 2018

50th Anniversary Commemoration of Gettysburg

Today is the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, considered the most important engagement during the Civil War.

From 29 June and 4 July 1913 a 50th anniversary reunion was held at Gettysburg. There had been numerous smaller reunions previously, but 1913 was the largest ever with over 53,000 men attending from 46 of the then 48 states, including over 8,500 Confederate Army veterans. The reunion was called the Gettysburg Battlefield Encampment. The Chief Surgeon of the U.S. said at the time, "never before in the world's history [sic] so great a number of men so advanced in years been assembled under field conditions." Not only was there concern about the men's health, people were also concerned there might still be lingering "unpleasant differences."

July 2 was Military Day; July 3, Civic/Governor's Day; and July 4 was National Day and included a speech by President Woodrow Wilson in which he said:

"We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten -- except that we shall not forget the splendid valor."

Photograph of attendees of the 1913 Gettysburg Battlefield Encampment;
courtesy of the Library of Congress

On 5 May 1913, Powhatan County, Virginia, supervisors said they would defray the cost of any ex-Confederate soldier who wished to attend the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Battle of Gettysburg. A committee was formed to determine which veterans wished to attend. Thirty-eight veterans from the county attended, including Joseph Sampson Jennings, who had served in the Powhatan Light Artillery Battery during the last year of the war. Powhatan County spent $325,000 to send their veterans to Gettysburg.

When the veterans assembled in 1919 to attend a reunion in Atlanta, only six were able or willing to go.

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