Of the many appropriate sites around the world in which one could commemorate Memorial Day, Gettysburg possesses a certain uniqueness in the context of this national holiday. Even before the American Civil War came to a close, spectators gathered in this Soldiers' National Cemetery every spring and summer to pay homage. The tradition is a fine one and continues today, as we will see in today's post. Below are just a few snapshots I took during Monday's proceedings for this day of remembrance. Enjoy.
James Gettys as President Abraham Lincoln is a staple of commemorative events throughout the year in Gettysburg. Here, he enters the cemetery gate on the Baltimore Pike, being enthusiastically greeted by spectators.
The Gettysburg National Military Park Law Enforcement always do a top rate job of keeping the proceeding safe and orderly. The equestrian statue of General Oliver Otis Howard stands over the scene.
The band of the Royal Canadian Legion also participated in the parade that concluded within the cemetery. At least seventy-five Canadian-Americans fought in the Battle of Gettysburg--the majority of them with the Army of the Potomac. They served in units including the 20th Maine and the 24th Michigan, part of the famed Iron Brigade. A small number of these men were laid to rest in this burial ground. The presence of the Legion added a unique international dimension to the significance of Memorial Day. The band later played an emotionally-charged version of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.
There was no shortage of young visitors to the event. Some marched in the parade while others, including this young gentleman, simply watched and waved flags.
As we saw in a previous photos, plenty of reenactors participated in the procession. A marching living history timeline portrayed a combatant from every American war from the French and Indian War to the present. The reenactors above portray soldiers from the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, the U.S. Coastal Artillery, and the 1st Infantry Division.
Every once in a while, these reenactors would spot a veteran amongst the crowd and shake their hand. The WWII veteran seated at right is ninety years, from New England, and served under MacArthur in the Pacific during the conflict. I had the opportunity to talk with him during the following ceremony. He was amazed that marchers singled him out of the crowd just to greet him and give thanks for his service.
Thousands upon thousands of people, especially school children and their parents, entered the cemetery grounds for a special program including guest speakers, veterans, and dignitaries. We can surely expect more massive crowds this summer here in Gettysburg.
Following speeches by the governor and other delegates, James Gettys delivered his rendition of the Gettysburg Address from the speaker's rostrum constructed only a few years after the Civil War.
Every single headstone in the cemetery had a flag and even flowers placed upon them. This is an annual tradition among students in the Gettysburg area school district. A activity is a great way to nurture a sense of appreciation for the history in one's own backyard.