Still busy here in Gettysburg! Crowds are swarming the park like you would not believe. Sunday night was the ceremonial opening, entitled A New Birth of Freedom. Upwards of 10,000 spectators gathered in the natural amphitheater on the north slop behind General Meade's Headquarters. Speakers at this keynote event included Superintendent Bob Kirby, ABC newsman Charlie Gibson, and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. The ceremony was a tasteful tribute featuring colorful music arrangements, numerous well-delivered addresses, and a lot of emotion.
Park rangers were out in force--seen here with their mounted friends from the Pennsylvania State Police. 105mm artillery pieces operated by the Old Guard served as ceremonial shots at the conclusion of the stirring ceremony.
Scott Hartwig...the boss. What else needs said?
The moving Voices Program was a multimedia extravaganza that offered an immersive and human quality to the people of the Gettysburg Campaign and their times. With the supplementation of brightly vivid images and footage on the jumbo screens, actors brought to life the words and soldiers and civilians engulfed by the Civil War's largest battle. The presentation was accompanied by an original musical score by the Army band. Taps were followed by a rousing twenty-one gun salute from the General Meade statue atop Cemetery Ridge.
Following taps, audience members had their candles lit and proceeded to a special luminaries tribute within the Soldiers' National Cemetery. The most inspiration scene of the evening was standing atop Cemetery Hill and watching the procession of thousands of candles ascending toward you. People from all different backgrounds were drawn to that special moment. In short, it was a beautiful thing to witness.
I captured this haunting image of the Maryland Monument behind Cemetery Ridge as a spotlight shined nearby. Maryland, perhaps more than any other state, embodies the notion of a society divided against itself.
The morning of July 1, many of we park rangers assembled early in the park visitor center to discuss a final run through on the day's proceedings. The discussion was serious, insightful, hopeful, and evolved into a something of a coach's locker room pep talk before a big game. Go team!
I was stationed on McPherson Ridge all day from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. evening. Never before have I seen the Gettysburg battlefield scrambling with so many people. Even before our cadre of rangers arrived on site, Reynolds Avenue was already half way filled with cars parked on the side of the road. Shuttle buses began shuffling through shortly thereafter and the conveyor belt of visitors barely ceased throughout the day. In short, it was awesome. Above, Ranger Eric Mink gives a tour to one of the first tour groups of the morning.
Temporary wayside exhibits stood at each of the battlefield stops for the day where information stations and programs took place. Nearby ranger tents offered additional brochures, maps, park trading cards, and park staff all too willing to help out with the needs of the visitor.
General John Reynolds, amazingly resurrected from the dead, was lingering throughout the edge of the Herbst Woods for much of the morning as well. As many reenactors are, he was a magnet to camera-happy visitors soaking in the rich atmosphere.
Ranger Casimer Rosiecki delivers another McPherson Ridge tour as the First Corps flag flutters in the foreground. These half hour tours were held on the hour as visitors shuttled from one location to the other.
Rangers Scott Hartwig and Dan Welch led a massive tour entitled Last March of the Iron Brigade. Moving out from the Codori Farm, up West Confederate Avenue, through the grounds of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, and into the Herbst Woods, the tour's estimated attendance was 1,500 participants. The hike included an entire company of living historians portraying members of the Iron Brigade. The group truly was brigade strength.
The rangers of McPherson Ridge on July 1: Casimer Rosiecki, Jared Frederick, and Eric Mink. What a fun and engaging day we had sharing history with people from around the world! Even so, our work is not yet done.