Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gettysburg Living History - Review and Critique

Maybe it's me, but the older I get, the more I appreciate living history-type events. Of any event I've been to, a simple living history at Gettysburg has given me a certain perspective of the battle that I wouldn't appreciated otherwise. I've visited Gettysburg once before, and took the cassette guided tour of the battlefield. That helped place events, but it really didn't grant a connection. This time, I was really able to walk the battlefield and look at it from dawn to dusk.

As an event, it was a great experience that I appreciate the NPS allowing us to participate in. We camped in Pitzer's Woods, one of the three areas in the park they allot for living history programs. The weekend was a three-day event for us, with Friday used as a ceremonial day, and Saturday and Sunday as demonstration days.

I actually arrived in Gettysburg on Thursday night, car pooling up with my pards out of Fayetteville. If you don't car pool, I recommend it. It makes life easier, safer, it brings down the travelling bill a tad, and you get hash over happenings with your friends.

Come Friday, it was time to do some walking around and sight-seeing before jumping into reenactor mode. We walked out from the hotel downtown, and on to Cemetery Hill and the surrounding area. From there it was onto the Visitor's Center and a nice walk to Pitzer's Woods. Unfortunately, this walk would become my undoing later on.

Later that day, most of the North Carolina troops for the weekend arrived for the wreath-laying ceremony at the North Carolina Monument. The day also grew hotter and hotter. We then had the great treat of walking the path of Pickett and Pettigrew's charge with a NPS guide giving us narrative all the way to the High-Water Mark. This was a great experience, especially for anyone with relatives who made the charge, like myself. Not only that, we were representing the unit my relatives were part of when they made the charge, the 37th NCT.

I'm glad I made it the High-Water Mark, because my body decided between the walk earlier, the heat and the antibiotics I was taking for Lyme Disease, it wasn't going to move any faster than a slow walk back to camp. I made it back to the monument, and after that, a reenactor-friendly couple drove me back to camp. I admit I did my damnedest to walk all the way, but at that moment my Captain had more common-sense than me, so I took the ride on his "advice".

Wonderful thing the human body, after an hour cooling off and hydrating up, I was feeling very good again. For the rest of the weekend, everything went swimmingly.

Both Saturday and Sunday were mirror images of each other, with structured demos in front of appreciative crowds. As a group, us North Carolinians didn't do too bad. Our impressions were great, and the drill, although not flawless, looked and functioned well. It was great, and something we should continually work for.

This event was almost a watershed moment in my reenacting career, too. Although I like burning the powder, I'm becoming more interested in telling the story rather than getting into line and duking it out. I'll be moving more toward the living history side of things.

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