I was invited to join with reenactors at Gettysburg, Pa., which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle that changed the tide of the war. Saturday was the longest day – a battle scenario in the morning, another in the afternoon and complaints all day from spectators.
While the setting’s terrain allows more accurate re-creations of fighting at Devil’s Den, Little Round Top and the Wheatfield, the area is so big that spectators can’t get close enough for good views.
Only reenactors are allowed on the field at reenactments, which means that at this one, the only folks getting a good view of the action are the ones who are actually in it.
From the edges of the field – and I tried several vantage points – the men, horses and cannons look like tiny toys. The only thing that really hits you is the shock of the cannons firing: Even half a mile away, they make your chest shudder.
Maybe that’s what the organizers meant when they billed this as “a reenactment for reenactors, by reenactors.”
“I took today off from work," one spectator who had driven in from New Jersey told Gettysburg tourism staff this afternoon, “and I couldn’t see anything!’’
The good news – though not for the guy from New Jersey – is that there is another huge reenactment next weekend, on a different farm nearby, and at that one, the action sometimes comes so close you can hear the officers shouting commands. I know that for sure: I was there for the 140th.