Gettysburg buffs proud of events

GETTYSBURG – The commander of the Confederate army marched to the front of the makeshift classroom in jeans and a dress blue shirt to deliver battle plans to his top lieutenants, complete with a PowerPoint presentation and laser pointer.

Gen. Robert E. Lee would have been proud, if not perplexed, in seeing how Brian Gesuero took charge of the preparations for recreating the Battle of Gettysburg.

This year’s commemoration has even more significance, given that it’s the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and Gettysburg will represent the pinnacle of the re-enactment careers of thousands of Civil War buffs.

“This will be special, different than the other ones. It’s the turning point of the war,” said Gesuero, 44, a firefighter from Federalsburg, Md. “This is our one chance to do it right.”

Actually, the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg is so big that it’s getting two separate re-enactments.

A group called the Blue-Gray Alliance expects more than 10,000 re-enactors to take part in its event, June 28-30. This group has also held large-scale re-enactments, in honor of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, at Vicksburg, Shiloh, Twin Rivers and Wilson’s Mill.

The National Park Service official events start June 30. The battle was fought July 1-3, 1863, at locations that have become legendary to war buffs, like Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield and Little Round Top. Gettysburg was the bloodiest conflict of the Civil War, with more than 51,000 casualties.

But the re-enactments themselves occur on private property, not the actual battlefield.

The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee has more than 10,000 participants registered for the second gathering on July 4-7 on fields at the Redding Farm north of town. It’s the group to which Gesuero, along with federal counterpart Allen Baldwin, methodically presented re-enactment preparations.

The groups had discussed holding just one re-enactment, similar to the 135th anniversary in 1998. Back then, two events were eventually combined into one large battle.

Not this time around. The topic’s touchy to all sides, but essentially the groups couldn’t reconcile differences over how to run the events.

The federal commander for the Blue-Gray Alliance event, Bob Minton, said his group is proud to have secured the Bushey Farm, the site of the 135th anniversary re-enactment. That piece of land contains a long sloping ridge that resembles the battleground for Pickett’s Charge, the famous confrontation on the final day of the battle.

“It really gave us an opportunity for a wonderful piece of ground,” said Minton, a Fostoria, Ohio, resident who works for an electrical supply company.

Pride is also evident in the voices of members of the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee.

brigade before being mortally wounded at a spot considered the Confederacy’s northernmost advance in the war.