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July 4, 2013

Thousands march in Pickett’s Charge commemoration

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Thousands took a mile-long commemorative march Wednesday across the Gettysburg field where the Confederate Army made its final, ill-fated charge 150 years ago in the last clash of the pivotal battle of the Civil War.

A National Park Service spokeswoman said the Pickett’s Charge walk was the most ambitious program ever planned to remember the South’s failed assault, during which more than 12,000 men in nine brigades tried to break the Union lines. It ended the three-day Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

On Wednesday, visitors broke up into nine groups led by park rangers and re-enactors dressed in period uniforms.

Just like in 1863, the Confederate lines drew out of the woods — but followed this time by tourists snapping pictures and recording their march. News photographers followed along, too, and at times groups broke out into Rebel Yells in an event turned festive at times.

The lines broke down and reformed again when the marchers reached a fence line.

Unlike 150 years ago, the walkers funneled through openings in the fence soldiers would have jumped before continuing “the advance.”

“It didn’t work well in 1863, and we’re not sure how well it will today,” Park Service spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said earlier Wednesday.

The march wasn’t intended as a re-enactment with gunfire and bayonets like other events being held to mark the anniversary. It was supposed to be reverential in tone, and buglers ended the march playing “Taps.”

Up to 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died over three bloody days at Gettysburg, while another roughly 30,000 were wounded.

“This is a commemorative march. We’re trying to be respectful,” Lawhon said.

Battle re-enactments are held on private properties. The second of two re-enactments planned for this anniversary period, a four-day event, starts Thursday at the Redding Farm in Gettysburg.

The town’s Independence Day parade scheduled for Wednesday evening was cancelled following a police investigation after a car crashed into a house. Some streets in a neighborhood about a quarter-mile from the military park was closed while many visitors were still gathered for the march.

Authorities said a woman inside the house was taken to a hospital with lacerations. One suspect was arrested at the scene and a second was soon captured after fleeing on foot, police said.

The parade was cancelled due to lack of police resources, officials said. A fireworks show scheduled for Wednesday night was still planned.

———

AP Photographer Matt Rourke contributed to this story.

 

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