Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park Celebrates 150th Anniversary

June 10, 2013, 11:54 am

By Heather Crowley

As a nation, we often associate our national parks with sprawling forests, untamed wildlife and s’mores over a campfire. Yet our national parks are also tasked with the difficult job of safeguarding some of our nation’s richest history. Their efforts ensure our past and stories are not lost. The events that forged our country are preserved and honored, with Gettysburg National Military Park being one such location. This year, the park celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Perhaps your high school American History is a little rusty, so here’s a brief refresher. The Battle of Gettysburg took place from July 1-3 1863 and is often considered by many historians as the pivotal turning point in the Civil War. The battle resulted in an estimated 51,000 casualties, which made it the bloodiest battle of the entire Civil War. The exact number may never be known. Those who fought over those three days inspired the Gettysburg Address, which would occur four months after the conclusion of the battle.

Starting on June 29, the park will offer nine days of special events highlighting the history and events that took place. Special ranger guided programs will take place from July 1-4 in honor of the 150th anniversary celebration.

The kickoff will be the “Gettysburg: A New Birth of Freedom” Commemorative Ceremony, which will take place on June 30, 2013. Located on the outdoor stage, near Meade’s Headquarters on the battlefield, visitors will be treated to three hours of events. Starting at 7:30 p.m., the national anthem will be performed by country star Trace Adkins and the United States Military Academy Orchestra. The ceremony will proceed at 8 p.m. as historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will be deliver the keynote address followed by readings of eyewitness accounts from those who were at the battle. To wrap up, there will be a procession over to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at 9 p.m. followed by the viewing of the luminaries until 10:30 p.m.

Special ranger programs focusing on the historical significance of the park will be offered from July 1-4. Walk in the same places where history was made during the Battlefield Experiences Programs, Key Moments Programs (30 minutes) or Overview Hikes (60-90 minutes). Each highlights important events, decisions, moments and locations where crucial moves were made in the most important battle of the war. For a full list of times, schedules and programs, visit

If you’re considering making this an adults-only trip, think again! There are plenty insightful and engaging workshops designed to keep the little ones occupied as well as pique their interest. The families activity tent will be up and running from July 1-4 and offer a Living History stage where a new Civil War persona will be presented every hour. Meet the individuals that make Gettysburg a colorful historical location. In addition, learn how to dress in full Civil War regalia, become part of a drill team, learn solider songs or snap an old-timey picture in the photo booth.

If that isn’t enough to tucker out the youngest members of your crew, take part in a special Junior Ranger activity. Kids can earn a commemorative 150th anniversary patch as well as a Civil War identity card. Earn all six identity cards while discovery each individual’s unique path and role in the war that defined a nation.

For more information on the anniversary, including directions and a full events schedule, visit

Shutterstock photo by Deb G