1913 Gettysburg reunion

1913 Gettysburg reunion
military facility
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Adams
Park Gettysburg National Military Park
Owner United States Department of War

The 1913 Gettysburg reunion was a Gettysburg Battlefield encampment of American Civil War veterans for the Battle of Gettysburg's 50th anniversary. The June 29–July 4 gathering of 53,407 veterans (~8,750 Confederate)[1] was the largest ever Civil War veteran reunion, and "never before in the world's history [had] so great a number of men so advanced in years been assembled under field conditions" (Chief Surgeon).[2]:60 All honorably discharged veterans in the Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans were invited, and veterans from 46 of the 48 states attended[3] (cf. Nevada and Wyoming).[4][5] Despite concerns "that there might be unpleasant differences, at least, between the blue and gray"[6] (as after England's War of the Roses and the French Revolution),[7] the peaceful reunion was repeatedly marked by events of Union–Confederate camaraderie.[8] President Woodrow Wilson's July 4 reunion address summarized the spirit: "We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten—except that we shall not forget the splendid valor."

External image
1913 GNPC map for reunion


After numerous smaller Gettysburg reunions, including the 1906 Philadelphia Brigade/Pickett's Division reunion during which Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead's captured sword was returned to the South,[9] in April 1908 General Henry S. Huidekoper of Philadelphia suggested a 1913 50th anniversary reunion to Pennsylvania Governor Edwin Sydney Stuart.[1]:178 On September 8,[10]:'13 the Gettysburg National Park Commission met with Gettysburg borough officials about the event, Stuart conducted a sub-committee meeting on October 25, and Stuart addressed the General Assembly in January 1909.[1]:178

On May 13, 1909, the Pennsylvania Assembly created the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg Commission,[11] and the commission's "first tentative programme" of October 13, 1910[10]:'13 included a "Peace Jubilee" with noon July 3 placement of the cornerstone for a "Great Peace Memorial".[1]:173 The August 26, 1912, US Congress bill appropriated $150K and directed the War Department establish the camp,[1]:181 but the memorial funding was not approved and the "Peace Jubilee" plans were removed from the schedule. The site for the camp and the 8 acres (3.2 ha) for the Great Tent west of the Codori House were selected in 1912 and mapped by the Gettysburg National Park Commission.[10]:'14 The Park Commission also completed painting of avenue fencing, gun carriages, iron tablets, pyramids, and shells from 1912 through June 30, 1913.[10]:'14 On April 13, 1913, the Pennsylvania commission completed the Pennsylvania State Memorial[12] and also mailed 40,000 veteran's invitations.[1]:22 On June 28, President Woodrow Wilson notified the Pennsylvania commission he would attend the reunion for a "very limited period".[1]:173 The 33 contributing states provided a total of $1,033,000 for the reunion ($450,000 from Pennsylvania).[1]:228

The Pennsylvania commission headquarters at Gettysburg was at 231 Baltimore St,[1]:22 with the Harrisburg office of the Secretary (later nicknamed the "Duke of Gettysburg")[13] in Pennsylvania State Capitol Room 509. Various commemorative tokens and programs were developed for attendees, including 3 types of Pennsylvania badges ("PRESS", "GUEST", "SCOUT"), a commemorative medal,[14]:8 and a souvenir program of poems by the attending "Veteran Scout", Jack Crawford.[15] The Pennsylvania Railroad Company also added "a telephone line between Gettysburg and Hanover along the Western Maryland Railway, over which the Pennsy [would] operate a large number of trains during the battle anniversary".[16]:1 On the Chambersburg-Gettysburg turnpike and the Gettysburg-Petersburg turnpike, tolls ended in time for the reunion when on June 27, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the 1911 Sproul Roads Act, by which the Commonwealth acquired private toll roads.[13]:1

By February 1, 1913, water wells were being drilled for the July encampment,[14]:7 and by June 26 hotels in Hanover, Chambersburg, Hagerstown, and "the Blue Ridge section [were] filling rapidly".[17] For entertainment, a Gettysburg facility was started in 1912 to display the Boston version of the Gettysburg Cyclorama, and the now lost The Battle of Gettysburg black & white film of 1913 was first run at Walter's Theatre on June 26.[17] Local planning for the reunion included expanding the Gettysburg hackman's tax to automobiles (upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1914), a 50 cent maximum for taxi fares in the borough, and an obscure request from a few Missouri veterans regarding the availability near Gettysburg of "a few good widows or old maids … good housekeepers and not too young" to go west after the reunion (the "kind-hearted mayor", J. A. Holtzworth, agreed to forward photos to the veterans in the "Cupid … operations")![18]


The War Department's Great Camp (Gettysburg Encampment, Anniversary Camp, Veterans Camp)[1]:40,71,87,91 provided tents and support facilities for the Civil War veterans and extended from both sides of Long Lane on the north to within 500 yards of the Bliss House.[19] The Great Camp included the Great Tent (Big Tent, 200 x 450 ft)[10]:'14 "with its thirteen thousand chairs"; the veterans' tents; quarters for 1,466 War Department soldiers (including camp commander Gen. Liggitt) & 2,179 mess personnel; 385 camp Boy Scouts from Washington; and other camp personnel for a total of 57,198 "persons quartered and subsisted in the Great Camp".[1]:40 The camp had a temporary U. S. Post Office;[1]:84b 90 Pennsylvania Health Department latrines throughout the camp with a seating capacity of 3,476;[2]:58 and near the Great Tent, an Emergency Station and 2 Comfort Houses of the health dept, which also supplied the Great Tent water fountains.[20]:75 The Pennsylvania commission also set up a temporary morgue in the camp.[2]:56 A special platform on the Round Top Branch was built for veterans to disembark from steamtrains directly into the camp[16] (in February, trolleys of the Gettysburg Electric Railway had been prohibited from using the branch).[14]

After the state health department's Chief Engineer had estimated Gettysburg (pop. 4,500) would be inundated with 100,000 people, the borough agreed to the Commissioner of Health's request for his department to take over medical and sanitation efforts in the area from June 25-July 25.[20]:75 The department set up a field hospital at the Kurtz property facing Brickyard Lane on the north foot of East Cemetery Hill, as well as 6 Comfort Stations in the borough (1 at each railroad station), with a total of ~100 hoppers.[20]:82 The department also tested borough wells and mitigated contamination sources upstream of the Water Works supply on Marsh Creek. The American Red Cross Society, along with 72 additional Boy Scouts operated fourteen 7 ft x 7 ft Relief Stations for first aid and rest on the battlefield park roads,[2]:55 and the Tuberculosis Dispensary in Gettysburg was also used as a Relief Station.[20]:86

Attached to the Great Camp were a battery of the Third United States Field Artillery and several companies of Regular Infantry.[10]:'14 Companies A-D (14 officers & 285 men)[10] of the Fifteenth United States Cavalry arrived on June 26 for guarding the battlefield[10]:'13 and camped west of Seminary Ridge on the Hagerstown Rd,[16] while a "model Camp" for a Pennsylvania cavalry squadron was on the "College Athletic Field" adjoining the Commission's Headquarters.[1]:52 A total of 527 people were quartered at both the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg & the Pennsylvania College ("Gettysburg College" in 1921), including the Pennsylvania Gettysburg Commission, 4 troops of Pennsylvania State Police, and in tents, Governor Tener's staff.[1]:49 Additional nearby encampments included the leased Newspaper Row ("Meadeboro") with 155 journalists north of the Gettysburg National Cemetery,[1]:40 an encampment of 30 Boy Scouts near Cashtown west of Gettysburg for traveler services[21]:5 on the Chambersburg-Gettysburg Pike, and Philadelphia and Baltimore salvation army encamped in Stonesifer's Grove at Biglerville, Pennsylvania.


The Great Camp opened for supper on June 29 with Pennsylvania veterans from the state reunion that adjourned on June 28 and other early veterans (e.g. 2 Confederate vets of Culp's Hill had arrived on June 26).[17] The 21,000 arrivals on the 29th instead of the 6,000[1]:52 expected by Capt McCaskey of the Quartermasters Corps[16] resulted in initial shortages (some veterans left without staying). After the 1912 base of the Virginia Monument was dedicated on June 30,[8] official reunion events began on July 1, Veteran's Day, and included a speech by John Wanamaker.

July 2
Military Day included an address recommending a stronger military ("we ought to build two battleships for every one laid down by Japan"), a reading of the Gettysburg Address, and a Seminary Ridge review of the VA division by their governor.[22] At night, an impromptu Union raid on the Confederate side of the Great Camp resulted in joint parades and camp fires following the "charge".[22]
July 3
Civic/Governors' Day had 65 unit reunions,[1]:133 the Wells statue dedication,[10]:'14 and a Webb/Pickett flag ceremony at the Bloody Angle on the hour of Pickett's Charge.[1] In the Great Tent from 4:30-6 P.M. was the New York Veterans' Celebration, which included a speech by Colonel Andrew Cowan in which he again called for a Gettysburg peace memorial.[1]:153–65 The fireworks by the Pain Fireworks Display Company at 9 p.m. included "gigantic set pieces covering the entire face and crest of Little Round Top".[1]:171
July 4
On National Day, the Pennsylvania State Memorial with 8 statues installed in April was dedicated, and President Woodrow Wilson arrived at 11 a.m. in a special train car, traveled through the borough, and entered the Great Tent through 2 rows of Boy Scouts. Wilson addressed the audience in the Big Tent about national unity and departed the camp after the National Anthem that followed (attendees similarly returned to their quarters). The subsequent Tribute to Our Heroic Dead with "a silent, solemn, sacred five minutes at 'Attention' by" people throughout the Gettysburg area, e.g., at the "College Hotel" & "Seminary Hotel". The Tribute began with a bugle salute over the camp while the Gettysburg bells tolled noon in the distance, followed by the remaining minutes of silence punctuated by periodic artillery firing from the distance. From 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., 7,147 automobiles (at least 1 from each state) used the national park roads.[10]

Departures included 12,000 veterans on July 2 and about the same number on July 3,[22] and dismantling of the Great Camp began immediately after the July 4 Tribute. The hospital closed on July 5, and the last veteran left on July 8. The annual military instructional camp (250 college students) used a few tents of the veterans camp[10]:'14 while encamped at the "Meadeboro" camp (Newspaper Row) from July 7-August 15. The Quartermaster headquarters on Baltimore St closed on August 13, and by August 15 the entire Grand Camp had been removed except "four great water storage reservoirs". A movie, United at Gettysburg, documented the reunion, and Lt Col Lewis E. Beitler, Secretary of the Commission, completed the compilation of the organizations' reports on the December 31, 1913.[1]:178

To commemorate the 1913 Gettysburg reunion, a colonial portico was opened in May 1914 at the Seminary's Old Dorm (only the concrete base remains), and the 1938 Eternal Light Peace Memorial was erected on Oak Ridge, north of Gettysburg.

Reunion names in the official report
The Congressional committee used the name Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, but other organizations and officials used numerous other names:

 · Celebration of the Semi-Centenary of the Civil War
 · Gettysburg Celebration  · Reunion Celebration at Gettysburg
 · Gettysburg Reunion  · Gettysburg Peace Reunion
 · Great Peace Reunion  · Great Peace Jubilee  · Golden Jubilee
 · Great Reunion  · Grand Reunion  · Blue and Gray Reunion

and in a souvenir program of poems: Grand Reunion of the Blue and the Gray on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg[15]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Beitler, Lewis Eugene (editor and compiler) (December 31, 1913). Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg: Report of the Pennsylvania Commission (Google Books) (Report). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Wm. Stanley Bay (state printer). Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Bradley, A. E. (Lieut. Colonel) (October 24, 1913). Office of Chief Surgeon Report (Google Books). Report of the Pennsylvania Commission (Report). Medical Corps, U. S. Army. Retrieved 2011-02-06. The youngest veteran known to have been at the camp was 61 years of age. The oldest alleged that he was 112 years. (p. 60)
  3. Davis, William C. (1995) [1983]. Gettysburg: The Story Behind the Scenery (Fifth Printing ed.). p. 28. ISBN 0-916122-89-1. LCCN 83080606. Pennsylvanians made up the bulk of them: 22,103 to be exact, 303 of whom were Confederate veterans. Yet men came from all but 2 of the 48 states.
  4. "Attendance Figures for 1913 and 1938 Gettysburg Reunions". Segway Tours of Gettysburg Blog. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  5. Tapscott, Logan (2011-11-17). "Pennsylvania College During the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg". The Gettysburg Compiler. Archived from the original on 2018-03-09. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  6. "The Peace Memorial Bill: Speech of Colonel Andrew Cowan of Louisville" (Google News Archive). Gettysburg Compiler. April 18, 1914. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
  7. "The Gettysburg Reunion" (Google Books). Report of the Pennsylvania Commission. March 29, 1913. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
  8. 1 2 "Pathetic Night Scene in Veterans' Great Reunion" (Google News Archive). The Pittsburgh Press. July 1, 1913. Retrieved 2011-02-28. Yesterday afternoon … the dedication of the Lee uncompleted [Virginia] monument took place. NOTE: A violent event away from the reunion was at Hotel Gettysburg where a man used a "vile epithet" for President Lincoln and stabbed 8 people The VA governor subsequently spoke on behalf of the perpetrator, a Philadelphia attorney in the area to locate his father that he claimed was a Confederate general. The father, a Confederate Major posted the bail.
  9. Frazier, John W (1906). Reunion of the Blue and Gray: Philadelphia Brigade and Pickett's Division (Google Books). Philadelphia: Ware Bros, Company, Printers. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Gettysburg National Military Park Commission. "An Introduction to the Annual Reports of the Gettysburg National Military Park Commission to the Secretary of War". The Gettysburg Commission Reports. Gettysburg, PA: War Department. "The United States land on the battlefield is used by the Quartermaster’s Department for camp site No. 1. Part of the farm (formerly Codori) of William F. Redding, lessee, approximately 28 acres, also tract (formerly Barrett heirs) and part of the farm (formerly McMillan), both properties rented to the Quartermaster Corps, U.S.A., by O. D. McMillan, 56 acres; a total of 84 acres." (1913 report) "The Pennsylvania Commission, a congressional committee, and State representatives, composing a joint commission. They have had various meetings as the work developed. The first meeting was held in Gettysburg at the courthouse October 13, 1910, noted in the annual report for 1911. There were other meetings held elsewhere. A meeting was held at Gettysburg December 13, 1912, at Hotel Gettysburg. The next meeting was held at the Union League, Philadelphia, January 23, 24, and 25, 1913. … This great project, which was inaugurated September 8, 1908, by the chairman of the Gettysburg National Park Commission" (after the April 1908 idea of General Henry S. Huidekoper)
  11. "Civil War Veterans To Meet On Gettysburg Battlefield" (Google News Archive). The Hudson Independent. May 30, 1913. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
  12. Loski, Diana. "The Pennsylvania Memorial: A Centennial". GettysburgExperience.com. Archived from the original on 2010-11-28. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
  13. 1 2 "50th Anniversary Is Here & Toll Free to Gettysburg" (Google News). Gettysburg Compiler. July 2, 1913. Retrieved 2011-02-07. (GDG.org Microsoft Word version, Quick View version)
  14. 1 2 3 "Railroad Blocks Trolley Plans" & "Medals for the Gettysburg Men" (Google News Archives). Adams County News. February 8, 1913. Retrieved 2011-01-22. (Gettysburg Times, Feb 1)
  15. 1 2 Crawford, John Wallace "Jack" (1913), A Prayer and a Benediction … and Other Poems from his new book (listing, Cowan's Auctions), retrieved 2011-02-07
  16. 1 2 3 4 "Expecting Many More Veterans & Railroad Telephone" (Google News Archives). Adams County News. June 28, 1913. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
  17. 1 2 3 "Walter's Theatre ….Here…. The Battle Of Gettysburg", "First Boys in Gray Here, & "Many Cancel Reservations" (Google News Archive). Gettysburg Times. Times and News Publishing Company. June 26, 1913. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
  18. "Chance for Local Husband Hunters" (Google News Archives). Gettysburg Times. Times and News Publishing Company. June 2, 1913. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
  19. "Veteran's Joyful Over Camp's End" (Google News Archives). The Day. New London, Connecticut. July 3, 1913. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Dixon, Samuel G (December 15, 1913). Commissioner's Report (Google Books). Report of the Pennsylvania Commission (Report). Pennsylvania Department of Health. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  21. "Many Students Will Be Here" (Google News Archive). Adams County News. June 7, 1913. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
  22. 1 2 3 "March on Rebs: Blues Advanced on the Grays Wednesday Night", "Many Leaving", "Reviewed Virginians" (Google News Archives). Gettysburg Times. Times and News Publishing Company. July 3, 1913. Retrieved 2011-02-08.

Further reading

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