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Civil war veterans at Gettysburg anniversary in 1913 – in pictures

The 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, the battle that many historians cite as a key turning point in the US civil war, which left nearly 50,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead, wounded or captured on Pennsylvania farmland. In 1913, on the 50th anniversary of the battle, the same fields played host to the largest ever gathering of civil war veterans, where former soldiers from both sides – many in their 70s – returned to commemorate the war

All honourably discharged veterans were invited to the reunion, drawing more than 50,000 members of the Grand Army of the Republic (the north) and the United Confederate Veterans (the south). Fifty years after the battle, many were in their 70s. Harris & Ewing Collection/US Library of Congress

Union veterans in front of an Indiana tent. The War Department – the precursor to today’s Defense Department – provided tents for housing the tens of thousands of veterans who made the pilgrimage back to Gettysburg. US Library of Congress

The Blue and the Gray at Gettysburg: a Union veteran and a Confederate veteran shake hands.
US Library of Congress

Confederate and Union veterans pass the time with a drum-and-fife corps.
US Library of Congress/Harris & Ewing Collection

Boy Scout escorts take a break for some fun in the July heat. Several hundred scouts from Washington were tasked with helping the aged veterans move smoothly around the encampment during the anniversary activities. George Grantham Bain Collection/US Library of Congress

A veteran takes a break in the shade. Many of the scheduled events involved dedications of memorials or low-key re-enactments of the charges and fighting of 50 years earlier. For others, the time was spent simply reminiscing. US Library of Congress

A veteran carries a cot through the Gettysburg encampment. The War Department’s plan for the commemorations involved thousands of active soldiers working to provide latrines, housing and food for the veterans. Harris & Ewing Collection/US Library of Congress

Former Confederate soldiers gather at a North Carolina Tar Heel tent. Of the 50,000 veterans who came to Gettysburg, fewer than 10,000 were Confederates. National Photo Company/US Library of Congress

Veterans disembark from a train directly on to the battlefield, thanks to a platform built specifically for the anniversary. Much as the soldiers had in 1863, the veterans and observers swelled the tiny town of Gettysburg beyond its usual population of 4,000. George Grantham Bain Collection/US Library of Congress

In a sea of tents, veterans sit at a mess table for a meal.
Bain News Service/US Library of Congress

Union and Confederate soldiers gather around a cannon.
Harris & Ewing Collection/US Library of Congress

General Daniel Sickles, seated, is surrounded by veterans. Sickles, a New York general, lost his right leg to a cannonball during a Confederate attack and had it sent to the army medical museum. He would reportedly visit it on the anniversary of the battle. George Grantham Bain Collection/US Library of Congress

Union veterans pose in the July heat.
US Library of Congress

A Union veteran and a Confederate veteran.
Harris & Ewing Collection/US Library of Congress

Men who participated in the notorious Pickett’s Charge reunite at Bloody Angle, Confederates in the foreground, Union soldiers against the wall. The 2 July march across Cemetery Ridge, which is considered the high-water mark of the Confederacy, involved 12,500 southern soldiers. More than half of them were killed or wounded. George Grantham Bain Collection/US Library of Congress

Sources 1,2

Sam Dickson

Sam Dickson is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News