PARKERSBURG - Local Civil War re-enactors are involved in the re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Brian Kesterson was part of the general staff as the chief musician-bugler of the 2nd Division of the U.S. Volunteers. The re-enactment of the July 1863 battle organized through the Blue and Gray Alliance from June 27-30 was one of two planned near the national park in the nation's observance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
"It was just mind boggling," said Kesterson, an author and local authority on the Civil War.
Photo by Donna Setler
The federal infantry in a battle line at the stonewall at Pickett’s Charge. This is the 69th N.Y., the Irish Brigade, that held the charge led by Gen. Armistead.
"I saw 15,000 to 20,000 Confederate soldiers coming across the field, banners blowing in the wind," he said. "Smoke from the canons and gun fire was so thick, you couldn't see 20 yards ahead. It was amazing."
Carlin's Battery D, the re-enactment group sanctioned by the Wood County Commission, arrived in Gettysburg on Friday for the second re-enactment sponsored by the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee. The second re-enactment ends on Sunday.
"Everyone is excited about being up here for the 150th," said Chuck Hall with Carlin's Battery.
The Blue and Gray re-enactment was held in a field near the actual site of the battle, Kesterson said. The area was used for field hospitals in the battle 150 years ago, Kesterson said.
The battlefield is a national park and hallowed ground where tens of thousands Union and Confederate soldiers were killed or injured.
More than 30,000 re-enactors participated, he said. More would have come to the Pennsylvania town, but the heat kept many away, Kesterson said.
The heat index was 100, he said.
It was extremely difficult for the re-enactors who were clad in wool uniforms, Kesterson said. About 20 participants each day succumbed to heat prostration, he said.
"This must have been what it was like for them in the Civil War," Kesterson said.
The carefully choreographed re-enactment went off without a hitch, from Pickett's ill-fated charge to the Irish Brigade holding the line at the stone wall, Kesterson said.
As a member of the general staff, Kesterson observed the entire battlefield, rather than the singular events. It changes the perspective, he said.
"We were back and forth, back and forth on the battlefield for two hours," he said.
"It was a melee, a whirlwind of total chaos, but it was a controlled chaos," Kesterson said. "I saw the battle from all aspects and it's different than looking at it from a single point."
Some of the participants were women, who put their hair up under the hats, among other preparations, and looked like men, Kesterson said. It's nice to see such interest, he said.
"They went at it as hard as the men did," he said.
Members of Carlin's at Gettysburg this weekend are Hall, Jim Miracle, Chad Spohn, Dustin Spohn, A.J. Hamler, Ron Kesner and Josh Fanelli. Kanawha Battery from St. Marys also is participating.
At least 140 guns from 120 units across the country are at the re-enactment, Miracle said.