Day Seven: Afternoon Wednesday, July 3. PICKETT'S CHARGE! At 1:30pm we formed up in two columns the Union Army in Blue on the far side of Steinwehr Avenue and the Confederate Army in Gray on the near side in Historically accurate positions. Together and in step we marched onto the battlefield along the busy road. The sense of occasion and the gravity of the anniversary weighed heavy on me. We moved in silence each man contemplating the enormous events that had taken place 150 years previously to the hour.
At the rail fence opposite the high water mark monument we halted. General Pickett, myself and a small cadre detached ourselves and faced the flag bearers and men that would turn obliquely right and march towards the Virginia Monument and the starting position of the historic charge.
The heat and humidity weighed heavy on me and I took much needed frequent sips of water from my 2 pint regulation canteen. It was now 2pm and we had to wait a whole hour for the charge to begin.http://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/cc9eb20d836eb2d64ae007662dabfe11.jpg
Brody's smile said it all. For we were all here to celebrate the dead and bring them back alive. A true healing. It would be led by many of us who were there 150 years ago and now had returned in the flesh to be here at this moment of time and place.
In a delightful contemporary twist we were joined by two modern day US Army Veterans complete with Confederate bandannas and Harley Davidson Motorcycles. Just as in my many Gettysburg war games where I had the Heavy Metal Brothers complete with Harley D on the battlefield!http://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/1379b48882596d62b32080d1388b0d90.jpg
It was as if the universe was smiling on me!!!!
The previous year 7 people had died of heat stroke. I started to feel dizzy so rested against the fence. I knew I would be better once moving as my blood pressure had dropped into my boots. Then we could see them coming. 15 000 people in 9 brigades as on the day. It was history in action. We had expected one or two thousand but not 15!
On and on they came led by 200 re-enactors with fixed bayonets and banners flying.http://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/5098e104356f6d168ef73ca5f40dbab2.jpghttp://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/9c26dfd6719a609098a81decd7c32c5b.jpghttp://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/e4e8b01e14bd724708b8dc78f6c296c0.jpghttp://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/b8c833621e8f57031c4b8df91944267f.jpg
Reaching the rail fence I shouted "Virginia!" And the cry was taken up by many others. For me it was an epic moment. The troops manoeuvred through the rail fence gap and crossed the modern day road. Forming up the other side there was a brief pause as the line reformed and continued in an eerie silence as though under heavy fire from cannon, canister and musket fire.http://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/de97444b080063ed182fc1df2a0984fa.jpghttp://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/eab718657213a4786276ce1bbd7956ad.jpghttp://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/242f899e3fe519ac8d26790270f672b5.jpg
Intermingled between the adults were many children and young people experiencing real history. One young boy aged about 10 was heard to say, "Now I understand it!"http://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/778bc6587ff53e75d20fc2af84e73aa9.jpg
My breath shortened and I was swept on by many modern dressed people taking part in this epic commemoration. Then we reached the Angle and the High waste mark monument. Packing together in the heat. I turned to see eight more brigades marching forward across the horizon to join us! It was a WOW! Moment as I had no idea of the scale of this event. At the angle we were faced by 20 000 people on the Union side. Overcome with emotion I shook hands with a Union Standard Bearer his Stars and Stripes waving in the air. I then turned to a Black guy dressed as a Confederate soldier and gave him a hug and a pat on the back. Everyone was there. As we had marched I had felt the dead marching with us. It was a feeling like I had never felt before.http://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/fa8bf56d07980957b2dcf80b4f1a7110.jpghttp://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/df77958b04383061d304d4213c9f9a68.jpghttp://www.ravenecho.com/static/245/3ebb08f781955e6b790646f1aef3d03b.jpg
Suddenly a hush descended over the crowd as 35 000 people fell silent for prayers. Parents silenced their children and the dead were remembered. At the culmination of the two minutes silence Taps was sounded (the American version of the last post) and many tears of emotion were shed. Many had pictures of their ancestors who had fought there and died there pinned to their clothes.
Feeling overwhelmed I made my way to General Armistead's (Rich Gow) side. He was decidedly worse for wear and about to pass out with heat stroke. I recognised that he was a lot worse for wear than me so I shouted up to the spectators for water. Within a few seconds two bottles of water were thrown to me and I gave them to Rich. A New York Times reporter interviewed me as to where I had come from and why I had made the pilgrimage to be on this hallowed ground.
I managed to keep talking but was starting to feel as though I was going to pass out. General Armistead was then led off to the Dressing Station for monitoring, cooling and rehydrating. Rich is 66 and had marched the whole mile down to the monument then led the charge back! I realised that I had made the right decision to remain with General Pickett as Paul had had a stroke on the anniversary of Pickett's death. I had warned him to take care as we usually feel the trauma of our other physical selves synchronous age wise with the actually event. In Paul's case he had mercifully survived the demise of his former physical self.
The Confederate entourage led by the re-enactors passed through the high water mark hence symbolically taking the wall that they had failed to take back in 1863.
After 30 minutes I decided that I couldn't sit in the sun anymore and climbed through the narrow gap into the shade under the trees....
To be continued ....