July 1, 2, and 3, 2015 was the 152nd Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. As usual, the National Park Service had a number of special programs throughout all three days. In addition to some of the normal ranger programs, they had several real-time programs of 30-45 minutes in length that took place at approximately the same time as the events they described 152 years ago.
What I enjoyed most were the battle walks. On July 1, Rangers John Hoptak and Dan Vermilya led a terrific walk following the attacks of Junius Daniel’s brigade of Robert Rodes’ division of Richard S. Ewell’s corps. The next battle walk was also excellent. Ranger Troy Harman covered how Buford, Birney, Humphreys, and Geary defended the Emmitsburg Road. The final battle walk of the day saw Licensed Battlefield Guide Britt Isenberg talking about the defense of Cemetery Hill. This one was a bit disappointing. While he had accurate information and a nice presentation style, I’m afraid he spent way too much time on events that were extraneous to the defense of Cemetery Hill. He could have cut his presentation by a third and still completely covered Cemetery Hill’s defense.
The July 2 battle walks started with Ranger John Heiser giving an excellent walk discussing the Irish Brigade. This was followed by Supervisory Ranger Chris Gwinn and a superb walk discussing the battle for Little Round Top. The final walk of the day saw Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel on the Gunfight at the Peach Orchard, which was about the artillery action on July 2. Ralph is very knowledgeable and it’s a pleasure to hear his talk, though I think he bit off quite a bit. He went the full three hours plus change for the walk.
On both of the last battle walks of each day, the presenters went on to the point where anyone who wanted to do both the battle walk and the campfire program had no chance. It was either one or the other. If they wanted to do the full battle walk they missed the campfire program. If they wanted to do the campfire program they either had to miss the battle walk or leave it well before it was complete, missing a significant part of the presentation. In my opinion, presenters need to have the respect for the visitors to be cognizant of what they are trying to do after the presentation. That means stopping at a point where the visitors can make it to the next program or to have a meal between programs if we’re talking about the first or second battle walk of the day.
On July 3, Ranger Matt Atkinson led a fantastic walk on Hancock at Gettysburg, followed by Rangers Bill Hewitt and Philip Brown leading a walk of Pickett’s Charge.
As usual, the National Park Service provided an excellent anniversary schedule. There was also a July 4 battle walk with Ranger Dan Welch on the aftermath of Gettysburg, but I was at the Sacred Trust lectures and didn’t attend that one. The battle walks I attended were incredibly informative and great experiences.