Above Image: Soldier standing in front of the Gettysburg National Cemetery sign, site of the annual Dedication Day ceremonies. Right: Director Steven Spielberg with reenactors after his Dedication Day speech on November 19, 2012.
Gettysburg Dedication Day and the Gettysburg Address
November 19 - Each year in the middle of November, the Gettysburg National Military Park takes time to remember the role and sacrifice that the soldiers in the battle gave with a weekend of Remembrance. Less about the battle itself than playing honor to that sacrifice, this weekend, while lesser known than the rousing July 1-3 battle days of the summer, is a must see for any american history or civil war fan. At the side of individual monuments, mostly spontaneous ceremonies to honor individual brigades and regiments are done by costumed reenactors. In the afternoon, a parade of several thousand reenactors march down the same streets where Abraham Lincoln walked to the fanfare of civil war music. At night, an illuination of the gravesites by candle. And on dedication day, the actual November 19 day that Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address, a ceremony in the cemetary with wreath laying and addresses by dignitaries and a recital of the Gettysburg Address. So if you get the chance to be in Pennsylvania during November, take three days in Gettysburg to remember the soldiers who fought for our freedom and to keep the nation together. You'll be glad you did.
- Then and Now
- Things You Should Not Miss
Dedication Day 2012 - With the backdrop of the exact location where Abraham Lincoln gave his short and poignant address, Steven Spielberg paid tribute to the men and women who fought and died for the cause of freedom in the town that bear the name of the most famous speech in american history, Gettysburg. His words were ones of humility and passion for history born from a lifetime of remembrance and a decade of work on his spectacular tribute to the times, the film Lincoln. Based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, who also spoke this day, the days and trials of the 16th President, tells the story of how he shepherded the nation through war, through emancipation, and toward peace. Listen to the words of the famed director below and some day, visit Gettysburg during these days of remembrance. More than 9,000 visitors watched the Dedication Day Ceremonies in 2012. Watch the video of the ceremony below, and below that, watch the trailer for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln.
Watch Spielberg's Speech
Evergreen Cemetery and Gettysburg Cemetery - The gate to the cemetery from Baltimore Street (photo below) during the battle year. Evergreen Cemetery was the town cemetery for the citizens of Gettysburg and the site of the Gettysburg Address. Land was bought by David Wills for the purpose of construction of the military cemetery to the north of the original cemetery, which would hold the graves and pay honor to their sacrifice.
Soldiers National Cemetery - The south gate of the military cemetery with a costumed interpreter posing beside in during Dedication Day 2012 (photo top center). The cemetery is available to visit year round. Parking ifor the cemetery is located just south of this gate across the street. This parking lot is also available for visiting the High Water Mark trail and location of Pickett's Charge.
Watch Trailer from Spielberg's Movie Lincoln
- 1. Monument Ceremonies. Rarely announced and spontaneous in nature, these Remembrance Weekend ceremonies take place all around the field by reenactors who honor the brigade they champion. From the large Hancock statue where a large ceremony takes place most years to far off locales to the south of Little Round Top, don't miss the opportunity to see these heart felt recalls of the trials and tribuations of individual regiments and soldiers. Just travel around the field and ask someone dressed in 1863 garb and you'll likely find one.
2. The Parade. Held at 1:00 p.m. on the Saturday afternoon closest to November 19, several thousand reenactors, on horseback, with bands, with women and children, march up and down the streets of Gettysburg, past period homes, plus a few souvenir shops and ghost story signs, ending up at the edge of Pickett's Charge. It's a stirring time. This is November, so bring a coat and a chair, but you'll be amazed at the honor and dedication resplendent and oozing from the pores of both participants and parade watchers.
3. The Cemetery Illumination. Saturday night of Remembrance Weekend. On a spot of the field within the cemetery that holds its heros, the darkness of the background and flickers of light which each candle shows is a breathtaking and tear inspiring take on how many souls were heros during the three days of battle.
4. Dedication Day Ceremonies. Held on the exact day, November 19, within the cemetery, the ceremonies begin with a wreath laying at the Soldiers Monument and concludes with an official ceremony at the rostrum. Get there early and even earlier depending on the speaker that day. In 2012, it was film director and producer Steven Spielberg, plus author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. In years past, diginitaries such as Harry Truman, Dwright David Eisenhower, actors Stephen Lang, broadcasters Sam Donaldson and Tom Brokaw, have been among those who have paid tribute. There's also readings of the Gettysburg Address and a naturalization ceremony.
5. Battle Walk - Not the most important aspect of these days per se, but available, in limited quantity, from rangers of the park. These area usually the last of the season and always a good way to learn more about the battle itself.