On July 1-4, 1913, the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was celebrated with the first joint reunion for all Union and Confederate veterans, many of whom fought here in 1863.
53,407 veterans attended. 44,713 Union and 8,694 Confederate. A huge encampment of 6,600 tents, spread over 280 acres, was erected to hyour and feed them.
The "grand reunion" attracted press correspondents from all over the nation and Europe, and more than 100,000 visitors.
It was anticipated that the event would be, "...not the Celebration of a Battle, but the Reunion of a Nation..." The voluntary meeting of so large a contingent of old foes at the most revered battle site of the war was seen to demonstrate "...that the last embers of the former days had been wiped out... and... there should be proclaimed a new... national brotherhood..."
The old foes readily fraternized in the camp, on jaunts around the battlefield, and during the formal events and speeches held in "the great tent" set up at the southern extreme of the encampment. In the end they agreed to a future joint reunion.
The correspondent for the London Times summed up the unanimous opinion of his press colleagues: "There can be little doubt that the Grand Reunion has been a great and memorable lesson... eradicating forever the scars of the civil war in a way no amount of preaching or political maneuvering could have done."
All photos courtesy Gettysburg National Military Park archives. Veterans camp map courtesy Gerald Bennett.
Text with map: Map of the Great Camp, showing where veteran guests from each state were located.
Text with photos, left to right:
Old foes meet on the steps of the Eagle Hotel.
President Woodrow Wilson attends the 50th reunion.
Baking bread in wood-fired ovens.
Blankets for the vetans camps.
A Pennsylvania Department of Health ambulance.
Hands across the wall, North and South greeting.