The Great Reunion of 1913 was the largest combined reunion of American Civil War veterans ever held. More than 50,000 Union and Confederate veterans gathered at the Gettysburg Battlefield, near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, from June 25 through July 4, 1913.
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All honorably discharged veterans in the Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans were invited. More than 50,000 accepted the invitation. Ages ranged from 61 to, allegedly, 112. Participants came from 47 of the 48 states; only Nevada was unrepresented.
A highlight of the event was the reenactment on July 3 of Pickett's Charge. As the Confederate veterans reached the high water mark at "the Angle", where they were turned back 50 years before, they were met by the Union survivors. The two groups made speeches, exchanged ceremonial flags, and shook hands across the stone wall.
President Woodrow Wilson, the first Southerner elected to that position since 1848, was reluctant to attend, not wanting to give a speech that would inevitably draw comparisons to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. He was eventually persuaded to make a brief appearance, and he addressed the veterans on July 4.
For the 75th anniversary, in 1938, there were only 8,000 known living veterans of the war. Of these, 1,845 veterans were able to attend—1,359 from the North and 486 from the South—although only 65 of them had been at the battle. Their average age was 94 and special arrangements had to be made to care for these elderly men. The highlight of this reunion was the lighting of the eternal flame and dedication of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on Oak Hill by President Franklin D. Roosevelt the evening of July 3.
Notes and references
- Heiser, John (1998-09). "The Great Reunion of 1913". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/archive/gett/getttour/sidebar/reunion13.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-15. "The response was overwhelming and despite efforts to limit the numbers attending, over 50,000 veterans came to Gettysburg and settled into the great camp situated on the battlefield."
- Heiser, John (1998-09). "The Great Reunion of 1913". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/archive/gett/getttour/sidebar/reunion13.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-15. "The youngest veteran at the reunion was 61 years old and the oldest "alleged that he was 112 years.""