150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg appeals to many non-Americans

Re-enactors from the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves talk around the campfire during a recent encampment near the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa.
DIANE STONEBACK | MCT
Re-enactors from the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves talk around the campfire during a recent encampment near the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa.
The statue of Union Gen. Gouverner K. Warren stands atop the rugged rocks of Little Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. This site overlooks the scene of fighting on July 2-3, 1863; in the middle distance is the Cordori Farm, around which Virginia troops passed while participating in Pickett's Charge.
Brian Swartz | BDN
The statue of Union Gen. Gouverner K. Warren stands atop the rugged rocks of Little Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. This site overlooks the scene of fighting on July 2-3, 1863; in the middle distance is the Cordori Farm, around which Virginia troops passed while participating in Pickett's Charge.
The original barn at Sherfy Farm caught fire during the Battle of Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pa., and burned to the ground.
DIANE STONEBACK | MCT
The original barn at Sherfy Farm caught fire during the Battle of Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pa., and burned to the ground.
The Devil's Den is the local name applied to the mass of jumbled boulders located at the south end of Houck's Ridge at Gettysburg, Pa. The Devil's Den was the scene of intense fighting involving the 4th Maine Infantry Regiment and other Union and Confederate regiments on Thursday, July 2, 1863.
Brian Swartz | BDN
The Devil's Den is the local name applied to the mass of jumbled boulders located at the south end of Houck's Ridge at Gettysburg, Pa. The Devil's Den was the scene of intense fighting involving the 4th Maine Infantry Regiment and other Union and Confederate regiments on Thursday, July 2, 1863.
A Union cannon overlooks the Powers Hill area at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania on June 19, 2013. The U.S. National Park Service cleared 13 acres of non-historic trees on hill in the winter of 2010-2011, and returned Powers Hill closer to the way it appeared in July 1863.
Chuck Myers | MCT
A Union cannon overlooks the Powers Hill area at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania on June 19, 2013. The U.S. National Park Service cleared 13 acres of non-historic trees on hill in the winter of 2010-2011, and returned Powers Hill closer to the way it appeared in July 1863.
Posted June 29, 2013, at 4:57 p.m.

It hardly sounds like a dream honeymoon: a week charging around a battleground reverberating with the clamor of 135 cannons, the reek of gunpowder smoke and the cacophony of 12,000 soldiers and 400 horses.

Yet for Polish newlyweds Madeline and Lukas Kus, the noise and violence are the main attraction. The couple, both 30-year-olds from Warsaw, are among scores of non-Americans — some from as far afield as Australia — who have come to Pennsylvania to take part in two re-enactments commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in the first week of July.

The Kuses are two of six Poles here to remember the Polish Brigade, originally formed by Polish-American Walery Sulakowski in August 1861. Almost two years later, the brigade, part of the 14th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was deployed to Gettysburg to take part in the largest battle of the American Civil War. Casualties (killed, missing in action, wounded or captured) for Union and Confederate troops totaled 50,000.

Madeline Kus, who is portraying a Confederate drummer boy in the June 27-30 re-enactment organized by the Blue Gray Alliance, has been taking part in Civil War re-creations for more than two years.

A second re-enactment, sponsored by the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee, will take place at a farm near Gettysburg on July 4-7. That version is expected to include about 300 foreign-born re-enactors from a range of countries including Canada, Austria, France, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark and Britain.

All the simulated encounters take place on private farmland. “Officers” assign roles in famously well-known and researched engagements within the battle of Gettysburg, like Pickett’s Charge or the battle of Devil’s Den, and participants arrive already knowledgeable and prepared to feign death.

Military historian professor Peter Stanley of the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, will be among the group in the second event.

“I’ll be wearing the ‘undress’ uniform of a major of the 101st Royal Bengal Fusiliers,” said Stanley, author of 25 books, most of them on military history. That means a dark blue patrol jacket, lavender-blue trousers and a cap.

“I’ll be representing one of the British officers who spent time with both sides observing the war in America. Some British officers came especially; many came down from their stations in Canada. My major is stopping off on the way home from India on leave. I’ll be ‘armed’ with a walking stick, since I’m just observing,” he said.

Stanley said he got hooked on his academic specialty after reading Robert Alter’s “Heroes in Blue and Gray” at the age of 11.

For 72-year-old Frederick “Derek” Philips, of Scotland, who portrays Capt. William Wilcox of the 95th New York, the occasion affords the chance to relive history. Philips, a member of the American Civil War Society in the UK, said he participates in about five such events a year in the British Isles.

Philips, a history teacher who has visited Gettysburg several times, said he met members of the Confederation of Union Generals 10 years ago at the commemoration. “I was invited to join as an (aide-de-camp) to Major General John F. Reynolds. Wilcox was with General Reynolds when he was killed at Gettysburg on the first day of the battle.”

Gettysburg officials are expecting 250,000 visitors at the small south-central Pennsylvania borough of about 7,700 residents for the anniversary. To accommodate them, officials have hired law enforcement and emergency service personnel to provide security and related services.

As a result of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year, authorities have put additional security measures in place, banning large backpacks from grandstands and deploying additional police and emergency service personnel.

 

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