150 Cannon-Shot Salute Will Highlight Kickoff of Gettysburg's 150th Anniversary Commemoration of the Civil War

Hampton's Pennsylvania Battery at Gettysburg National Military Park. NPS photo.

The rolling thunder of artillery will reverberate through the hilly countryside of south-central Pennsylvania next April as the Gettysburg area launches its five-year long commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial.

The sesquicentennial of the 1861-1865 Civil War will be commemorated with hundreds of special events and ceremonies, major and minor, throughout America. Few places will be taking the sesquicentennial more seriously than the historic town of Gettysburg, site of the war's biggest, bloodiest, and arguably most important battle. During three days in early July 1863, Union and Confederate armies totaling more than 160,000 men clashed in a titanic struggle that resulted in at least 46,000 casualties and a Union Victory that many consider the turning point of the war.

Today the site of the epic battle is a magnet for tourists (Gettysburg National Military Park drew slightly more than one million visitors last year) and the core attraction of historic Gettysburg's regionally important tourism industry. With visitors pumping tens of millions of dollars into the local economy each year, tourism promoters in south-central Pennsylvania are salivating at the prospect of an even greater bonanza for local businesses during the lengthy Civil War sesquicentennial, which will be celebrated through the 150th anniversary of the war's end in 2015.

Since the Fort Sumter battle that marked the Civil War's onset took place in April 1861, it's appropriate that the Gettysburg area's official kickoff event of the sesquicentennial will take place in April 2011. Events scheduled for the sesquicentennial launch, which has been dubbed “The Invasion of Pennsylvania,” will take place several Adams County communities.

These events are coordinated by the Gettysburg Area 150th Anniversary Steering Committee, which was established "to coordinate the commemoration of the American Civil War in Gettysburg and Adams County, Pa.; to participate in Pennsylvania’s statewide efforts; and to achieve an inclusive, positive legacy and long-term benefit for residents of and visitors to Gettysburg and Adams County."

The “Invasion of Pennsylvania” kickoff next April will feature events in four different Adams county communities:

• The first event will take place on April 9 in Greencastle, which will offer reenactments and living history programs to commemorate the skirmish that took place on the town square. No major battle was fought at Greencastle, but several skirmishes and one engagement were contested there during June 22 - July 5, 1863.

• On April 16, Chambersburg will follow with a battle reenactment and other programs throughout the day. Chambersburg has a lot of Civil War history to claim. In addition to being the site of two separate skirmishes fought during Lee's Gettysburg campaign, the town was raided on October 10, 1862, and burned in another raid on July 30, 1864.

• In nearby Fairfield, living history activities scheduled for April 23 will recreate the cavalry skirmish that took place there on July 3, 1863, the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Confederate victory here prevented Union troops from blocking Lee’s retreat and enabled the battered Army of Northern Virginia to escape and fight on for nearly two more years.

• On April 30, the Gettysburg community will host the largest of the “Invasion of Pennsylvania” kickoff events. The 150 cannon-shot salute scheduled for that day will certainly give visitors a big bang for their bucks, but the day's activities will also include a reenactment of the movement of Union and Confederate troops into the historic town, living history encampments at various locations, reenactment skirmishes, and a formal program in the evening.

Throughout the next five years, Gettysburg and its Adams County neighbors will host numerous 150th Anniversary events. For additional details and a list of the sesquicentennial events, visit this site.

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