Soldiers & Sailors curator among the hundreds set for 'mega-authentic' Gettysburg re-enactment
Early July is a pretty awful time to throw on a pair of wool pants and tromp through a muggy Central Pennsylvania field, but Michael Kraus wasn't about to turn down the invitation.
The National Park Service asked Kraus, a Civil War re-enactor since 1966, to take part in the only re-enactment allowed on the Gettysburg battlefield during the 150th anniversary celebrations from June 30 through July 3.
“This is mega-authentic camping,” said Kraus, 59, of McCandless, curator of the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland. He'll join more than 220 others in a Union encampment near the Pennsylvania Memorial for three days and nights. “Nothing we bring in can be or should be patterned after anything made after the (1863) battle.”
The battlefield re-enactment, something the National Park Service hasn't allowed for 25 years, won't re-create battles. Instead, Kraus' brigade will show off artillery and infantry maneuvers and talk with tourists who wander through their camp.
The flashy stuff comes before and after the anniversary. Two re-enactment companies —‑ the Blue Gray Alliance and the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee — will host re-creations of the three-day battle on farms outside Gettysburg.
More than 10,000 re-enactors registered with the Anniversary Committee, and 9,600 with the Blue Gray. The alliance formed when some re-enactors split from the Anniversary Committee because of their dissatisfaction with the transformation of re-enactments into a spectator event, said Terry Shelton, a Blue Gray organizer.
Shelton says the Blue Gray event is “by re-enactors, for re-enactors” — a more accurate reflection of the battle.
The Anniversary Committee expects as many as 80,000 spectators to attend over four days, said Andrea DiMartino, committee spokeswoman.
About 10,000 spectators bought tickets for the Blue Gray re-enactment.
When the battle took place, about 2,400 people lived in Gettysburg.
“Within a matter of weeks, you'll see this small city rise” on Redding Farm, north of Gettysburg, where the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee's re-enactment takes place starting July 4, DiMartino said. “It's amazing to watch,” she said.
The Blue Gray re-enactment takes place June 27-30 at Bushey Farm, southwest of Gettysburg.
Organizers of the events will haul in drinking water, portable toilets and medical stations. Shuttles will move people. Fire engines and ambulances will stand by. Organizers pay for traffic control.
Amenities at the larger re-enactment will include stadium seating, DiMartino said.
DiMartino and Shelton declined to say how much they'll spend — or how much profit they anticipate. Shelton said his group pours any profit into the next re-enactment.
Re-enactors pay $20 to participate in the Blue Gray event and $35 for the Anniversary Committee re-enactment. Adult spectator tickets to the re-enactments cost $10 for the Blue Gray event and $35 for the Anniversary Committee event.
“We're very careful about pricing,” Shelton said. “We're not interested in making money. We're interested in (covering) our costs.”
The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee is a for-profit company.
“We don't apologize for it,” DiMartino said.
Mike Wereschagin is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7900 or email@example.com.