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Mt. Pleasant man offers guided tours at Gettysburg

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MARILYN FORBES I FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Gettysburg battlefield guide Bill Pieszak of Mt. Pleasant is shown in front of the statue of Gen. John Geary, who was also born in Mt. Pleasant. Geary was instrumental in repulsing the Confederate assault on Culp’s Hill, which took place during the battle’s second day of fighting.

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Saturday, June 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

This Fourth of July holiday season will be an even more special time for the folks in a little town about 150 miles east of the Fay-West, as Gettysburg gets ready to mark the 150 anniversary of the famous battle.

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1-3, 1863, witnessed bloody and intense fighting. It changed not only the lives of the 2,400-plus residents of the sleepy little town, but the course of the war, sending the Army of Northern Virginia and its commander, Gen. Robert E. Lee, back southward from their attempt at far northern invasion.

And contrary to popular belief, the battle was not about getting shoes for the ragged Southern troops.

“The Battle of Gettysburg had nothing to do with shoes,” said Bill Pieszak of Mt. Pleasant, a certified Gettysburg Battlefield guide, explaining that it was the strategic location of the town and its easy accessibility that made it the target. “We like to describe the town as a big wagon wheel with the town as its hub.”

Pieszak has been guiding tours of the battlefield since 2001.

Gettysburg is getting ready for what is expected to be hundreds of thousands of visitors to the event, welcoming Civil War enthusiasts and history buffs for planned tours, re-enactments, live theater and other demonstrations that not only depict the battle but also the lives of the townspeople, neighboring towns and their ties to the battle, and side stories relating to the three days of fighting.

“To have one of the most iconic battles in the history of our country or the world to take place here and to have this historical heritage in our community is wonderful,” said Randy Phiel, Adams County's top elected official and the logistics manager of an annual re-enactment. “This opportunity won't come again. It's our Olympic moment.”

While many of the events planned for the anniversary have started this weekend, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to experience the anniversary throughout the summer.

Other Civil War battle sites such as Antietam, Chancellorsville and Shiloh have marked their sesquicentennial events, while others including Chickamauga and Spotsylvania Court House will mark the anniversary in the months and years to come, finishing with Appomattox Court House on April 9, 2015.

While Gettysburg is getting ready to receive what is expected to be its most visitors ever, guides and tours in the town have been kept busy up until the time of battle.

“Most of the guides have been doing at least two a day,” Pieszak said of taking visitors out onto the battlefield for tours.

For a complete listing of events from the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, check out its website at www.gettysburg.travel.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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