Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Civil War Reenacting: Gettysburg

By Matthew Pizzolato

Last year, I was fortunate enough to go to Gettysburg for the reenactment that coincided with the 150th Anniversary of the battle. I would have written about it sooner, but I wanted to take some time to process everything because I took part in a lot of amazing things. They say that the battlefield is one of the most haunted places in the world and while I didn't experience anything of that nature first hand, I can certainly understand why the place has such a reputation.

While we were there, we formed up as a company and marched across the battlefield in the footsteps of Pickett's Charge. I've never been in war, but it was not difficult to image the hell that it must have been for those gallant men to march across that open field with artillery and bullets raining down upon them. That was one of the most overwhelming, surreal and moving things I've ever experienced.

Looking back down the hill at Pickett's Charge. The monument in the
distance against the tree line is where the Charge began.

I also went to Devil's Den, one of the deadliest places on the battlefield. There are tourists everywhere, so it was sometimes difficult to get photos without someone else in them. The size and scope of the battlefield is difficult to image unless you are actually there. 

Mathew Brady's Devil's Den Photograph

A photo I took last June. It still looks pretty much the same, minus the
person waving in the background. 

The copse of trees and monument that
is the High Water Mark of the Confederacy. 

While we were travelling, we also stopped at VMI, Washington and Lee University, the burial sites of both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, Lookout Mountain, and Chickamauga. One of my ancestors fought and was captured at Gettysburg and another fought at Chickamauga. Overall, it was a great trip and a once in a lifetime experience. If you've never been to a Civil War battlefield, you owe it to yourself to visit one as soon as possible.

Matthew Pizzolato's short stories have been published online and in print. He is a member of Western Fictioneers and his work can be found in the Wolf Creek series as well as his own publications, THE WANTED MAN, OUTLAW and TWO OF A KIND. 

He is the Editor-in-Chief of The Western Online, a magazine dedicated to everything Western. He can be contacted through Twitter @mattpizzolato or via his website:


  1. Those battle sites are hallowed places, no matter which side you fall on. I've been to Gettysburg and to Vicksburg and weep for the sad, brave young men who died there.

  2. I remember visiting Gettysburg a number of years ago, gazing across those fields trying to envision what those warriors encountered. But, it sounds as if your up-close-and-personal experience was much more intimate and meaningful.

  3. Nice post. Gettysburg is indeed hallowed ground, no matter which side our relatives were on. I got to visit one November many years ago when they were doing a reenactment of the Gettysburg Address. They had other actors there as well, walk-in through some of the battles, even though is was the wrong time of year.
    We "knew a guy" so we got to stay until it was well after dark and watched the fog roll in while standing at the Copse of Trees… Incredible place. I've been several times and hope to take my grandchildren there someday.

  4. Matt, I loved the "then" and "now" pictures--yours and Mathew Brady's! That was really eerie.

    When I was a little girl, no more than 4 or 5, my family took a summer vacation to visit my aunt and uncle in Florida. Along the way, we stopped at Vicksburg. I didn't know what the Civil War was at that age, only that it was a cemetery. I remember letting go of my dad's hand and walking by myself, and feeling "something"--just a feeling that I couldn't explain. Of course it was a hot summer day, but I remember that "chilled" feeling I got, and hurried to catch up with my dad. I remember him asking "What's wrong?" Of course I couldn't explain it, but I stayed close after that. I really enjoyed this post, and the pictures. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  5. What an interesting and likely a life-changing experience. What a horrible war that was. I can see why people would say spirits are hanging around there, and I appreciate the visit through your eyes.