GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Thousands took a solemn, mile-long commemorative march Wednesday across the Gettysburg field where the Confederate Army made its final, ill-fated charge 150 years ago in the last clash of the pivotal battle of the Civil War.
A National Park Service spokeswoman said the Pickett's Charge walk was the most ambitious program ever planned to remember the South's failed assault, during which more than 12,000 men in nine brigades tried to break the Union lines. It ended the three-day Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.
On Wednesday, visitors broke up into nine groups led by park rangers and re-enactors dressed in period uniforms.
Just like in 1863, the Confederate lines drew out of the woods — but followed this time by tourists snapping pictures and recording their march.
The lines broke down and reformed again when the marchers reached a fence line.
Unlike 150 years ago, the walkers funneled through openings in the fence soldiers would have jumped before continuing "the advance."
"It didn't work well in 1863, and we're not sure how well it will today," Park Service spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said earlier Wednesday.
The march wasn't intended as a re-enactment with gunfire and bayonets like other events being held to mark the anniversary. It was a reverential commemoration that ended with buglers playing "Taps."
Up to 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died over three bloody days at Gettysburg, while another roughly 30,000 were wounded.
"This is a commemorative march. We're trying to be respectful," Lawhon said.
Battle re-enactments are held on private properties. The second of two re-enactments planned for this anniversary period, a four-day event, starts Thursday at the Redding Farm in Gettysburg.
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