Friday, May 31, 2013

The 2013 Civil War Sesquicentennial Begins!

The month of May, 2013 has been marked by memorable events. As described in my Previous Post, it began with me finishing a major research paper in order to complete my third semester of graduate school. I turned that paper in the night before departing for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville. The weekend after Chancellorsville, Alison and I escaped for a brief retreat in Cape May, NJ, which you can read about in the Previous Post mentioned above. That adventure was followed by a white water rafting trip on the Potomac River on May 18 (which you can read about in the Next Post), before I left for a ten day trip to Vicksburg, MS to help commemorate the 150th anniversary of the siege of that city (which you can read about in the Post After That).

But first, a bit more about the first sesquicentennial anniversary of 2013, on the fields of Chancellorsville...

I was down at Fredericksburg in December for the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg, so I thought I had a pretty good idea what to expect for Chancellorsville. It turned out that the commemorative events at Chancellorsville, though similar in some respects, had their own unique character and flavor. One big difference was that my two coworkers and I stayed onsite in park housing rather than driving down to the park and back each day as we had done in December. This was much less tiring and also allowed us to be much more productive and make the most of the time that we had available. The events included everything from ranger led hikes, to a fife and drum concert, to a special program at the final bivouac site of "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee the night before the former made his famous flank march around the Union forces.

The highlight of the event was a real time program on May 3 that began just before sunrise. That program included the firing of a cannon at dawn to mark the opening of the fighting that day. Because of the early morning air the smoke hung over the battlefield much more than normal. This is the shot I captured of that cannon firing.

Another fun aspect of the event was meeting a father who had pulled his son out of school and brought him out to the commemorative events. The boy's Maternal Great Great Great Grandfather was a Union soldier captured at Chancellorsville during Jackson's flank attack on May 2 and his Paternal Great Great Great Grandfather was killed during the fighting on the morning of May 3. Talk about tangible connections to the battlefield!

It was a great way to begin the month of May and another memorable aspect of my job. I continue to be amazed that the government is paying me to go out and photograph these events. I am, indeed, blessed! It is moments like these that make living on a temporary GS-05 salary worth it!

For more pictures that I took at Chancellorsville check out this album highlighting many of my favorites!

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