By Bob Grim
On Saturday afternoon November 18th the 61st annual Gettysburg Remembrance Day Parade was enjoyed by several thousand participants and spectators despite the temperature being in the 40’s and a steady all day rain and an unprecedented police presence providing security.
The Sons of Veterans Reserve which is the Military Department of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War organizes and sponsors the annual Gettysburg Remembrance Day Military Parade which is the largest Civil War military parade held in the United States.
The annual event held on the Saturday nearest November 19th commemorates President Lincoln’s now famous 1863 Gettysburg Address given during the dedication of the Gettysburg National Military Cemetery for the soldiers who died during the July, 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.
This year, several days before the parade, a newspaper in Gettysburg received a letter indicating a threat to the parade. The letter was turned over to the Gettysburg police department which notified the Pennsylvania State Police and FBI. They deemed the threat serious enough to initiate a full scale security plan for the parade.
A slight change in the parade route through the streets of Gettysburg was made and all entrances to the parade route were blocked with large trucks and highway equipment; several horse mounted state police officers patrolled the parade route along with a bomb sniffing dog, and extra police officers from nearby communities assisted the Gettysburg police and state police and some buildings had police officers on the roof tops.
Neither the security concerns nor the rain held up the parade. As usual, thousands of participants marched in the parade representing both the Union and the Confederates. The streets of Gettysburg were lined with thousands of spectators, many with an umbrella, to watch and enjoy the parade.
The SVR also conducts an annual Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) ceremony at the Albert Woolson memorial located in Ziegler’s Grove at the Gettysburg National Military Park. Woolson was the last Union Civil War soldier who died in 1956. The Remembrance Day parade started as part of the ceremony honoring the GAR.
The SVR closes its Remembrance Day activities with a military ball on Saturday evening. All the proceeds from that ball are donated the following year to the Gettysburg National Park Service during the Woolson GAR ceremony. The funds are used by the park service for monument and memorial preservation of both Union and Confederate memorials. To date almost $85,000 has been donated for this purpose.