James Madison’s Montpelier Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

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Civil War Encampment weekend will feature dress parades, company drills, artillery demonstrations, and specialty tours.

Witness practice drills, cooking, and maintenance of firearms that would have been part of the soldiers’ daily activities at Montpelier in 1863.

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, James Madison’s Montpelier will host a Civil War encampment weekend that brings to life General Robert E. Lee's retreat from Gettysburg and the Army of Northern Virginia's 1863 winter encampment in the hills surrounding Montpelier.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the deadliest battle of the American Civil War and the inspiration for President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Close to 1500 troops camped at Montpelier following the battle in 1863, but eventually these sites and structures were abandoned and overgrown with brush and forest in a type of natural preservation. The effect has rendered Montpelier the site of some of the best-preserved Civil War encampments in the nation. The National Park Service has recognized The Montpelier Foundation for the protection of these encampments through grants administered by the American Battlefield Protection Program. Many of these encampment sites are held in protective easement with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

This summer’s Civil War Encampment at Montpelier represents an authentic recreation of these camps based on archeological and documentary research. “Interpreting the domestic life of soldiers at camp sheds light on new aspects of troop life that receives little attention at national battlefields,” says Matthew Reeves, Ph.D., Director of Archaeology and Landscape Restoration at James Madison’s Montpelier. Visitors will be able to visit camps similar to what appeared at Montpelier in 1863 and witness practice drills, cooking, and maintenance of firearms that would have been part of the soldiers’ daily activities. In the afternoon, there will be a demonstration skirmish to illustrate artillery, cavalry, and infantry maneuvers that troops would regularly practice. A specialty Candlelight Tour will showcase camp life during the evening hours.

Visitors may also explore the Civil War Trail & the Gilmore Farm Walking Trail, which lead through the archeological site of one of these regimental camps, through a reconstructed company street, and then to Gilmore Farm, a small cabin built by one of the Madison's former slaves. The Gilmore family’s first home was constructed from recycled timber from the encampments. Signage along this trail documents the experience of troops as well as the impact these camps had on the local rural community. These tours highlight Montpelier not only as it relates to the Civil War, but also its significance in the transition to freedom for the hundreds of slaves in the region.

This event will take place from August 2-4, 2013 and is free and open to the public. The encampment will be located across from the Montpelier Station Train Depot beside the Esso Building on VA State Route 20/Constitution Highway. For a more detailed schedule, please visit http://www.montpelier.org/visit/summer-civil-war-encampment.

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About James Madison's Montpelier
Montpelier is the lifelong home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution, Architect of the Bill of Rights, and fourth President of the United States. Montpelier is administered by The Montpelier Foundation, which seeks to inspire continuing public engagement with American constitutional self-government by bringing to life the home and contributions of James and Dolley Madison. The historic home and grounds are open to visitors and student groups throughout the year, and through the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution, Montpelier provides world-class residential and online educational programs. Montpelier is a National Trust Historic Site. To learn more, visit http://www.montpelier.org or contact cgodfrey(at)montpelier(dot)org.

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Caroline Godfrey
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