May 16, 1913.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain makes his final known visit to Gettysburg (see our blog post about General Chamberlain being too ill to travel to the Great Reunion a month and a half later). Along with the illustrious General Chamberlain are the delegates from the other states and the Pennsylvania Commission (many of the Generals as well…along with at least one Admiral), all coming together for the Fourth General Conference and the final stages of planning for the Great Reunion.
The Fourth General Conference lasted two days, and among the most significant topics of discussion was the remaining uncertainty over just how many veterans would be attending the Great Reunion. To quote the official report of the Great Reunion:
(Caution: “longest written sentence in history” alert ahead!)
“Many of the Representatives explaining their inability at that time to state accurately how many of their veterans would be in attendance in July, and that they could not possibly do so until their State appropriations, in several cases then pending, had passed or failed, and even then fearing their inability to state exactly how many would actually be at Gettysburg, this Commission, after consulting with the officials of the War Department, agreed that corrected estimates would be accepted as of June 1, 1913, and the following tabulated statement, compiled from the estimates so given us by the official Representative of each Commonwealth, State and Territory to our Commission, and the Chairmen of the Committees of the Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans, shows these estimates of May 16th, totalling forty-three thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight (43,998), increased on June 1st, to forty-nine thousand, four hundred and five (49,405) and again on June 15th, to fifty-four thousand, nine hundred and twenty-eight (54,928), the latter proving slightly in excess of the number who actually did attend, as there were so present and entertained in the Great Camp a grand total, June 29—July 6, of fifty-three thousand, four hundred and seven (53,407) veterans, forty-four thousand, seven hundred and thirteen (44,713) Union and eight thousand, six hundred and ninety-four (8,694) Confederate.”
(Whew! As we’ve noted in other blog entries, the authors of the official report apparently were rationing sentence-ending periods while writing the report…)
Anyway, for two days in the middle of May, 100 years ago, a group of illustrious old warriors in their sunset years came together at Gettysburg to finalize the planning for what would soon take place and be attended by more than 50,000 of their old comrades. What a magnificent gathering those days must have been! To see a very old Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain accompanied by his fellow veteran from the 20th Maine, Doctor Abner Shaw; along with General Horatio King of New York and James Schoonmaker of Pennsylvania and the Commanders of both the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and United Confederate Veterans and so many others…walking about the grounds at Gettysburg and posing for the group photographs included in the official report.
100 years ago…today…and the countdown towards the Great Reunion slowly ticked down…