If you've ever wanted to see a lock of President Abraham Lincoln's hair, or a cigar case used by Union Gen. Ulysses Grant, or a spur from the boot of Confederate Gen. George Pickett, you're in luck.
Likewise, if you've wanted to see letters and diaries from Civil War soldiers, watch re-enactors in gray and blue uniforms use black powder to fire guns with loud explosions, hear brass bands play Civil War-era tunes or walk the ground trod by Southern troops as they made the bloody but unsuccessful "Pickett's charge" against federal forces, you'll soon get your chance.
It's all part of a deluge of battle re-enactments, displays, speeches, concerts and activities to be held this month through December -- more than 50 events in all -- to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the battle that was waged from July 1 to 3, 1863, in Gettysburg. The bloody clash, where thousands of troops on both sides died or were wounded, ended as a defeat for the Confederacy and is considered by many historians to be the turning point of the Civil War.
One major event is set for Nov. 19, the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which he gave at the opening of the national cemetery where several thousand Union troops are buried. President Barack Obama would be the main speaker, if he accepts an invitation from Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey and the National Park Service, which operates the national military park in Gettysburg.
About 3 million tourists, visitors, historians and Civil War buffs usually make the trek to the battlefield each year, but this year the town is bracing for 4 million or more.
Park service spokeswoman Katie Lawhon vouched for the authenticity of the lock of Lincoln's hair, saying it was taken by a doctor at the president's autopsy, after he was shot at Ford's Theater in April 1865, as the war was ending.
The events start this week -- April 6-7 -- with sharpshooters from voluntary infantry units re-enacting fighting that happened on Little Round Top, a hill that formed one end of a curved line where Union forces fought on July 2-3. The final events are in December, with the laying of holiday wreaths on graves at the national cemetery Dec. 6 and the opening, all month, of the house owned by President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, in the 1950s. Now called the Eisenhower National Historic Site, the home is a short bus ride from the national park's visitors center.
More information can be found at www.nps.gov/gett or by calling 1-717-334-1124. The park service is working with a local nonprofit promotional group, the Gettysburg Foundation, which is at www.gettysburgfoundation.org, or at 1-717-339-2161
Here are a few of the major events:
• On May 23, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a 150th anniversary stamp, part of a series of stamps commemorating the Civil War. A ceremony to mark its release will be held that day near the front entrance of the National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.
• On June 16, an exhibit called "Treasures of the Civil War" will open at the park museum. The park service said the exhibit will feature "the professional and personal side of 13 of the greatest leaders during the war," including Lincoln, Union generals such as Grant, George Meade (who led Northern soldiers at Gettysburg), and William Tecumseh Sherman, who later made his famous military march across Georgia.
There are also possessions of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Robert E. Lee, who prompted the battle by bringing his troops north into Pennsylvania in late June 1863. Other personal items are from civilians, such as noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Clara Barton, who tended to soldiers during the war and who later founded the American Red Cross.
The park service and the Gettysburg Foundation have worked with museums and collectors nationwide to assemble the items.
"Most of the objects to go on display have never been exhibited in Gettysburg before," Ms. Lawhon said.
• On June 29 and 30, the visitors center will have lectures and book signings by noted authors, including Civil War historian James McPherson and Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer.
• On the evening of June 30 there will be an outdoor ceremony near a building that Meade used as his headquarters, with an address by Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose book on Lincoln was the basis for the recent Steven Spielberg movie. There will also be readings of eyewitness accounts of the battle.
• On July 1, an event called "Salute to the States" will be held. Playwright Stephen Lang will perform a work he wrote called The Wheatfield, where he plays Pennsylvania soldier James Jackson Purman, who won a Medal of Honor for bravery on the battle's second day. There will also be Civil War-era ballroom dancing and actors dressed as Union and Confederate generals.
"The personal story that Purman tells is stark and rich in detail, highly emotional and intensely dramatic," said Cindy Small, marketing director for the foundation.
• From July 1 to 4 many different programs about the battle will be held, including hikes led by park rangers and 30-minute programs on specific battle locations. For July 1-3, there will be "living history" camps and re-enactments near the Pennsylvania Memorial involving 500 re-enactors as Union and Confederate infantry and artillery soldiers who will demonstrate the tactics used by both armies.
• On July 3 at 3 p.m. battlefield visitors can walk across the ground where Pickett's Charge occurred. It is a relatively flat area that lies between one hill -- Seminary Ridge, where Southern forces were massed -- and another hill called Cemetery Ridge, where Union troops made their stand.
Tom Barnes: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-717-623-1238.