This past week, Gettysburg marked the passage of 150 years since the nearly unmatched American-on-American brutality scarred its fields. In the midstate, the commemoration of the Civil War overshadowed the Declaration of Independence on July 4.
Today, the crowds have thinned in Gettysburg, and a reenactment of a different sort broke out in Pennsylvania. A National Park Service Ranger, dressed in period garb, read the Declaration of Independence aloud in a ceremony that is repeated every July 8. Each year, the ranger will perform the Declaration to a lively crowd who cheer the passages about freedom and loudly decry mention of England's King George III. It's a celebration of a different type than those at Gettysburg, when someone like John Wayne* gets up to read the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall, just like Nixon* once did.
The Declaration, a proclamation of war, was written with a particular cadence and a certain unquestionable flair -- crafted for reading aloud by men in three-cornered hats. A trip to Philadelphia has its own benefits, as the sites of the Old City have far fewer ticks, mosquitoes and other pests than the path of Gen. Robert E. Lee's men during The Charge on Gettysburg's third day (call it Pickett's Charge if you must, Longstreet's Charge if you choose -- both have unneeded baggage). Since the annual reading kicks off at high noon, you will still have plenty of time to enjoy your time in the city.
Plan now for your trip next July!
* Lt. Col. John Nixon first read the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia July 8, 1776.
** John Wayne is a park ranger who has dressed up and performed the reading of the Declaration in recent years.