Thomas Williams, executive director of the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company, said, “Every American is familiar with the iconic battle fought in Gettysburg during the American Civil War, some are even aware that two Marine officers and the ‘Presidents Own’ Marine Band accompanied President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg in November 1863 to dedicate the National Cemetery there. However, few people are aware that 59 years later the US Marines would “reenact” the battle.
“In 1922, General Smedley Butler would march over 5,000 Marines from MCB Quantico, Virginia to the hallowed fields of Gettysburg. Conducted as a training exercise, but more importantly to raise public opinion and awareness, the Marines would travel to the National Battlefield and carry out many aspects of the original battle. Ultimately over 100,000 spectators would come to witness this monumental event.
“Authors Jim Rada and Richard Fulton have done an outstanding job of researching and chronicling this little-known story of those Marines in 1922, marking it as a significant moment in Marine Corps history.”
The 178-page book is 8.5 inches by 11 inches and contains more than 160 photographs depicting the march from Quantico to Gettysburg and the simulated battles on the actual Gettysburg battlefield.
“The march involved a quarter of the corps at the time,” co-author Richard D. L. Fulton said. “It was part PR stunt, but it was also an actual training maneuver for the marines.”
James Rada, Fulton, and Cathe Fulton (who served as a research assistant) searched through hundreds documents and photographs looking for the details of the march and battles, but the book was meant to tell a story. For that, they went hunting through lots of newspapers in order to piece together the stories of the marines on the march and the people they met along the way.
“What’s really fun is that the marines re-enacted Pickett’s Charge both historically and with then-modern military equipment,” Rada said.
The event was also marred by tragedy when something happened to one of the bi-planes and it crashed into the battlefield killing the two marines flying it. The pilot, Capt. George Hamilton was a hero of World War I.
President Warren G. Harding and his wife, along with a number of military personnel, politicians, and representatives of foreign governments, stayed in camp on July 1 and 2 with the marines and witnessed some of the maneuvers.
The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg retails for $24.95 and is available at local bookstores, online retailers and ebookstores. You can purchase it from Amazon.com here.