2014 Birthday Celebration

The scene at the Meade family plot on December 31, 2014 (Tom Huntington photo).

The scene at the Meade family plot on December 31, 2014 (Tom Huntington photo).

There are a few people who, when asked the musical question “What are you doing New Year’s Eve,” will answer, “Standing in a cemetery drinking champagne.” Those people are the folks who go to Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery each December 31 to drink a champagne toast at General George Gordon Meade’s gravesite on the general’s birthday.

Dr. Andy Waskie makes some opening remarks, helped by Jerry McCormick, the Meade Society treasurer (Tom Huntington photo).

Dr. Andy Waskie makes some opening remarks, helped by Jerry McCormick, the Meade Society treasurer (Tom Huntington photo).

I guess technically it’s not really New Year’s Eve. It’s really the day of New Year’s Eve, but why quibble? It is the last day of the old year, and the event definitely takes place in a cemetery. This year a good-sized group gathered on a bright but cold and blustery afternoon to commemorate the generals 199th birthday. Dr. Andy Waskie, the founder and president of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia, once again served as the master of ceremonies for the event, the 24th annual. After making some introductory remarks by the cemetery’s gatehouse, he led the procession of reenactors, VIPs, and ordinary civilians through the cemetery down to the gravesite.

A visitor holds a brochure about the 2014 event (Tom Huntington photo).

A visitor holds a brochure about the 2014 event (Tom Huntington photo).

Living historians prepare to fire volleys over Meade's grave (Tom Huntington photo).

Living historians prepare to fire volleys over Meade’s grave (Tom Huntington photo).

A cold wind blew across the Schuylkill River as speakers made short remarks. Beck’s band played a few numbers, including the “General Meade Funeral March.” (It could not have been easy to play brass instruments in the cold!) then there was a wreath-laying ceremony and the champagne toast. Back at the gatehouse, the visitors enjoyed a buffet luncheon and socializing.

The speakers at this year's graveside ceremony (Tom Huntington photo).

The speakers at this year’s graveside ceremony (Tom Huntington photo).

Mark your calendars for next year, which will be Meade’s bicentennial birthday celebration. It’s sure to be a big event, capping a year that will also mark the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War.

Volley

Instrument

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