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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Happy 199th Birthday, General Meade!

A wreath at General Meade's gravesite, from the 2013 birthday commemoration (Tom Huntington photo).

A wreath at General Meade’s gravesite, from the 2013 birthday commemoration (Tom Huntington photo).

George Gordon Meade was born on this day 199 years ago. (December 31 is also his wedding anniversary.) It has become an annual tradition for the General Meade Society of Philadelphia to hold a commemorative ceremony at the general’s grave at Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery. I encourage anyone in the Philadelphia area to attend. I plan to be there, and I will have copies of my books and the 2015 George Gordon Meade Calendar available for purchase. It’s always a fun event and a great opportunity to spend the last day of the year in a cemetery! Here’s the society’s announcement:

GENERAL MEADE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
The annual General Meade Birthday Celebration will mark the 199th anniversary of the birth of General George G. Meade, commander of the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg. A parade of Civil War re-enactors, civilians in period attire, special dignitaries, heritage groups and participants will advance to Meade’s final resting place and memorialize his services to his nation. A 21-gun salute and champagne toast will cap off the program at graveside, and will be followed by a reception in the Cemetery Gatehouse. A tour of historic Laurel Hill will be offered following the festivities (weather permitting). This year holds special significance as we continue to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.
The event will take place on Wednesday, December 31 at 12:00pm, departing from Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Gatehouse entrance at 3822 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19132. Free parking is located in the lot across the street from the Gatehouse.
Free and open to the public; a $10 donation in support of Laurel Hill Cemetery’s work and preservation is suggested and would be much appreciated. Additional information can be found by calling (215) 228-8200.
I intend to post photos from this year’s event today or tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Happy Birthday, General Meade!

gravesite volley

Once again the General Meade Society of Philadelphia hosted a successful birthday commemoration of General George Gordon Meade at Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery on December 31. It would have been Meade’s 198th birthday (and also his wedding anniversary). Living historians, VIPs and others braved the cold to gather at the cemetery gatehouse and proceeded to the general’s gravesite for a short ceremony and a champagne toast. Here are a few photos.

Outside the gatehouse of Laurel Hill Cemetery. George Meade and his family, as well as scores of other notable people, are buried on the grounds here.

Outside the gatehouse of Laurel Hill Cemetery. George Meade and his family, as well as scores of other notable people, are buried on the grounds here.

Living historians represent members of the United States Colored Troops.

Living historians represent members of the United States Colored Troops.

Beck's Band prepares to lead the procession to the gravesite. Not easy temperatures for playing brass instruments!

Beck’s Band prepares to lead the procession to the gravesite. Not easy temperatures for playing brass instruments!

The ceremony included the laying of several wreaths at the gravesite.

The ceremony included the laying of several wreaths at the gravesite.

Prof. Andy Waskie, the founder and president of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia, leads the ceremony at the gravesite.

Prof. Andy Waskie, the founder and president of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia, leads the ceremony at the gravesite.

Tom Huntington, author of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg (and this blog) makes a few appropriate remarks.

Tom Huntington, author of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg (and this blog) makes a few appropriate remarks.