BELLINGHAM - Siblings Ethan and Emily Whitehall are spending the days before the July 4th holiday looking back.
But not at the Revolutionary War that forged America's independence; instead, they're remembering a war that almost tore the nation apart.
On Monday, July 2, they went with their mother, Heather Whitehall-Thompson, to Bayview Cemetery to stand by the grave of a Civil War veteran on the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Ethan, 19, and Emily, 14, are Civil War re-enactors in Company D of the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters. Ethan is a first sergeant and Emily is a private. The two stood dressed in their green wool sharpshooter gear by the grave of Cpl. Thomas A. Kirkham, who served in Company G of the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters.
"Coming across a sharpshooter is a rare thing," Ethan said, noting that of about 2,000 enlisted sharpshooters, only 400 or so survived the war. "It's incredible what they had to go through. It's sad, too, because the sharpshooters' role in Gettysburg was kind of lost to history."
Ethan said in the Battle of Gettysburg "no unit didn't give everything they had," but that sharpshooters helped hold together the Union, holding off attacks as other units regrouped.
The siblings put down red, white and blue flowers, an American flag, a sharpshooters flag and a copy of the Gettysburg Address on Kirkham's grave, as well as a flag on his wife's grave beside it.
"As re-enactors, it's our job to go out to graves and represent any fallen Civil War soldier, whether they're Confederate or Union," Ethan said. "They're all Americans whether they had the same ideals or not."
The family hopes to make more visits to Civil War veterans buried at Bayview and make this a new tradition.
"I enjoy doing it because I know that not very many people do this," said Emily, who goes by Scout. "Civil War veterans here tend to get forgotten, especially by people my age. These men really created the United States for today."
Reach ZOE FRALEY at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 756-2803.