If you walk up the long gravel pathway alongside the spacious grassy fields of Whitehall Township's 110-acre main park, the view from the top of the hill is remarkably similar to that from atop the hills just north of Gettysburg.
From the Oak Ridge Observation Tower at Gettysburg National Military Park, or from nearby Barlow's Knoll (previously known as Blocher's Knoll or Blocker's Knoll), you can look down on the town of Gettysburg or, in other directions, where America's most important battle began.
From the top of the hill at Whitehall Parkway, you can look down on the village of Egypt. This weekend, you also will be able to go there to watch the sesquicentennial re-enactment of an intense skirmish that took place on Barlow's Knoll on the first day of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg.
There will be at least 180 re-enactors taking the field to replay the role the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, recruited entirely in Northampton County less than a year before Gettysburg. They have been doing this annually, but this one is special.
"It's special in that we're going to honor the 153rd … on the 150th anniversary of the battle," said Neil Coddington, who issued a news release on the shindig a few days ago.
Coddington, a retired PPL employee, is an organizer of this weekend's event along with his wife, Kathleen, a retired school librarian. They also are re-enactors, he as a soldier and she as a battlefield volunteer with the U.S. Sanitary Commission, the forerunner of the American Red Cross.
"I had two great-great-grandfathers who served in the Civil War," said Neil, including one who lost his leg at Chancellorsville, but that was not with the 153rd Regiment.
The 153rd went into the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863 with nearly 680 soldiers, and by the end of the Battle of Gettysburg on the following July 1, 2 and 3, had lost 339 men, including nearly 160 killed, captured or missing.
Chancellorsville was one of the Union's greatest defeats in the Civil War (I prefer to call it The War Against the Atrocities of Slavery and Treason), and Gettysburg was its greatest victory.
The Whitehall re-enactment is a little early because of conflicts facing re-enactors during this busy sesquicentennial. "Normally we do this in June," said Kathleen Coddington, but there are other re-enactments commemorating D-Day of World War II and other Civil War battles.
She and her husband are on the "Friends of Camp Geiger" board, which is organizing the re-enactment and which is named for Army National Guard Sgt. Christopher Geiger of Kreidersville, who died of a heart attack while serving in Afghanistan in 2003. He also was a re-enactor.
As it happens, I've been to Barlow's Knoll, near the spot where the Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863, when advancing Confederates encountered a small unit of Union soldiers west of the town on what's now known as Route 30.
Fighting escalated as outnumbered Union forces formed a semicircle, with the 153rd on its right on what then was Blocher's Knoll, but they were pushed back through town until more effective defensive lines were set up at places like Culp's Hill, Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top.
It was renamed Barlow's Knoll for Francis Barlow of Brooklyn, N.Y, who enlisted as a private but rose through the ranks to general. He was wounded at Antietam and left for dead on that knoll at Gettysburg. He was captured and saved at a Confederate field hospital.
This was the start of one of the most important battles in American history, and it involved volunteers from the Lehigh Valley. You cannot appreciate what happened there without visiting Gettysburg. When you find Barlow's Knoll, you'll see a monument, 15 feet and 6 inches high, featuring a statue of a bugler. Your second-best insight might come from visiting a Whitehall Township park this weekend.
The main activities begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and run through 2 p.m. Sunday, with the Barlow's Knoll re-enactment at 11:15 a.m. Saturday. There is no charge for admission, but donations will benefit Civil War battlefield preservation efforts.
Meanwhile, another event is planned in the Lehigh Valley this weekend to honor another of America's great heroes, one who's too often ignored except for a skyway over one of the nation's ugliest areas.
As reported in The Morning Call's Go Guide on Thursday, a polka fest will be held Sunday at the Sun Inn in Bethlehem, to honor Casimir Pulaski, who helped America win its Revolutionary War.
Pulaski was a Polish nobleman who led a revolt against Russian invaders and then met Benjamin Franklin in Paris not long after America's Declaration of Independence. At Franklin's urging, he went to America and joined George Washington, providing brilliant cavalry expertise.
At one point, Pulaski stayed at the Sun Inn. That was after the Battle of Brandywine, west of Philadelphia, where he saved Washington's life by leading a charge against the Redcoats who were about to overwhelm him. Two years later, he was mortally wounded in the siege of Savannah.
The Pulaski Polka Fest is from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Sun Inn. Tickets are available by calling 610-866-1758.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and FridaysCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun