GETTYSBURG, Pa. — They come here from all across America.
For many visitors, Gettysburg is a sight to behold.
For Dave Maser, who made the 60-hour drive from Durango, Colo., it is something more.
"I came here to feel it," Maser said.
The passion, the valor and the fear that filled the air before the Confederates clashed with the Union soldiers — each side fighting for the most important thing a man has, his beliefs — fascinates him, Maser said.
"It would be the confluence of all the emotions," he said.
Visitors like Maser have been arriving steadily for Gettysburg's 150th anniversary events. The activities, including two multi-day re-enactments — the first of which began Friday — commemorate the battle that raged July 1-3, 1863.
It was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, with at least 46,000 casualties over the three days of fighting. The Union victory was a turning point in the Civil War.
Maser recently retired from UPS and sold his house in Durango to move to Maple City, Mich. He drove to Gettysburg after closing on his house.
"I've got such a respect for American history. I wanted to get back on this side of the country to see the places I've read about in history books," he said.
For some, the trip to Gettysburg wasn't as well-planned.
Robb Vandenburg, his fiancee and brother were driving through Pennsylvania early Friday morning, headed from their home in Kaukauna, Wis., to a wedding in Virginia.
They heard about the 150th anniversary on the radio.
"So I pulled my cellphone out and then a map and said, 'that's not that far,' " he said.
"We're military history buffs," Vandenburg said, noting their father served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
That's how they ended up looking at monuments near Reynolds Woods, named for Maj. Gen. John Reynolds, the senior Union commander who was mortally wounded on the first day of the battle.
Cars on the battlefield Friday bore license plates from around the country. Gettysburg, a town of 7,000 people, expects to host more than 30,000 visitors each day through July 7, according to the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Visitors are drawn by patriotism, some to contemplate how the battle has shaped American history, while others are drawn by family interests.
John Stewart, a deputy chief ranger at Fire Island National Seashore in New York, has been to Gettysburg more than 100 times, but it doesn't get old, he said. This year, he and his wife, Maryann, brought their daughter, Laurel, 7, for her sixth visit.
Stewart said he visits Gettysburg several times a year. It's what inspired him to pursue a job in the National Park Service.
"I wasn't a big history person" before visiting Gettysburg, he explained. But a visit in 1991 gave him a "connection to national identity." He teaches Laurel about the history, which she demonstrated by rattling off the names of several key Union commanders.