CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — Vice President Dick Cheney told Civil War re-enactors at Chickamauga on Friday that the history of the mountain-framed battleground where his great-grandfather fought is inspiring.
The vice president spoke to more than 5,000 people to start a weekend of cavalry charges, cannon blasts and musket shooting to commemorate the 145th anniversary of the battle.
With an audience of men wearing woolen Confederate and Union uniforms, women in hoop skirts like those common in 1863 and busloads of northwest Georgia students, Cheney said it is ‘‘amazing and inspiring to think about the history that was made in this corner of America.’’
Organizers set up Civil War-era lifestyle displays beside the area used by the military re-enactors, selling $20 tickets for spectators to attend the anniversary of the South’s last major victory of the war.
Event director Reece Sexton said Cheney accepted an invitation to return to the site where his great-grandfather, Samuel Fletcher Cheney, was a Union lieutenant.
Cheney said re-enactors are ‘‘paying homage to everyone who got in that fray.’’
‘‘The very idea of men firing cannon at each other from 100 yards,’’ he said.
The battle in 1863 ended with about 34,000 Confederate and Union soldiers dead, wounded or missing.
Among thousands of students who walked through metal detectors Friday at the battlefield and sat on the ground for Cheney’s speech, 13-year-old Kendall Cochran described the field trip for LaFayette Middle School eighth-graders as ‘‘pretty cool because people get to learn about history they don’t read in history books.’’
She said ‘‘you get to see what life was like back then during the war.’’
After Cheney spoke, organizers of the re-enactment gave him a portrait depicting his great-grandfather in uniform and on horseback. Cheney said Samuel Cheney survived the fighting and named two sons after Civil War generals. The Republican vice president said he has a grandson, Sam, named after his Civil War ancestor.
Among re-enactors arriving Friday, John Kyttle, 51, of Frederick, Md., knelt beside a rifle musket in a grassy parking area bundling his belongings for a weekend as a member of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
‘‘We rode 12 hours,’’ said Kyttle, a carpenter who traveled in a van with three others. ‘‘We will live like they did, cooking in frying pans and using tin plates.
‘‘This is a nice escape from reality,’’ he said. ‘‘We are here to have fun but we are serious about it.’’
Kyttle said he attends re-enactments ‘‘every chance I get.’’
Lesley Blissett, 59, of Shepherdsville, Ky., started the re-enactment weekend wearing a hoop skirt that she described as comfortable ‘‘like an air conditioner.’’
Her 64-year-old husband, Ron, said he is a 2nd Kentucky Infantry re-enactor and they attend Civil War re-enactments about once a month between March and November.
‘‘The history behind it is so emotional,’’ his wife said. She said they were staying at a nearby motel.
Organizers said re-enactors from as far away as Australia were attending.
Georgia Civil War Commission Chairman John Culpepper said the weekend would likely attract about 50,000 people, making it a big economic generator. He said future anniversary re-enactments are planned.
‘‘Civil War history is our future, said Culpepper, who works as city manager of nearby Chickamauga.