Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gettysburg, Part 2, The Big Surprise!

Our second day in Gettysburg we picked up our auto tour where we had left off two days before. The children are standing in front of the Virginia monument, atop of which is a life size statue of General Lee sitting on his beloved horse, Traveler (it was so high up, it didn't make for a good picture). This is the area where the boys from Virginia lined up for Pickett's Charge. For about a mile along this stretch of woods, there are monuments from different southern states commemorating the soldiers from their state who participated in the ill-fated charge.

My husband and I were talking about how different that was from the way troops are organized today. Back then, boys from a given state all marched and fought together, commanded by an officer who was also from that state.

At one point in the woods we came upon this simple monument to General Longstreet. Since I had *just* finished reading "Gettysburg", I was feeling rather partial to Longstreet, through whose eyes much of the book is written. Since Stonewall Jackson was already dead by the time of the battle of Gettysburg, Longstreet was Lee's new right hand man. There was no-one Lee trusted more. Longstreet was very straight with Lee, telling him that the frontal assault planned on day three would not succeed, and would result in upwards of 50% casualties. Lee listened, and considered, but went ahead with the attack, and with putting Longstreet in direct command of it. This was very hard on Longstreet. This statue of him on his horse stands at the approximate place where he watched the battle.

Miles and miles of stone fences like this one!

Our favorite stop on the auto tour was Little Round Top. The kids LOVED this! They happily climbed on the rocks for quite a while, and let me tell you, the rocks were BIG! Bigger than our van. Little Round Top, and next to it the bigger, wooded Big Round Top, were the southern tip of the battlefield, about 5-6 miles south of town.

Hubby and me on the summit.

The next three photos show a sweeping view of the battlefield below, from right to left. It was easy to see why both sides wanted this hill, for the purpose of positioning artillery.

Behind the summit, back in the woods, is this monument to the 20th Maine regiment. They were responsible for protecting the far right flank of the Union line who defended Little Round Top from the Confederates. They were led by Colonel Chamberlain, who was a professor of rhetoric at a college in Maine, and had asked for a sabbattical and then promptly went and signed up to help the war effort. In the movie "Gettysburg", Chamberlain is played by Jeff Daniels, and his defense of these woods are among the most moving scenes in the film. You can see little slips of paper on the base of the monument, held in place by small rocks. These are notes of thanks written by tourists today.

Our family with monument behind. It was surreal to sit at the very spot where such intense fighting had occurred.

And then it was time for our big SURPRISE!!

Have some of you guessed it?

It was.......

Touring part of the battlefield by horseback!

We each got a horse, a short riding lesson, and then were led out through the woods where the Confederates lined up for Pickett's Charge. It was incredible to view it as the officers of the day would have viewed it.... from the back of a horse. Here is Little Man on his pony.

Son C.

Son L.

Son G.

Daughter G.


And hubby.

This is blurry because I was attempting to take a picture while riding! I quickly learned to stop my horse first. :0)

There was a horse wrangler in front, and one behind, but we were each responsible for our own horse in the line. A couple of the horses wanted to trot, and most of them wanted to eat along the way, so we were busy keeping them in line. :-)

The owner of the stable (on right, also named Pam!) was very impressed with how well Little Man did. She does not get many six year olds, but she couldn't get over how confident he was and how well he followed her directions. Yay for Little Man!

All of us. This was after the hour ride, and at this point by bum and thighs were virtually numb. Imagine the cavalry back then spending nearly 100% of their waking hours in the saddle!

We fed cookies to our horses afterward, and thanked them for carrying us. It was about 100 degrees that day, and they really worked up a sweat!

Afterward we ate dinner at The Dobbin House, which is the oldest building in Gettysburg. It was built in 1776. If only walls could talk!

It was an amazing day ~ we learned so much and made some great memories together. We were loathe to leave Gettysburg, and all decided that if/when we go back, we will stay IN Gettysburg for a few days so we don't have an hour drive 'home' after a long, hot day! The kids fell asleep in the van both nights that we drove home from Gettysburg, and the parents struggled not to do the same. :-)


emma said...

i enjoyed the pic of you on the horse :)
if i recall correctly there are few (no) photos of my mother on the horse when we did something similar on a family vacation several years ago...however of course there are photos of everyone else ;)

lahbluebonnet said...

Horseback riding definitely makes any vacation special! We were at Gettysburg last year but didn't know about the horseback riding. Do they have a website?

Leslie said...

What a great day!!! Loved reading all about it and the wonderful surprise! It makes me want to go on this trip!

Pam said...

Emma, exactly why I made sure someone took *my* picture on the horse too!

Laurie, there are three websites that I know of:

Artillery ridge is the largest stable and the only one who does tours behind Union lines. The other two are small outfits and do tours behind Confederate lines. I just called and compared; my chief criteria being that they would accept a 6 year old so that our entire family could ride together.

Leslie: I hope your whole family can go someday!

Pam said...

Laurie, forgot to say that the one we chose was hickory hollow.

Beth in Texas said...

Glad you added that bit about which one you did since I was going to have to ask if you hadn't. :-)

Angela said...

what a terrific surprise! and what a fabulous way to see the battlefields! such a great vacation!