Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gettysburg, Part I

Our third day in PA we drove the hour to Gettysburg and started off our tour at the Museum and Visitor Center. I strongly encourage anyone visiting Gettysburg to start here. There is a short film narrated by Morgan Freeman that sets the stage for the Civil War, an amazing cyclorama (round painting) that you view from a raised stage ~ it is an original painting made shortly after the war, and it is vivid and seems so real. I couldn't believe I was looking at a painting! And then, of course, the museum itself. Plan to spend most of one day here. Our children were fascinated by each and every display and wanted to see it ALL. Not enough time! And just fyi, there is an AMAZING gift shop at the museum that I could have easily spent a whole other day in. The largest collection of Civil War books I have ever seen in one place. If you are a bibliophile, and a Civil War buff, this is the place for you!

This is a Union flag from the time of the Civil War. There were 34 states at that time, so 34 stars. They kept all the stars on the flag throughout the duration of the war, even those that had seceded from the Union.

There is a life-like statue of Abraham Lincoln outside the museum, that we all posed with.

Then we began our driving tour of the 25 square mile battlefield. We had borrowed some incredible auto tour CD's that followed a set path, told us details about what we were seeing at each stop, and gave us unique stories about individual soldiers while we were driving between stops. Really awesome CD's. Thanks Katie!

One of our first stops was here, at the monument marking the spot where General John Reynolds was killed on day 1 of the 3 day battle. John Reynolds had been asked by Lincoln to lead the Army of the Potomac, but he declined, preferring to stay in the field with his men. So General Meade took command of the army just three days before the start of the battle. Reynolds was considered one of the best soldiers in the entire Union army. Sadly, he was killed very early in the battle, the highest ranking Union officer to die at Gettysburg. His death was an acute loss to the Union Army. Amazing to imagine those woods behind the monument full of troops. We hiked through the woods a ways, just thinking and reflecting.

Just across from the Reynolds monument was an open field full of grasshoppers! JOY. (you can see why our driving tour took two days! We get out of our van and try to fully experience whatever is at each stop)

Much of the battlefield looks virtually the same now as it did then. Miles of fences like this one are very authentic and would have been there at the time of the battle. In fact, these fences often slowed the march of the troops, as the first line of soldiers would have to disassemble them while thousands waited behind them.

Authentic cannon actually used in the Civil War ~ not a replica! These were located at the northern tip of the battlefield, where heavy fighting occurred on day 2.

This long line of Confederate cannon were used heavily on day 3, the final day of the battle. They are facing the Union line, more than a mile to the left of this picture.

Between the cannon and the high ground in the distance which Union troops held, was more than a mile of open field. The following three pictures show a panoramic view of the field where Confederates troops attacked the center of the Union line in what is known as "Pickett's Charge."

Gratefully, for the sake of the Union as a whole, the charge failed. But sadly, the Confederate troops were decimated during the attempt. Thousands upon thousands died on this field. This field looked completely different immediately following the battle than it looks now, littered with bodies of men and horses. Over 6,000 dead horses alone! Can you imagine the horror? It was surreal to stand there, walk into the field, and know that we were standing on ground that had been stained with the blood of so many men.

We cut off our driving tour in time to go have dinner with our former pastor and his wife, who now live near Gettysburg. We had a lovely evening with them!

We were hot and tired, ready for a one day break at the campground, but still anxious to return later for day 2!


Leslie said...

My dh has gone on tours with our two oldest boys (with his work). Since the group was from NC, the man leading the group took them on a reenactment of Pickett's charge. A very sobering thing indeed.

Glad you had a good trip. I would like to go with my whole family one day.

Pam said...

I bet that was amazing, Leslie.

Angela said...

I would love to do this type of trip some day! we just studied this time period last year in school and I know the kids would love it! what a great experience!