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Visiting Gettysburg PA

Updated on September 21, 2014
Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell is a freelance writer with WriterAccess, webmaster, member of Pinterest Party on FB and the owner of Lake Erie Artist Gallery.

This is the Goddess of Victory on the top of the main Pennsylvania monument in Gettysburg. All images on this page were taken by the author.
This is the Goddess of Victory on the top of the main Pennsylvania monument in Gettysburg. All images on this page were taken by the author.

Learn More About Gettysburg

Gettysburg
Gettysburg

Rent this movie for only $2.99

This is an excellent dramatization of the Gettysburg Battle to help you understand it better.

 

Gettysburg Pennsylvania is Truly Memorial

My father grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so over the years I have been able to visit various parts of the state that have American historical significance including Philadelphia itself many times, Valley Forge and Gettysburg. However, we recently had a family reunion in Hershey, PA, and since my husband and children had never been to Gettysburg, we decided to spend a day there after the reunion.

Gettysburg is about 1 hour from Hershey. It is also close to Lancaster, which has a large Amish community. We had our car, so we drove from Hershey to Lancaster to show my niece and nephew (who live in California) what the Amish lifestyle is like, then in the afternoon, drove from Lancaster to Gettysburg.

I want to state upfront that I am not a war history buff. I do not find pleasure in learning about the details of weapons, skirmishes, battles and war, and therefore while I know what most American children learn in public school about the Civil War and Gettysburg, I was not expecting to enjoy visiting Gettysburg.

However, I was wrong. I was fascinated and haunted by the trip to Gettysburg. My family stayed overnight and spent about 24 hours exploring the history of the battle that had been held there. I highly recommend that if you have never been to Gettysburg and you have the opportunity, you should go there.

The Horror and Heroics of War

Memorials at Gettysburg
Memorials at Gettysburg

Gettysburg, at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, was a town of about 2400 people. In just 3 days during this decisive battle, the town and surrounding fields were overrun by soldiers from the North and the South. In just one day of battle, over 22,000 men were either killed or injured and left behind for the beleaguered townspeople to shelter, heal or bury.

One of the things that the trip to Gettysburg brought home to me was the immense number of people who descended upon this tiny area of the country. Fields were literally awash in blood and bodies, and the makeshift hospitals weren't much better. Many injured men died due to lack of medical knowledge at the time.

Fighting for Freedom

Gettysburg was a battle that could have gone either way, and the tide turned several times in the three days of the battle. The overwhelming impression that you get when you travel the lines of battle are the incredible numbers of men that were waiting for battle on hot summer days. Many of these soldiers were very young men, and their leaders weren't much older. These were often teenagers led by men in their 20's.

It is hard to know what these men were thinking as they traveled and waiting for almost sure death to come. They had to know that many of them would not return from this war. Even today there are men who were left in the fields and never reburied in cemeteries in the area or in their hometowns. At the time they fought, there were few ways to identify the soldiers once dead, and many are still unidentified.

Their legacy has left the fields marked with monuments. Some of them are for single men, some for troops, and others for brigades. Each marker lists where the men were from, and many list names. Going to Gettysburg is an awe inspiring trip; just seeing all of the monuments to the men that have been there for 150 years.

Gettysburg 150th Anniversary

Did you know that the Battle of Gettysburg was held on Independence Day? I didn't. I also learned that 2013 is the 150th year of the battle. Every year there is a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg in the place it actually happened. If you want to see it in action, this is the best time to go.

The Pennsylvania Monument

The description in front of the Pennsylvania Monument.
The description in front of the Pennsylvania Monument.

This is written on the marker for the Pennsylvania Monument:

On September 10, 1910, Pennsylvanians who had fought at Gettysburg returned for the dedication of this memorial in their honor. Built of Mt. Airy granite, it stands 110 feet high, weighs 3840 tons, and can be seen from many parts of the battlefield. It is Gettysburg's largest monument.

Listed on 90 bronze tablets along the base are the names of each of the 34,530 Pennsylvania soldiers who participated in the battle. Pennsylvania erected another 123 regimental monuments at other locations on the battlefield. The Southern states did not provide monuments for each regiment, but honored their sons with statewide memorials many of which may be seen along West Confederate Avenue.

Images from Gettysburg

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Main Pennsylvania Monument. This is the biggest one on the field.Looking back at markers from the Pennsylvania Monument.A closer look at the Pennsylvania Monument.Approaching the Pennsylvania MonumentA panoramic view of markers along the field from the Pennsylvania Monument.Looking at the top of the Pennsylvania Monument from below. My husband and daughter are leaning towards us.This is the Goddess of Victory on top of the Pennsylvania Monument.A panoramic view in a different direction.
Main Pennsylvania Monument. This is the biggest one on the field.
Main Pennsylvania Monument. This is the biggest one on the field.
Looking back at markers from the Pennsylvania Monument.
Looking back at markers from the Pennsylvania Monument.
A closer look at the Pennsylvania Monument.
A closer look at the Pennsylvania Monument.
Approaching the Pennsylvania Monument
Approaching the Pennsylvania Monument
A panoramic view of markers along the field from the Pennsylvania Monument.
A panoramic view of markers along the field from the Pennsylvania Monument.
Looking at the top of the Pennsylvania Monument from below. My husband and daughter are leaning towards us.
Looking at the top of the Pennsylvania Monument from below. My husband and daughter are leaning towards us.
This is the Goddess of Victory on top of the Pennsylvania Monument.
This is the Goddess of Victory on top of the Pennsylvania Monument.
A panoramic view in a different direction.
A panoramic view in a different direction.

Ghost Tours in Gettysburg

As you can imagine there are several ghost tours of Gettysburg, however I felt as if I could feel the ghosts on the battlefield during the day when I toured. I didn't need a ghost tour to find them.

The National Park Service has created an auto tour that you can drive yourself with or without an audio CD to accompany you. There are hundreds of markers along the auto tour that you can read. Some of these are monuments that are over 100 years old. Others have been added by the Park Service to explain what part of the battle took place from that area.

You can clearly see the lines drawn by both Confederate and Union soldiers and troops. You can also easily see why so many people died and why the town of Gettysburg was overrun. If you are already familiar with Gettysburg and Civil War history, you can walk the fields to see how the clashes actually happened. We saw more than one marker that showed where men from the town my husband grew up in had died.

Soldiers' National Cemetery

This holds the bodies of Union soldiers from the Civil War and other war veterans from later wars.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Soldiers' National CemeteryThis is the law establishing the cemetery.This is the spot where Abraham Lincoln made the Gettysburg Address.
Soldiers' National Cemetery
Soldiers' National Cemetery
This is the law establishing the cemetery.
This is the law establishing the cemetery.
This is the spot where Abraham Lincoln made the Gettysburg Address.
This is the spot where Abraham Lincoln made the Gettysburg Address.

Have You Ever Visited Gettysburg, PA?

Have you visited Gettysburg in person?

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The Civil War in Four Minutes: The Battle of Gettysburg

© 2014 Paula Atwell

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    • Anita Hasch profile image

      Anita Hasch 10 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      What an interesting hub. Would love to visit Gettysburg when I can afford it. The civil war between the North and South is a fantastic part of America's history.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @brave Thanks for your comment. My dad is from Philly and we spent a lot of time there visiting historical places too.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I lived in Philly when I was young (from 3rd thru 8th grade). The field trips we took were awesome, one of which was to Gettysburg. I can't remember if it was Gettysburg, or where it was, but one museum had this enormous civil war reenactment held in a theater. It was narrated. The scene was below the balcony area where visitors enter the theater. The entire scene was made up of animated figures, guns, etc. I don't mean animated like cartoon, I mean they were crafted, moving figures. It was awesome. There's a lot of history in PA. Great area to go to school, especially if the schools provide field trips as the Catholic school I attended did.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Kim I think you would definitely enjoy it then. I would go back again.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 3 years ago

      My husband is from Philadelphia, so we did the Valley Forge tour on my first trip to Pennsylvania. I would love to visit Gettysburg. Even where I grew up in California, there was a group that reenacted Civil War battles. One of my first journalism assignments was to write about them, so it made quite an impression. Nice article and photos!

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Jodah I think what makes this so compelling is that the attractions are actual monuments and gravestones of real people. The number and how young they were really hits home. It was a bloody, gruesome battle.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @DrBill Thanks, yes it was one of the trips that will stick in my memory for a long time.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @esmonaco I highly recommend it. I wish that we had had more time there.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @favored Yes, a great family trip for kids 10 and older who can understand some of the history. :)

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Wed-Elf Definitely worth a trip!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very informative hub Paula, great photos too. I have seen some movies about the Civil War, featuring Gettysburg but knew nothing about the city or attractions in the present day. Thanks for the history lesson and info on the present city tours, monuments etc.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      My wife and daughter visited a few years ago. Their reactions were quite similar to your. Thanks for sharing! ;-)

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Every year my wife and talk about making the trip To Gettysgurg, but have not done so yet. I want to visit so bad because I love the history of it all.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 3 years ago from USA

      Like you I grew up near so many of our national treasured sites. Visiting Gettysbury has been a highlight of our travels and is one of my husband's favorite places. This is an excellent place to take the family or class trips to learn about the history of our country.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I've never been, but my brother has. Heard it is a place 'once seen, never forgotten'.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @billybuc Exactly. That is what I felt. Goosebumps.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Mel You may want to plan a few days there if you are a Civil War fan. It is easy to spend time reading the monuments and watching reenactments of the battles. So much happened in a few days. I am not a huge war history fan, but I was incredibly moved by just being there one day. The massive amounts of people alone is hard to comprehend.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My son and I visited Gettysburg in 1997...spent two days there. I had goosebumps. Amazing place.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      I almost got there on a whirlwind tour of the east coast, but the wife was tired so we went on our way. She now regrets it, having seen the movies and several documentaries on the battle. I am a big Civil War fan and this is definitely on my bucket list. Great hub!