Visiting Gettysburg PA
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
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
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 GettysburgClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Have You Ever Visited Gettysburg, PA?
Have you visited Gettysburg in person?
The Civil War in Four Minutes: The Battle of Gettysburg
© 2014 Paula Atwell