Greetings and salutations,
This week we make a stop at the Gettysburg National Military Park near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania operated by the National Park Service. The Battle of Gettysburg occurred July 1-3, 1863 in and around the village of Gettysburg, hence the name! Between the two sides, nearly 200,000 soldiers were involved in this conflict with over 50,000 killed, injured or missing, the bloodiest battle within the United States borders, before or since. When visiting battlefields, whether here in the US or abroad, I think of the people who gave their lives and bodies for their “cause” whatever it might be. And I often think, could they have resolved their differences without killing or maiming each other? Hindsight is a 100%, isn’t it? Beyond the human costs, I think of all the resources that it takes to mount an army and wonder if those resources could have been put to better use to help people live better lives and prosper or even prevent wars from happening.
Tons of excellent books and articles have been written about the Civil War and particularly the Battle of Gettysburg, if you doubt me check out the history section of your favorite library or bookstore. My goal here is show you the battlefield from my perspective with a little history thrown in so it makes some sense.
The battle of Gettysburg was fought during the War Between the States or commonly called the Civil War from July 1-3, 1863. This War began in 1861, when several southern states seceded from the Confederate States of America or the South and attacked the Union’s Ft. Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina. The Union or the North, consisted of the states that remained loyal to the United States. The conflict had it’s origin in the issue of slavery, especially its expansion into the Western territories. By 1863, the South had won a number of major battles, including the June 3 Battle at Chancellorsville in Virginia led by General Robert E. Lee. Confident of their win, Lee headed north to Pennsylvania into Union Territory. The two armies met at Gettysburg with the first skirmish on July 1 just to the northwest of the village of Gettysburg. The Confederate troops drove and defeated the disorganized Union army through Gettysburg to just south of the town setting up the battle of July 2. The two armies were nearly a mile apart on parallel ridges with the Union on Cemetery Ridge to the east and the Confederates on Seminary Ridge to the west. With cannons blazing and forces charging each other, the day ended in a stand off. The morning of July 3, the fighting started early with bombardments and the famous “Pickett’s Charge” where Lee’s troops charged the Union lines across an open field, the attack failed with over 5,000 Confederate men killed in about hour. The Battle of Gettysburg was over and turned the tide of the Civil War. The War ended with Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865. On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to take part in the dedication ceremonies of the Soldier’s National Cemetery. His brief speech, 247 words, gave new meaning to the sacrifices of the war.
The Battlefield Museum and Visitor Center is a great place to start your tour. It begins with a movie about the battle, the cyclorama (a panoramic image inside a cylindrical platform for 360 degree view), and a very well done museum with lots of artifacts and detail of the battles.
The following photos are my attempts to capture some of the impressive cyclorama.
After an orientation at the Museum, we started on the well designed driving tour of the battlefield. Fortunately, when checking into our hotel, I mentioned the driving tour and I was handed a well worn booklet with two CD’s that narrates the drive. All at no charge, saving us about $30, just enough for a modest dinner in town! The drive takes 2-3 hours depending how much one stops. Since there was snow a few days before our arrival, we didn’t venture too far off the road into the mushy snow and mud. The following are some photos from our drive.
Over 4000 dead and wounded fell in this small wheat field, maybe 20 acres. One can imagine the carnage and blood let in this small area.
The battle for Culp’s Hill was one of the most intense of Gettysburg. There were lots of places to hide from the artillery and shoot at the enemy from behind boulders and piles of wood.
As mentioned above, Pickett’s Charge killed thousand of soldiers and essentially crippled the Confederate Army at Gettysburg.
The Battlefield contains many memorials to the soldiers of both sides who fought at Gettysburg. Here are a few examples.
The largest memorial on the battlefield is the Pennsylvania Memorial. Very impressive.
President Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg in November 1863 to dedicate the Soldier’s National Cemetery. He delivered a short address that is now one of most recognized speeches in the US. Here are a few photos of area where Lincoln spoke.
The following are some photos from the Cemetery Lincoln dedicated.
Next to the Soldier’s National Cemetery is the city cemetery of Gettysburg, the Evergreen Cemetery.
The civilian population was also affected by the Battle of Gettysburg. Here’s an example of a barn with a hole from a cannonball from one of the artillery barrages that occurred during the battle.
Thanks for joining this brief tour and history of Gettysburg. It is a must visit, we are planning on visiting during the warmer part of the year however, we are told there will be a lot more people around!
Take care and travel safe,