Thursday, September 4, 2014

W A R !!!

The Civil War that raged in and around Gettysburg for only three days, became a deciding factor in the outcome, even though it continued for another two years.  The battles fought here were bloody and deadly, resulting in the battlefield being covered with the bodies of those who fell.  Sadly, most were just left by the departing armies, leaving the hospitalization and cleanup to those that remained in the city.  I didn't do so well in school when it came to history, nor could I write down everything i learned here, so if I make any mistakes here, please let me know so I can correct it!!
We started the day at the Visitor's Center-Museum.  As I hobbled up to the door there were signs everywhere saying no backpacks, which is where I carry my camera, but thanks to Tom, the Park Service called someone to do a special check ... tagged the bag ... and we were off to see the Cyclorama.  As I contemplated walking around the building, at least three people offered me a wheelchair.  As much as I like the idea of being in the front of the line at Disneyland, being pushed in a wheelchair just isn't my thing, but at everyone's insistence, I jumped in and we were off ... to the front of the line, up the elevator and out into the middle of a huge hall, surrounded by a magnificent painting "The Battle Of Gettysburg" by Paul Philippoteaux.  You will see a couple pictures of it below.

The most amazing thing we found was they offer Licensed Guides to drive you around the battlefield (in your car) and explain the entire three days of the war.  Now THAT's the way to learn about history, which at $65.00 was WELL worth it.  Joel started us off here, on Day 1, with the Confederates advancing on the Union Army West of Gettysburg.  Over 6,000 acres have been purchased, including buildings and is being returned to what it was back then.  Houses that were on the battlefield have been left.  Restaurants have been torn down.
The Union Army set up their cannons, but were eventually defeated and retreated through Gettysburg, where many were captured.  The remaining troops tried to rally on Cemetery and Culps Hills.
This bank barn is original and so will stay on the battlefield and kept intact.  It is called a bank barn because it is built into the bank of the hill, allowing hay wagons to be driven straight into the back of the barn for storage, which could later be dropped down the other side for the cattle.
Here at Oak Ridge, the Confederates had a pretty good view of the town to the far left.  It was here by the end of the first day that they crushed the Union soldiers and took the town of Gettysburg.
With the only communications being that of soldiers on horses, sometimes they didn't quite know who was where, or how close they actually were to the opposing force.  The Confederates view of Little Round Top and Big Round Top (on the right) shows where the Union Army retreated to.
This is pretty much the same view in the cyclorama painting.  It is amazingly lifelike, as they tell the story of the fighting.
There was fighting among the generals about who should do what and where.  On Day 2, General Meade and the Union Army have the high ground on Cemetery Ridge while Sickles has 10,000 men on Little Round Top, which he moves Northwest to the Peach Orchard.  Bad move, most are slaughtered as he has gone too far away from reinforcements.  
As the Confederates scramble up the hill to take the high ground, Warren and his Union men get there just in the nick of time to keep control of the hill.
On Day 3, General Lee now concentrates his men (hidden in the far tree line) on the middle of the Union line ... where I'm taking this picture.  After bombarding the Union Army for two hours with cannon fire, he sends 12,000 men across these fields to their death.
General Meade had already moved his cannons in ... and between artillery and rifle fire, crippled the Confederate offense.  With so many casualties, Lee finally withdraws to Virginia.
Another picture from the cyclorama of the field above.
It's pretty hard to visit this site and imagine what happened here and how many lives were lost.  There are statues like this one everywhere ... for every State that fought and every regiment, along with many individual monuments.  In the end, both armies packed up and left the area.  Every house and barn was made into a hospital and those people left in town were subject to the cleanup and smell for months.  Joe said all of the Union soldiers were accounted for and eventually buried in the Soldiers National Cemetery here.  Apparently some of the Confederate soldiers may still lie in the hills.  Everywhere you go, you can see bullet holes in the houses, barns and trees.  It's pretty sobering!!
If you come to Gettysburg, definitely stop in at the Visitor's Center and get the map that shows the battlefield.  You CAN take a driving tour yourself, but trust me, spend the extra money and hire a tour guide.  It was $99.00 total for three of us to see the Cyclorama, the Museum and have a guide.  It was worth twice that!!

Now that my foot was killing me, since I did walk a fair amount on the tour with Joel, including up to the top of Little Round Top, I got to feeling rather queasy, but that didn't keep me from dinner.  We had delicious fried chicken and mashed potatoes, Barbara had spinach with sugar and vinegar and Tom had liver and onions with bacon.  Barbara also had something called Dutch Salad, which we had never heard of before.  Small pieces of lettuce with chopped egg on top, covered with a most delicious sweet dressing.  It was so good, we both bought containers of the dressing for salad at home!!    We also found Nick Russell's favorite hat shop and marked it for a visit today!!


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your foot. I'm so envious of your trip I hope to visit Gettysburg someday.
    The battle at Gettysburg wasn't plan by either side. I think it was the running point to the war. The confederate army never recovered from the losses.

    Jim M.

    1. It's amazing Jim, ... and I sure got a good history lesson. Artillery Ridge RV Park is right at the edge of the battlefield. I know it's a long way to drive, but well worth the trip!!

  2. I think a good book on Gettysburg is Killer Angles by Michael Sharra. It what's called historical fiction which for me is one of the more enjoyable way of reading about history.

    Jim M.

  3. When David & I went to Gettysbury Battlefield in 2007 the Visitor Center was old and ready to be moved to its new location. We, too, hired a person to drive our car and give us a more personal tour than doing the Greyhound bus tour. Then when we returned in 2010 what a beautiful new Visitor Center. We were amazed at the new building and the Cyclorama!!! What a wonderful job explaining the Civil War. The whole experience was worth the money we paid. Because of your foot and not sure what the Thursday agenda was, but nearby is Eisenhower's Gettysburg Farm and that was very interesting. Many many battlefields are within miles of Gettysburg and one can spend weeks in the area. We did a few of the famous and then moved on. Take care of your foot. Lynn Cross

    1. Lynn, I thought the foot was doing good until we hit Walmart yesterday. It's a L O N G walk around that store!! Definitely a lot to see and do here!!