Virginia 2015: Gettysburg NMP


Day 2, October 5, 2015

Gettysburg today is a beautiful, quiet town in the Pennsylvania countryside.  But that peace was shattered for three days in July, 1863, when the Battle of Gettysburg resulted in the Civil War’s most costly battle in terms of human life.  Over 46,000 men were killed, wounded or missing in the three days of battle, and it forever changed this small, farming community.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park

After I had worked out our trip schedule for our Virginia trip, Jon decided he wanted to fit in a quick trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  And before you tell me that the title of this blog says Virginia, but I’m roaming around in Pennsylvania, there’s a reason!  I decided to keep a consistent heading name for all my posts for this trip – even though we did a couple of detours outside of Virginia!  Gettysburg was only about 40 minutes away from where we were staying in Frederick, Maryland after all! If it were up to me, Gettysburg would never be a quick trip, but I had done the full battlefield tour (with audio tour) before, so I made my peace with doing Gettysburg on a smaller scale this time. Jon is just never going to be an audio tour kind of guy, and I have to accept that…

We got to Gettysburg around 9:30-10 am and did a quick stop at the Visitor’s Center for stamps and postcards. We decided not to see the museum and the movie (that part pained me…), so we could spend more time on the battlefield.  I still need to get back there and do that!

One of the hundreds of cannon that sit on the battlefield.

One of the hundreds of cannon that sit on the battlefield.

 

Another of the many statues featuring horses at Gettysburg.

Another of the many statues featuring horses at Gettysburg.

Jon wanted to see where Pickett’s Charge occurred, so we started there. We checked out the Angle and the High Water Mark, where the Union Army repulsed the Confederates on the last day of the battle. I was again amazed by the sheer insanity determination that must have been involved in sending those soldiers across a mile and a half of open field. Pickett’s troops, and the other divisions that participated in the charge, were decimated.  Standing there, it is easy to see why.

The Codori Farm was in the middle of Pickett's Charge on the third day of the battle in 1863. This barn is a replacement; the original was torn down in 1882. The farmhouse sustained damage from shelling during the battle.

The Codori Farm was in the middle of Pickett’s Charge on the third day of the battle in 1863. This barn is a replacement; the original was torn down in 1882. The farmhouse sustained damage from shelling during the battle.

Half of Pickett’s division was left dead or wounded on the field. The casualty rate for the men that reached the Angle was over 70 percent. When Pickett’s remaining troops made their way back to Seminary Ridge, Lee asked Pickett to organize his troops in the rear to prepare for a counter attack by the Union. Pickett reportedly replied, “General Lee, I have no division now.” Truer words were never spoken.

The Pennsylvania Monument is the largest monument on the battlefield; it also has interior stairs that lead you to the top of the monument for a bird’s eye view of many of the features of the battlefield.  I climbed to the top and surveyed the view; you can see a lot from up there!

The view from the top of the Pennsylvania Monument.

The view from the top of the Pennsylvania Monument.

 

A plaque marking directions and distances from the top of the Pennsylvania Monument

A plaque marking directions and distances from the top of the Pennsylvania Monument.

 

We also checked out Seminary Ridge, where General Lee staged the Confederate line. I do love the gigantic statue of Lee that has been placed as a monument on Seminary Ridge. He’s on a horse, so of course you know I love it!  I’m sure there are lots of people who would argue that it should be removed along with all the other Confederate statues, but I think there is a valid historical reason to leave them, and learn from the past. If we hide all traces of our past, how will people come to understand the complicated road we have traveled? But I digress…

A statue of Robert E. Lee on the battlefield.

A statue of Robert E. Lee on the battlefield.

 

Our last stop on the Gettysburg Battlefield that day was at Little Round Top, where Joshua Chamberlain, after defending the hill valiantly and running out of ammunition, ordered a fixed bayonet charge to repulse the Confederates charging up the hill from Devil’s Den. Before the Union Army defeated the charge, men were fighting hand to hand on the hill.

Looking down at Devil's Den from Little Round Top

Looking down at Devil’s Den from Little Round Top.

 

The rock strewn hillside and Devil’s Den’s, a bowl shaped collection of rocks at the base of Little Round Top, are much the way they were during the battle. You can still see where union troops created defensive walls using the existing large boulders, and the numerous smaller rocks on the hill. Chamberlain was the recipient of the Medal of Honor for his bravery on Little Round Top, 30 years after the war.

I found a toad on Little Road Top! He is an Eastern American Toad.

I found a toad on Little Road Top! He is an Eastern American Toad.

 

We also made one additional stop in Gettysburg – The Gettysburg National Cemetery.  I will post about it next!

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10 thoughts on “Virginia 2015: Gettysburg NMP

  1. Wanted to go here ever since I read the Killer Angels, and I’m not even American! If you had only a short time to visit one part of the battlefield, what would you advise I don’t miss?

    • It’s so hard to choose! We were there for about 2.5 – 3 hours, and Jon felt like he had enough time. I can linger anyplace much longer than he can. In my opinion, on the battlefield, the two must see places are where Union line where Pickett’s Charge ended at the Angle and the High Water Mark – it is easy from there to get a great impression of the charge and what a suicide mission it really was. I would also be sure to check out Little Round Top and look down on Devil’s Den. Of course, if you are there when it is less busy, you can probably fit in a bit more. We didn’t have time to see the new museum at the Visitor’s Center, and that’s probably my biggest regret on this trip. I read the Killer Angels too – he did a good job of imparting the historical aspects while making it a very interesting read. Thanks for stopping by! Camille

  2. It’s a solemn place. Fall or winter are my favorite times to visit because it is so quiet, and you can really get to know the place. One July, though, we went to the battle reenactment nearby–that gave me a better idea of the scale of the carnage, people and horses, in that terrible heat, all in this remote place took my breath away. Can’t wait to read about the Gettysburg National Cemetery–we just passed through, but never lingered there.

    • I have only been there in fall and winter – never in the summer! My first visit was in February 2008. It was definitely busier in October than on that snowy February Day, but certainly not overrun with people! It probably helped that we were there on a weekday too. One day I’m going to spend a couple of days there and visit some of the historic homes and other sites too.

  3. Too bad you missed the film and museum – I would have traded half my time on the battlefield for more time in the museum. That means that you also didn’t get to see the cyclorama, which may have been my favorite part of Gettysburg. Next trip, right?? 😉

    • I saw the cyclorama when I visited in February 2008 – before I met Jon. This was a couple of months before they opened the new Visitor’s Center. I also got to see the Electric Map before they sold it. Since I had been there before, I let Jon choose which pieces he wanted to see. Although I would have loved to see the new exhibits, yes, next time! 🙂

  4. Nice post! When I was a kid, we went there on a field trip. It was around 1970, and not much was there except the battlefield and town. I was somehow left behind on Little Round Top as it was getting dark, above the wood where the charge occurred. There was a bit of fog in the trees, and being alone it was a very mysterious atmosphere. I either imagined I saw soldiers in gray standing among the trees, or I actually saw ghosts. That’s the only time I can say it’s possible I saw ghosts. I’ve been back a number of times but never had anywhere close to that kind of experience. But because of that I love the place.

    • Thank you! Your story gives me chills. The first time that I was in Gettysburg was in February 2008. I had done the whole audio tour route, and was in the Spangler’s Spring area – it had just gotten dark, and like your visit, there was fog. I was sitting in the car with the window rolled down, just absorbing the atmosphere, and I felt the strangest sensation. Then I heard some very strange moaning noises – not really moaning, but I don’t have words to describe it. I suppose it could have been an owl or some other nocturnal animal – but it was not a noise I’ve heard before, and I can’t guess what it was if not ghosts. I truly believe there are still soldiers there.

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