Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gettysburg and Friends

We returned to Pennsylvania for the first time since last October with the plan to tour some places in the eastern part of the state and see some friends.  Our first stop was at Walmar RV Park in Dillsburg because it was located between Gettysburg and Harrisburg.  Walmar is a mobile home park with a campground.  The sites are small and so unlevel that after trying to set up we had to move to a different site, something we have never had to do.  The place may be okay for a trailer, but not for a motorhome.
Number one on our to do list here was to see Melvin Claytor who I worked with in Washington.  Mel and I shared an open classroom pod the first year I taught.  Later in his career he moved to the Harrisburg area as a principal.  We have seen him several times over the years, but it has been a long time since our last visit. 
We had a great dinner with Alora, Mel and Sasha while getting caught up with what has been going on with them.  They do a lot of riding with the Buffalo Soldier motorcycle club and love to travel.  Alora will be traveling to Kuwait soon to see their daughter who lives there.  How neat! It sure was great getting together and sharing tales. 
I have been to Gettysburg National Military Park many times, but not since they built the new visitor center and have worked to give the area a more 1863 look.  I have to say the results are fantastic.  There is a great new movie, "A New Birth of Freedom" and the cyclorama has been restored to its original grandeur.
The Gettysburg Cyclorama is a 360 degree painting of the famous Pickett's Charge and the high water mark of the Confederacy.
The 377 foot painting was done in 1884 by Paul Philippoteaux using battlefield photographs and interviews with veterans to create an accurate depiction.  He did paint himself into the picture standing beside the tree with a saber.
The cyclorama is now a light and sound show describing the third and final day of the battle that turned the tide of the war.  It has undergone a five year restoration with cannons, fences and other items placed in the foreground to give it a three dimensional look.  There is an admission charge for the movie, cyclorama and museum, but it is well worth it.
The museum has a great display of arms and other artifacts from the period.
An exhibit of what the typical Union and.....
Confederate solider carried into battle.
There is a place for the Confederate battle flag that has been in the news so much lately.  It is on display in the museum with appropriate explanations of its role in the history.
The only battle flags on the battle field seem to have been placed their by visitors.  We did not return the next day to see if it was still there, but I doubt it was.
In addition to being the only war other than the Revolutionary War fought on American soil, the Civil War was the first war that was thoroughly photographed.  Seeing pictures of the many who died in battle really brings the reality of war home.  Over a three day period 51,000 were killed, wounded or missing, including 5,000 southern soldiers who were lost during one hour of Pickett's Charge. 
Of course Gettysburg is also known as the site of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the new cemetery where over 3,500 Union soldiers were buried.  At the visitor center you can sit down and have a word with Honest Abe.
This is the death mask of Lincoln and a couple of the comments on his 272 word dedication address.  Many at the time did not see how historically significant those word would become.
There is an auto tour of the battlefield but we chose to ride it on our bikes.  There are over 1,300 memorials and monuments on the battlefield.  The Pennsylvania Memorial is the largest.
This group of trees was used by Pickett as a marker as he lead his troops across the field to the Union line. Nearby is the Angle that is considered the high mark of the Confederacy as the Confederate army made it to the Union lines at this point before being turned away and defeated.
The park service has done a great job of returning the look of the area as it was in 1863.  Some of the land is still being farmed and the crops harvested.  The grass on this field was cut and bailed with modern machinery, maybe they need to bring in the Amish to give it a more 1800's look.
This is looking from Devil's Den at Little Round Top where much of the day two fighting took place.  It is so hard to imagine what it had to be like for the soldiers trying to drive the Union forces off that high ground. 
There are several park service programs at different sites on the battlefield that tell the story about individuals or small military units and the role they played in the battle.
The Eternal Light Peace Memorial at the site of day one fighting was dedicated 75 years after the battle.  Over 1,800 Civil War veterans attended the dedication of the memorial that is engraved with, "Peace Eternal in a Nation United". 
Pennsylvania Hall was built in 1837 on the campus of Gettysburg College, it was one of many buildings in the town that was used as a hospital to care for the many wounded.  For anyone who has any interest in American history, Gettysburg must be on your to do list.  
Boiling Springs, near Gettysburg, is a neat little town that is worth a visit.  The Boiling Springs Tavern is a very good restaurant if you want a great meal in a neat old Pennsylvania tavern.


Sharon Del Rosario said...

Nice tour, Jim. I almost felt like I was there in person.

The Hesters said...

Great post. We have visited Gettysburg on several occasions and always learn something new. The scale of that battle is incredible. My great-great grandfather's name is on the PA Memorial! Safe travels.