Gettysburg National Military Park

From his earliest memories, my husband has always wanted to see Gettysburg National Military Park.  And I have always had an interest in American History.  Years went by and neither one of us had ever made it to Gettysburg.  Recently we changed that. We decided it was time to go. So we packed up the car and headed out towards this little town made famous by one of the most horrible moments in American history. The accounts in history tell us that those first few days of July 1863 were ones that changed the little town of Gettysburg and forever marked it as some of the bloodiest days in the Civil War.

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My husband and I have watched movies, historical documentaries and the Ken Burn’s Civil War series for PBS. But nothing can prepare you for the massiveness of Gettysburg Battlefields until you are standing there.

Next year, 2013, marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg National Military Park is preparing for the commemoration.  We decided to make the journey and see the infamous Battlefield for ourselves.  We actually took about 1,000 photos but can only share a small portion of those here.  So following is a brief pictorial tour of our stay.  I hope you enjoy them and if these help encourage you to delve deeper into our great country’s history and see these places for yourself, then we would be ecstatic.

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Your first stop should be at the new Visitor’s Center. Here you will be able to find a map of the park and purchase any number of tours available. Auto-Tours, Bus-Tours, and Ranger Tours, and Tours to the Eisenhower Historic Site are all offered to provide the best possible experience at the Park. Also at the Visitor’s Center is the Cyclorama, Museum and a 20-minute Movie presentation narrated by Morgan Freeman. We purchased this ticket package and highly recommend it. The Parks offers several different types of discounts including AAA, Senior and Military discounts.

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Our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator is honored throughout the Park. This wonderful statute of him is at the Visitor’s Center.  Be prepared for a line, though.  He is one popular feature and there always seems to be a line for a photograph!

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Scattered about the Park in every corner where skirmishes and battles took place, there are monuments honoring those who fought in that spot.  The detail and beauty of these monuments is breathtaking in many cases.

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The thing that struck us most was the fact that these hills were much steeper in person than they appeared in the movies, documentaries and photographs. It touched me how much the soldiers, both Confederate and Federal, endured all those years ago.

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These fields are massive, nearly 2-3 miles wide and without any cover or protection in many areas. The men who were engaged in Pickett’s Charge came from the tree line and charged over field, fences and more field approaching High Water Mark at the peak of that hill. This is the spot where General Armistead fell during the Charge.

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This is the view of the field that General Longstreet’s men had to cross in the Charge from the vantage point at High Water Mark.

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This is the view from the tree line where the Confederate Divisions under Longstreet began Pickett’s Charge.

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My mind kept whirling around with amazement that so many lives survived these rocky, boulder filled hills and fields.  I was humbled realizing the number of men, 50,000 total, who were lost July 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 1863.  Walking around carrying only a camera, I could only imagine what it was like to carry everything you needed to stay alive: ammunition, rifle, knife, canteen, and whatever else was needed…and in the July heat.  I’m sure in 1863 it was as hot a summer, too. I cannot begin to fathom the stench of the dead and dying, both human and animal.

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The 20th Maine at Little Round Top was a story presented in the movie, Gettysburg, with the role of Colonel Chamberlain played by Jeff Daniels.  For me, walking the same paths that these men defended and died on was almost overwhelming.  I didn’t even want to speak while standing in the spot where so many perished.

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Just across from Little Round Top is Devil’s Den – standing there dwarfed by these rocks, it is unbelievable to me just how the soldier’s kept fighting up these hills.

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“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far about our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” -President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863 in the dedication of this Battlefield.

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