Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 19: Gettysburg, Day 1

August 14, 2011 - The campground that we stayed at outside of Gettysburg had a good gift shop.  From there we purchased the usual trinkets that most tourists buy; replica confederate dollars, key chains, shirts and the likes.  The real gem, however, was an audio tour made specifically for guys like us.  We would be able to drive around the battlefield and listen to the narrator give us our own personal tour.

With the trailer disconnected from the truck, we made our way to the Gettysburg Battlefield.

An audio tour allowed us to enjoy the battlefield however we wanted to do it.  We were able to take the truck (with the camper attached, of course) and spend as much time as we wanted at various spots along the way.  Additionally, the audio tour gave a lot of information relative to which spot we were at.  For example, at Tour Stop 2 the audio tour told us to look to our left at a large field and continued to explain to us what actually happened there.

Weighing 4 1/2 tons; this statue of Maj. General John Reynolds is a good start for the tour.


I never realized how large the battlefield at Gettysburg was; or how strangely quiet it is even with all of the visitors that grace the one-way roads throughout the day.  The quiet was, in all reality, a perfect addition to the National Memorial, and suited many visitors just fine as they gazed upon the different monuments and followed the battle in their own special way.

The battle of Gettysburg spanned July 1 through the 3rd in 1863 as the Union Calvary attempted to hold off the Confederate advance west of the small town of Gettysburg.  This particular battle is noted as the conflict with the most casualties during the American Civil War.  An estimated 46,000-51,000 soldiers lost their lives in what would be considered one of the turning points in the American Civil War.

Understanding the Gettysburg Memorials

An interesting note about Gettysburg:  the place is literally littered with memorials.  It took me a couple of photographs until I realized the different types of monuments and memorials; and which ones were better to take pictures of.

Almost every unit is represented by a monument of some type.

In my opinion, the best monuments to take pictures of are the State Monuments which are easily identifiable.  There are a total of seven Union state monuments at Gettysburg and twelve Confederate state monuments.  They are usually very large and always unique.  These monuments were placed at the location of the state's main line of battle; and thus, are interspersed throughout Gettysburg. 

Bruce and I managed to see a few of the State Monuments on the first day.

Tennessee Monument.

North Carolina Monument.

Virginia Monument.

The next type of monuments are the unit markers that are sometimes unique and visually striking.  These type of memorials were raised to honor individual regiments, batteries, or brigades on both sides of the conflict.

A monument to the 9th New York 1st Brigade Cavalry.

A collection of unit monuments.

149th Pennsylvania Infantry.

150th Pennsylvania Infantry.

"Reynold's" Artillery, Battery L

88th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Lastly, there are plenty of cannons and fences around Gettysburg.  The cannons are used to represent the lines of battle; especially the artillery.  These monuments are helpful when trying to understand how the battle actually took place.  Also grouped into this category are the markers that designate the left flank, right flank, and center part of any particular unit.

Cannons designating a Union line behind a reconstructed fence.

A Confederate cannon near the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.

While not the prettiest markers, they are the most prolific ones.

Confederate cannons overlooking Pickett's Charge.

The Eternal Light Peace Memorial

The flame from this monument can be seen up to twenty miles away.  The flame sits in a one ton bronze urn on top of a very tall tower situated on a pedestrian terrace. This monument was dedicated by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. 

You can see the entire battlefield from this vantage point.

The monument, which stays lit continuously, bears two inscriptions of note:



The Silent Landscape

A quiet hush surrounds the battlefield, as if the very trees weep silent tears for those who had fallen so long ago.  The tree's that you see today in the battlefield, however, were not around during the actual battle.  In some remaining pictures of the days after the battle, there are very few trees remaining.

A quiet field; the site of Pickett's Charge.

The McPherson Farm turned Civil War Hospital during the conflict.

My Thoughts of The First Day

The atmosphere was haunting.  To know that many people fought and died on the land we were walking on made it even more so.  As a soldier, I felt connected to these combatants.  There life was what my life was; in a sense.

The stone wall overlooking Pickett's Charge.  I find this photo the most haunting.

I took an opportunity to hunker down behind this wall, overlooking Pickett's Charge, and imagined myself in the soldier's shoes.  At that moment it didn't matter Union or Confederate; I was just a soldier.  I spent some time in quiet contemplation of what the soldier, with whom I shared the same space but different time with, could have felt.  It was a connection that is hard to explain, but I left with something intangible but real at the same time; like a nod from a friend or a tingle in the soul.

Bruce took his own time in contemplation as well, but it's not something we really spoke of together.  It seems as though each person who visits that hallowed ground takes something back with them that is personal; an experience.  Some talk about it, like myself; others don't, like Bruce.

Night Approaches

Night was falling fast, but we managed to get one more area before we left; the Big Round Top which overlooks The Devil's Den.

Overlooking Devil's Den; the area is called The Valley of Death.

The darkness crept in, and it became too dark to continue our tour.  Bruce and I were resolved to stay the night at the campground again and to come back in the morning to finish up the tour.  We didn't realize how involved we were with Gettysburg; it had captured us.

We had a nice dinner at the Herr Inn, which sadly was not a German restaurant (it was at the corner of a street called Herr, go figure).  The food was good, however, and we discussed our plans for the next morning.

As I drove back to the campground in the dark, I kept thinking back to the stone wall.


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