Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gettysburg, finally!

Gettysburg is one of the places we have wanted to go ever since we got out here. We made plans to go a time or two but just hadn't made it. Finally, last Saturday (Oct 3) we made it! We had a beautiful fall day, clear, sunny, high in the 70's, which was perfect for our tour.

We learned a lot about this battle during the day. Over 170,000 soldiers from the Union and Confederacy engaged in battle over three days in July, 1863. Emboldened by a recent victory over the north in Virginia, Gen. Robert E Lee again took his army into the north, seeking a military victory that would weaken the resolve of the north to keep fighting. If the Union lost public support for the war, they would have to recognize the right of the Confederacy to exist. As Lee's army moved into Pennsylvania, they up against the Union army led by General Meade. The battle started northwest of Gettysburg, and at first the Union was driven back from their advanced positions into a defensive position south of town. They following two days, Lee tried to break the Union positions to achieve victory, and very nearly claimed the high ground south of town that would have given them a tactical advantage. But, in the end, they could not it, and were eventually routed and driven back into Virgina. It is estimated that there were over 50,000 casualties over these three bloody days.

The war turned on this battle, for from this point on it was fought almost exclusively on southern soil until the end in 1865. Oh to imagine how our country would be different this day had the outcome been different!

We arrive in Pennsylvania on a clear and bright October morning.

The battlefield itself is hard to depict by simple photos. You really need to be there to see the hills and knolls that were the strategic points of the battle to understand what went on. But here are a few photos anyway. The park itself is now over 6,000 acres. You have to tour by car or bus to see it all. (We bought a CD to listen to as we drove around ... and spent five hours doing so).

The initial engagement took place in a vast open prairie northwest of the town.

The homes and farms of the local people become a part of the story as they are used for sniper cover (l) and field hospitals (r).

Barb and I sit atop "Little Round Top" mountain, the site of the key battle on the third day (l). Over 5,000 confederate soldiers were killed in the fields behind us. Over 400 cannons that were used still mark cannonade locations in the park (r).

Learn more about the battlefield HERE.

What is a battlefield without monuments? We expected monuments, but were surprised at the huge number of them at Gettysburg .... over 1600 of them in all. Monuments for fallen Generals, monuments erected by states for various brigades, regiments, and companies from their state, and markers to show where various flanks and lines were located at different times of the battle.

A row of markers (l) that parallel one of the critical battle lines (l), and the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, dedicated by FDR in 1938 on the 75th anniversary of the battle (which was the last major reunion of Civil War soldiers).

Markers from Mississippi (l) and Tennessee (c), and for the first general to be killed (r).

Virginia (l) with Robert E Lee on top, Pennsylvania (c), and a general monument to soldiers of the Confederacy (r).

About 30 weekends each year, they have live re-enactments take place. We were lucky to see a group that enacted a brigade of sharpshooters, with a small encampment and a demonstration of how they would perform in a battle.

The encampment, including a display of typical supplies.

A demonstration of field maneuvers (l), and shooting (r).

An interesting contrast of military eras.

The last stop on our tour was the Gettysburg National Military Cemetery, where over 3,500 Union soldiers are buried and where President Lincoln gave the famous Gettysburg Address.

A monument to memorialize Lincoln's address with a bronze bust and a bronze plaque of the address.

Another monument, erected by the state of Kentucky in honor of their native son, Abe Lincoln.

There are over 3,500 grave stones, but nearly 900 of the buried are unknown.

After a long afternoon around the battlefield, we headed in to the town of Gettysburg, where we had dinner at Dobbin House. Dobbin House was built in 1776 and has long served as a restaurant and tavern. We ate in the tavern downstairs, where Ben Franklin himself carved his initials in the wall....not really, just kidding about that!

Old clock in Gettysburg (l), Dobbin House (r)

The house was old, but the food was fresh!

It was a great day, and another adventure for Dan and Barb!


Erin and Brian said...

How neat to read about the history you guys took in! And what a beautiful day for it as well. The Dobbin House looked very fun - what kind of food did they serve?

Robin said...

We owe so much to so many. And I deeply believe we need all this land saved and monumented and made into living museums forever. Because the generations forget so quickly! Thanks for the blog - this living vicariously stuff is better than nothin!