Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg PA

When you travel through the eastern US states, you can’t but be reminded of all the history that helped shape our nation and this history definitely includes the Civil War. There are many many battle fields so we thought if we are going to go to one let’s make it a great one. So we chose Gettysburg not only because of the key battles that were fought but because this was also the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Our first goal was to become educated about this battle before we actually toured the battlefield and we are glad we did.

Here is a quick overview…
After having success at Chancellorsville in Virginia in May 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee moved his 72,000 member army north to invade Pennsylvania. Lee wanted to shift the summer campaign focus from war-ravaged Virginia and start taking some northern ground to change the Union’s focus from Vicksburg, MS and to possibly make a campaign into Philadelphia. Lee’s army was met in Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 by Major General George Meade’s army of 94,000. There were three days of fighting with the most furious on the third day. On that day, Lee was out of options so he sent 12,500 Confederates advancing three quarters of the mile against the center of the Union line. The Union defenses held and the Confederates were defeated ending this three day battle. This was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War with 51,000 causalities from both sides and marked a huge turning point of the war for the Union army.
The battlefields encompass 5,889 acres and the town of Gettysburg. There are two good ways to get an overall understanding of the battles:  the Diorama (from yesterday) and the NPS Visitor Center where we watched a movie to get more information to prepare us for a day of touring the battlefields. Although entrance to the military park is free, one does have to pay $12.50 per person to see the movie, see the Cyclorama (A 360-degree painting from about 100 years ago - people stand in the middle and a battle scene is narrated. Basically, it's like being in the diorama from the day before.) and visit the Civil War museum.

So we did and found both the movie and museum was very informative and helpful. The Cyclorama was just ok. Here is a bunch of cool stuff we saw.........

  Map: Confederate states in red, Union in green
Museum artifact - Union flag

Museum artifact -battle drum
Museum artifact -photos of some of the men that fought

A section of the Cyclorama - notice the well is built into the painting

 Now we were equipped to see the battlefields. Well, how do you see 5,889 acres…you drive it! There is a numbered auto tour of the battle fields that take you in chronicle order, it’s a 26 mile drive that ends in the National Cemetary. There are key numbered stops that correspond to descriptions on the NPS park guide (free). There is an audio CD that you can rent and listen to as your drive that gives more detailed information, but for our interest level, the free guide provided enough information.

At these stops you can park and see the numerous markers, memorials, monuments (1,328 in total) and the actual battlefields. We did the whole auto tour route in a couple hours. Understanding the battlefields prior to this drive really helped us understand and appreciate what we saw. At several of the stops there were re-enactors dressed in authentic soldier ware and would answer questions. This helped make the experience more real and gave us a tiny bit of understanding what it must have been like during those three days in 1863.


 View from a key ridge held by the Union army

 Pennsylvania supplied the most soldiers, this is their memorial

The National Cemetery - graves of unidentified soldiers



Pennies on top the memorial of the site of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

This was a great experience and worth a visit to relearn about an important moment in our countries history.

For fun….Some Interesting Facts
The total number of soldiers in the Civil War was 3.1 million (Union -2.1 million and the Confederates -1 million). Approximately 620,000 total soldiers died from combat, accident, starvation, and disease during the Civil War as compared to the 405K that died in WWII and 117K in WWI. The Confederate states at the beginning of the war had a total population of 9 million (including 4 million slaves), and 22 million people populated the North. So roughly 10% of the county's entire population was involved in the fighting. Wow, crazy numbers huh?
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

1 comment:

Kathy Anderson said...

We're fulltime RVers and have a blog, too. Happy and safe travels to you!

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