Previous Posts On Our DC/PA trip:
— Day 1: The Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum
— Day 2: Smithsonians and Friends
— Day 3: A Monumental Walking Tour
— Day 4: HOMERUN!
Every once in awhile, my husband declares himself a buff in a particular area. There was the World War II phase; a Kurt Vonnegut phase; and of course, his never-ending obsession with Titanic (but mostly the movie, natch).
Lately, though, he’s been focusing all of his buffing on one particular topic: the Civil War. Last year, he read what has to be the world’s longest book on Lincoln. He’s been obnoxiously taping all these war documentaries over the past few months. What is it with guys becoming fixated on war docs as they age? Thankfully, he also balances that with his passion for “Million Dollar Listings” and “Love It or List It.” I could do without the constant taping of “Pawn Stars” and “Toy Hunter,” though.
Since we had no firm plans on Wednesday, the day we were leaving DC for my dad and stepmom’s in Pennsylvania, I indulged his new obsession and agreed to take a side trip to Gettysburg on our way north.
Yeah, I’m pretty awesome like.
I was also a little embarrassed that I’d never made the drive up there myself while living in DC. I couldn’t believe how quickly we got there — we were there in less than two hours.
I hadn’t been there since high school, and I couldn’t believe how much it had changed. Well, none of the important parts changed, thankfully (more on that in a moment), but there’s now a big, gorgeous visitors center and museum.
How YOU doin’ Mr. Lincoln?
Since we didn’t have a lot of time to spend there, we ended up skipping the museum, but we did take advantage of the center’s restaurant while we were plotting our touring strategy.
What DadJovi REALLY wanted was to do was opt for one of the park ranger touring programs. For $65, a park ranger will get into your car and drive you around to all the sites. It sounded really cool but it would have taken two to three hours and we just didn’t have that much time to spend there.
Instead, we grabbed a self-guided driving tour map and set out for our first stop.
Yeah, it’s kind of awkward to pose in front of a sign commemorating a battle that took thousands of lives. E does not yet share that same history guilt.
Once upon a time, I remembered every important detail about this battle. Rumor has it I even minored in American history. But all of that information has been lost to the years. Thankfully, there were plenty of signs to help poor mommyfied brains like mine.
Here’s what you need to know. The battle was fought July 1-3, 1863 — yes, this week marks the 150th anniversary — and it’s considered to be the turning point of the entire Civil War. During those three days, a combined 50,000 men would be either injured or killed, and when it was over, Maj. Gen. George Meade’s Army of the Potomac had defeated Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The South would never invade the North again.
What’s incredible is how similar everything still looks today to those three days 150 years ago. They’ve done a tremendous job of preserving things exactly as they were then. Scattered everywhere are signs and maps showing how everything would have looked during the Battle of Gettysburg and in most cases, the view remains the same, including stone fences, field layouts and houses.
The High Water Mark area is the site of the final and decisive battle of the Battle of Gettysburg, and one of its most significant features is the famous Copse of Trees.
These trees mark the final point the Confederate troops reached in their surge north before they were forever turned back.
It really was quite haunting being there in the same fields that saw so many young men lose their lives and forever changed the course of our American history.
Shockingly, our 5-year-old did not share our same sense of awe about these hallowed grounds.
She actually did really well. She was moderately interested for awhile, but we did spend a good hour or so wandering around the High Water Mark area so she’s forgiven for being a bit bored. But there was some excitement still ahead on our tour — a cemetery!
This wasn’t just any cemetery, though. This is the very cemetery that President Lincoln was dedicating when he uttered those words, “Four score and seven years ago …”
After the cemetery, we spent a little bit of time driving around the rest of the sights, including Little and Big Round Tops, the Peach Orchard and Seminary Ridge. We didn’t get out of the car again because we still had a couple more hours to drive that day but it was still really interesting to drive around all these areas that I’ve read about for years.
Since our trip, DadJovi has read the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Killer Angels,” and is really itching to get back to Gettysburg now. It’s also next on my reading list.
Besides, I have some brushing up on Civil War history to do if visiting Civil War battle sites is going to be a new family thing now. Yup, E sure does live a charmed life.
Do you have a favorite period of history? What’s one of the most memorable historical sites you’ve visited? For me, I’d still have to say the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is the most powerful and influential on me place I’ve visited.
Even though I grew up in the DC area, I don’t think I’ve ever been to Gettysburg either!
Oh Gettysburg, how I love you. Seriously, I was COMMITTED to go to Gettysburg College, but they wait listed me those little effers. The $50,000/year price tag probably wasn’t worth it anyway. I wanted to go there and minor in Civil War Studies. Honestly. I love learning about the Civil War. Gettysburg College hosts a Civil War Institute each year (tell your husband!) and I won a scholarship to go between my junior and senior years of HS. Also, I wanted so desperately to go to the Civil War Semester that the college has, but they didn’t offer me any scholarship, so between not being able to work and paying the $$ for it, I couldn’t go. Needless to say, I have a grudge against the college. I do love Gettysburg though, and when I worked for the National Park Service, I got to go up to the park with a co-worker and help do a Pest Management Plan for the park. About as much fun as it sounds, look at what kind of bugs the buildings get and come up with a safe plan to help rid the buildings of the pests. I got a behind the scenes look at the park though, that was fun. Anyways, I love the Civil War, and am glad to see you guys had such a great time at Gettysburg!