Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gettysburg National Military Park

When I returned from Florida in late May, my son asked me if I would like to go and revisit the Gettysburg battlefield. He wanted to leave on a Monday in June. My first Monday was June 21st that I had no appointments. I am fairly sure that the last visit was in 1982 when the whole family went. Todd arranged for a tour guide for four hours on Tuesday.
We arrived at the visitor center just past 4 PM on Monday. When he bought our tickets we were told that because it was after 4 pm, the ticket would be good for the following day. The visitor center is new and in a different location than in 1982. That one having been razed.

We immediately went into the theater and watched a movie regarding the battle. As soon as the movie finished we were directed up long escalators where the Cyclorama is displayed. Painted in the 1880's it is 373 feet in circumference and depicts the third day of the battle. The following picture is just a small part of the painting. The painting was first displayed in Boston about 1913.

In another room, there is a miniature of the painting with a numbered directory showing where each of the armies were located and which officer was in charge there.

On Tuesday morning we arrived and toured the static museum. As you move from exhibit to exhibit there are videos explaining the ebb and flow of the battle starting with day 1 and ending with day 3. Our guide was scheduled for 11 AM so we had something to eat in a well equipped cafeteria. The corn bread was excellent and freshly baked.
Promptly at 11 AM Tony met us. He usually does the tours for folks in the military who are studying tactics. He was a great guide especially since Todd has read extensively about this battle and the Civil war. Tony came with an armful of maps and a wealth of knowledge. He drove Todd's van and methodically took us through each day starting with day one. He would stop and point out where the different armies were what their orders were, what they did and did not do. He showed us what tree lines existed and which building were there. He talked about the weather, the resources needed. Tony talked about the amount of water needed each day for horses and men. The water was almost exhausted the first day and guards were posted at wells.
The number of dead and wounded from each battle was horrendous. Every house became a make shift hospital. He methodically took us through each day. At some locations we sat in the car while he pointed out the movement and or the location of the armies and who was in command. His maps were color coded and he used them to show us what and where was happening. Who had the high ground, who wanted it etc. At some locations we dismounted from the car and walked about the field. Viewing the terrain almost made the events discussed to come to life. Todd and he were able to discuss behind the scenes events and decisions made because of Todd's knowledge of the battle. It was amazing how fast the four hours flew by. The vast majority of the four hours was devoted to day 1 and 2 of the battle. If certain actions or in actions had not occurred the battle might have had a different outcome. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the four hours. The guide was outstanding.
Along the roads traveled and the fields that we visited during the tour are monuments to the various armies, and men who fought, died, commanded and survived. Following are just a very few.
First is General Robert E. Lee on his horse Traveler. The men at the base depict those who joined to fight, a professional, farmer, young boy, etc.

A tribute to an artillery division.

LT. General James Longstreet CSA. He was quite imposing aboard his steed.

15th New York Battery

General George S. Greene, originally from Rhode Island. He was a Civil Engineer and he had a series of moats and mounds constructed that were instrumental in the battle defending his position.

I took more pictures than displayed here. It was a wonderful time spent with my son doing something that we both enjoyed. This is a very busy place. Tony told us that over 1.5 million folks pass through the visitor center every year.

1 comment:

Jill said...

I'm glad you both had a good time. I remember visiting Gettysburg, but hadn't thought about the Cyclorama in ages.