Friday, October 10, 2014


Where to begin?  As noted before, all Americans should see our National Parks.  While Gettysburg is a  National Military Park (not just a NP) - it should be the equivalent of 'required reading' - required visitation?? - for ALL Americans!  If walking through this hallowed ground does not at some point bring a tear to ones eye - I can't even think of words to comment.

Much has been written and said about Gettysburg (and we have all read about this battle in our elementary school days).  BUT - the most tangible connection to those three days in July is the battlefield itself, parts of which look much as they did in 1863.  Fences, hills, rocks, cannon, and even the monuments provide an opportunity to reflect and TRY to understand what happened here.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia northward into Maryland and Pennsylvania.  They were followed by the Union Army of the Potomac.  The three day battle of Gettysburg opened on July 1 with Confederates attacking Union troops on McPherson Ridge.  The Union troops were overpowered and driven back to Cemetery Hill.  During the night the  main body of the Union army, commanded by Maj. Gen. Meade, arrived and took up positions.

July 2 - battle lines were drawn with the main portions of both armies nearly one mile apart on parallel ridges - Union forces on Cemetery Ridge and Confederate forces on Seminary Ridge.  Lee ordered an attack against both Union flanks which were momentarily successful, but could not be exploited to the Confederate advantage.

July 3 - After a two-hour bombardment of the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge by Lee's artillery, which did little to soften up the Union defensive position, some 12,000 Confederates advanced across open fields toward the Union center in an attack known as "Pickett's Charge".  The attack failed and cost Lee over 5,000 soldiers in one hour!  The Battle of Gettysburg was over and 51,000 soldiers were dead, wounded or missing.

There are 'state' memorials on Seminary Ridge noting where various of Lee's troops began their charge.  (The Confederates were not the winners here - so the documentation of their positions/actions are not as detailed as those of the Federation/Union.)

Segways are a great way to tour the battlefield.
The Seminary on Seminary Ridge - area of Confederate line.

Detailed markers/memorials note the positions of each battalion and many of the officers of the  7,000 Union/Federation soldiers on Cemetery Ridge as they held their position and repulsed the bulk of the 12,000-man Pickett's Charge.

Markers and cannon in position - Frightening to think of these firing down on you as you cross the open battlefield.

A view from the Union positions on Little Round Top, looking down onto the Devil's Den area of the battlefield.  More markers noting positions.

The Pennsylvania Memorial provides the backdrop to the cannon.  All the small memorials note positioning of troops and cannons are in actual firing locations.

Memorials mark the Union front battle lines along Cemetery Ridge.  The open field to the left is the ground the Confederates advanced on.

When the armies marched away from Gettysburg they left behind a community in shambles.  Most of the dead lay in hastily dug and inadequate graves and some had not been buried at all.  This situation so distressed PA Gov. Curtin that he commissioned the local attorney to buy land for a proper burial ground for the Union dead.  Within four months of the battle, reinterment began on 17 acres that became Gettysburg National Cemetery.  The cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863 where President Abraham Lincoln gave the famed Gettysburg Address.  Only 272 words that took a mere 2 minutes to deliver.  Considered a masterpiece that transformed Gettysburg from a scene of carnage into a symbol giving meaning to the sacrifice of the dead.  Think of standing in a cemetery with all these dead - many unnamed - in the very middle of the battlefield and read this piece again.  A whole new meaning!!

The Ohio memorial - noting their position in the 3-day battle on Cemetery Hill - which now happens to be in the National Cemetery.

The Soldiers Memorial in the National Cemetery marks the spot near which Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

The remains of  Confederate soldiers were removed from the battlefield to cemeteries in the South and the black soldiers were buried in a cemetery not far from Cemetery Hill.

 On the western edge of the Gettysburg battlefield - just beyond where the Confederate forces amassed on Seminary Ridge - is Eisenhower's retirement home (Eisenhower National Historic Site).  Eisenhower wasn't looking for an army career but he wanted to go to college.  He discovered that free education awaited young men appointed to the U.S. Military Academy.  In 1917,  he spent World War I at Camp Colt in Gettysburg in charge of training soldiers for the army's tank corps.  This is when he fell in love with the area.  When it came time to anticipate retirement, he and Mamie bought a farm near Gettysburg in 1950 - but, their retirement was delayed for another decade.   However, in November 1955 their country home became a temporary White House while Ike recuperated from a heart attack and then a place for him to entertain dignitaries thru the remainder of his presidency.  He loved to show off his farm as he was quite proud of the property and the Black Angus cattle raised on it.

Finally in 1961 they did 'retire' to their farm in Gettysburg - the only home they ever  owned!  They made a gift of their farm to the federal government in 1967 with the agreement that Dwight and Mamie would live there for life.  Which they did until Dwight died on March 28, 1969 at the age of 78 and Mamie died November 1, 1979 at the age of 82.

The grounds are quite beautiful and peaceful - leaving no reason to wonder why they loved the place and the time they could spend here.

The Eisenhower home in Gettysburg.

This mantle in the Eisenhower's living room was originally in the White House during Lincoln's Presidency.

Unfortunately - it was time to move on even though we could spend several more days here.  But before we left, we had an early morning to see the sun rise over the battlefields of Gettysburg (also the Blood Moon set - appropriate, don't you think).

The "blood moon" working its way to a full ecclipse over the battlefield at dawn. 

What an incredible sight.  Figure out a way to get here and see it if you haven't yet.

Elizabeth & Gary - WOWED!

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