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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Civil War History Tour: Gettysburg

I was in Gettysburg about 10 years ago after a family reunion in PA.  We only have about 2 hours to dedicate to this and my Mom wasn't feeling well so we did not get to see much.  Boy has it changed.  The visitors center that I went to then no longer exists.  The new one is spectacular.  This year marks the 150 year anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  July 1-3 in 1863 were the dates of the turning point in the Civil War.  If the South had won at Gettysburg we might have had a different outcome...

Things I learned today:
1.  The Emancipation Proclamation is what stopped England from joining the South in the war.  England did not want to support slavery.

2.  Mistakes in commands from General Robert E. Lee lead to the South not winning at Gettysburg.  If General Lee's orders had been followed as intended on July 1st they might have won this battle.

3.  The Devil's Den is named after a snake.  The soldiers found a snake pit and needed to use it as a bunker.  They got out all the snakes, but one.  They couldn't catch it, so it got nicknamed Devil.

4.  That civilians clean up the battlefields when a battle is over.  The people of Gettysburg cleaned up the battlefield and buried the dead from July through November.  It took that long to dig the graves and find all the soldiers.  I cannot imagine having that responsibility thrust upon me.  The battle wiped out most of their crops and due to all the deaths their drinking water was contaminated.  Gettysburg had to depend on the charity of neighboring town for a season because the soldiers ate up all their supplies and ruined all their crops.

5. Jenny Wade was the only civilian to be killed during the battle.  A bullet went through two doors and struck her in the chest.  Other civilians died during the clean up with accidental misfires of loaded guns and live cannon balls being removed later.
 The next three pictures are from the cyclorama.  This painting is 42 feet high and circles a giant room.  It took the artist a little less than a year to paint it.  It is the view point of Cemetery Hill and a little video effects lets you know what it would feel like being in the middle of a war.  (Scary!)

 In the museum you weren't allowed to used flash photography so most of my shots are junk.  The next two pictures are of men who lost their lives in this battle.

 The next  several pictures are in the National Cemetery.

 These markers only have a number on them, they are unknown soldiers, over 1,200.

 These arches were mass graves.  They placed coffins right next to each other in a trench.

 Each State has a number of bodies that were unaccounted for.  George Nixon is an Ohio soldier who was the great-grandfather of president Richard Nixon.  (We won't hold that against him.)
Re-enactors coming in for the 150 year anniversary reenactment.  Next week is going to be busy here.
 The Gettysburg National Cemetery was dedicated in November of 1863.  Abraham Lincoln was not going to attend, but changed his mind.
 His speech was given in this approximate area.
 On the way to Little Round Top.
 Little Round Top from the bottom of the hill.  Very rugged terrain.  The Union army fought from the top of this hill.

 Each state makes a memorial monument of their own design.  There are monuments all of the battle fields.
 Cannon view from the top of Little Round Top.  The engravings on the cannons let you know if they are reproductions or were actually at the war.  This was used during the war.

 The Devil's Den. 
 General Warren of the Union Army defended Little Round Top.
 The 1st Minnesota Infantry helped to hold of the Confederates during Pickett's Charge.  Only 47 men survived this battle from this Infantry.
 Pennsylvania build this memorial.  Around the bottom are the names of 32,000 soldiers who fought during the Battle of Gettysburg.
 Not sure if this Samuel Crawford is related, but will check that out later.

 Statue of General Meade.

It takes 6 horses to move a cannon and it's equipment.  Each cannon requires a ammunition wagon and a caisson, which they hitch together.  This brought meaning to...and the caissons keep rolling along.
Things I never realized as a high school student...


The size of a battlefield.  Both Antietam and Gettysburg showed me the space it needs to contain 100,000 of fighting men.  How far a cannon ball can actually go.  When you see it vs. imagine it it is amazing.  To understand that Civil War cannon ball explode in the air and not on impact and rely on shrapnel to do the work. 

My father-in-law put it best when he says history should be taught to us when we are older and not teenagers.  I wish I could retake that class now that I understand a little better about what my teacher was talking about.  Instead of being distracted with the cute boy sitting in the room. :)

Tomorrow: Harper's Ferry.


  1. I agree that we should be taught history when we are older. I definitely had zero appreciation for it in my school years, but I like learning things now. Thank you for the lesson.

    It has probably been 15 years or so since I went to Gettysburg, and probably that long for Tom too, so we should put it on our to-do list.

    And with "the world will little note, nor long remember", Lincoln was a bit off on the importance of his speech. Glad he changed his mind and decided to go. :)

  2. I haven't been yet, but my husband and son have. They loved it and the strong sense of place and history.


  3. So wonderful to be able to go and see all this history...and to feel the magnitude of the battlefields and really come to understand what happened to our country. Now you have to go the the "Jenny Wade Bed and Breakfast" here in Ashland!...Oh, any ghosts? Just wondering!