Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Weekend Trip to Gettysburg

     Over the weekend my father and I got to check a biggie off of our bucket lists - a trip to Gettysburg.  The first thing I'll say is this trip is a must for Civil War nuts as well as the casual history buff.  The town of Gettysburg itself has a ton of character with many nice shops to visit.  The area around the square offers everything from Jenny Wade's home, tattoo shops, ghost tours, antiques, and yes, toy soldier shops.

By chance we planned our trip for the busiest weekend since the 150th weekend due to a large WWII re-enactment on the Eisenhower Farm (it was rumored that actor Frank John Hughes who played Sgt. Bill Guarnere in Band of Brothers spoke).  There were a lot of very nicely restored vehicles at the park and we even had a group of German Wehrmacht sitting next to us at dinner one evening.

For the toy soldier and miniature aficionado, I strongly recommend Gettysburg Toy Soldiers and the Antique Center of Gettysburg.  The Antique Center is an interesting little shop that offers an eclectic mix of antiques, Civil War relics, and books.  As I made my way towards the back of the shop I stumbled upon case after case of 1/32 scale figures including Britain and John Jenkins Designs. There are literally thousands of figures and vehicles on display - quite a sight. I was able to pick up some nice 25mm painted WWII minis at Gettysburg Toy Soldiers. The following are a few pics of Gettysburg Toy Soldiers:

As for the battlefield and visitors center; absolutely amazing. Our first day was mainly spent in the visitors center taking in the A New Birth of Freedom film, the Cyclorama, and museum (all musts). A little money was spent in the bookstore as well.

In my humble opinion, the best president the United States has ever known.

Day two started with a three-hour guided tour.  Since I had hired a guide at Antietam about 6 years ago, we knew what we were in for.  The gentleman who took us around the field contained a wealth of knowledge on the battle and really got into laying out what took place in July 1863. I have heard the smartphone apps available can add to the experience of a self-guided tour, but if it's in your budget, go with the contracted guide.

This is from McPherson's Ridge next to the Chambersburg Rd. Ordinance rifle #233.  First shot fired came from this piece. This sits next to the monument to Gen. John Buford.  A monument to Gen. John Reynolds can be seen in the background. 

After our tour we had some fantastic cheesesteaks for lunch at Hunt's. It's located just a few businesses northeast of the Dobbin House on Steinwehr Avenue. We bumped into these fellas outside:

The rest of the afternoon was spent just making our way around the field.

North Carolina Monument on Seminary Ridge.

 Looking towards Cemetery Ridge from the N.C. monument. The Round Tops can be seen at center-right.

What Col. Vincent did on Little Round Top and how he kept his brigade together is nothing short of extraordinary heroism.
 Looking southwest from Little Round Top. Devil's Den and the Slaughter Pen can be seen in the upper right.

 The Angle is approximately 50 - 60 yards beyond this tablet. General Lee's monument can be seen in the upper-left corner, or approximately the position of the center of the Confederate line at the beginning of their fateful march on day 3 of the battle.

 Woods on McPherson's Ridge where the Iron Brigade (1st Brigade, 1st Division, I Corp) was engaged in heavy fighting with Tennessee and Alabama regiments from Heath's division, A.P. Hill's Corp. Beyond the timber to the right is a monument marking where General Reynolds fell.

 Monument to General Lee on Seminary Ridge.

 Unfortunate that this tablet had to be placed in front of General Lee's monument. The bugler's saber has been broken off.

 Monument to General James Longstreet towards the southern end of Seminary Ridge.

 Monument to the Pennsylvania Bucktails (Near the Rose Woods near the Wheat Field and just west of Devil's Den).

 The Slaughter Pen

 Devil's Den

Spot on the high side of Devil's Den where Timothy O'Sullivan's (assistant to Alexander Gardner) famous photograph of a dead Rebel soldier was taken.

We got to catch a group of CS reenactors.

On our final day we spent a little time in the cemetery.

Many Union men were not laid to rest in the cemetery. Many are buried in various areas of the battlefield where they fell. Others were taken home to be laid to rest by family. No Confederates are  buried at Gettysburg.

Markers for men from the 20th ME. Not to diminish any unit that fought at Gettysburg, north or south, but I am, for lack of a better term, a fan of the 20th ME. What Joshua L. Chamberlain (as well as Col. Strong Vincent and his 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Corps) and his regiment accomplished on Little Round Top was amazing. There is much debate as to what would have happened at Gettysburg had certain events happened or not happened. Looking at the terrain and the situation on the afternoon of July 2, it is hard to believe things would not have turned very sour had the 20th (and the 83rd PA, 44th NY, and the 16 MI) not held.

 New York suffered the most casualties. Remember, this number does not reflect all NY deaths. 

I decided to take this pic since my wife is from Indiana.

I am very grateful I was able to make this trip with my parents and walk the battlefield with my dad.He is responsible for my interest in the American Civil War so many years ago.  It was a special experience, but sobering experience. To walk through the fields, hills, and woods of Gettysburg and know what took place there 150 years ago makes me all the more grateful for the country I call home.


Rodger said...

Fantastic post and lovely photos!!! Thanks.

Greg Sapara said...

Always my favorite trip, although I haven't been there since things were reconfigured. Great photos!!

Cluck Amok said...

I don't consider myself a Civil War buff, but found the experience of Gettysburg very moving. I visited for a day during my one trip to Fall In! with The Baron and Lead Addict (another story in itself). I literally finished reading "The Killer Angels" as the airplane touched down on the runway, and then went straight to the battlefield, with the story still fresh in my mind. Just looking across that expanse of field that Pickett and his men had to cross. . .

Col. Korn said...

Timothy O'Sullivan's Photo has been proven to be a fake. I lived In Gettysburg for a year while attending War College and was there while a scientific, (Forensic) Study was made of the series of Photographs taken over three days by the teams of photographers and assistants present. The body of the man in Timothy O'Sullivan's photo also appears in several other photos and was literally dragged (Along with the pictured rifle) to several places on the battlefield to be repositioned (Sometimes with the face pointing away from the camera. This reprehensible conduct set the standard for war photography for a hundred years.
Until recently, an online exhibition by the Library of Congress entitled, "“Does the Camera Ever Lie?" which exposed this in great detail, However, it caused such outrage that it was pulled from the online resource and is now only available off line.

Jon F said...

Col. Korn,

Yes, you are correct. I recall hearing that for the first time on either Ken Burns' series or the History Channel episode on the war photographers. I read somewhere that this practice was often out of "necessity" due to the fact that by the time the photographers arrived at the field, many of the bodies were not left in the same positions they were when they fell. Another interesting tidbit is that the photogs sometimes carried their own muskets as props.

Carlo said...

It certainly looks like you and your father had a wonderful time here. Thanks for posting so many wonderful photographs at the detail you have included. All the best.