A long awaited return visit to Gettysburg

Until this past summer, my last visit to Gettysburg was at the very end of high school.  Back then, it was a weekend camping trip at Artillery Ridge Campground to follow up reading Michael Shaara’s book, “The Killer Angels,” in my literature class.  My reading / literature teacher took four of us on the trip including myself.  Three of us went on a horseback-riding tour of the battlefield, beginning at the campground.  That was me on the third horse to the right of the sign in this photo taken by my reading / literature teacher, Ms. M, we called her for short.

This time in Gettysburg, the trip began with a stop at the Visitor Center for a quick bite to eat and some souvenirs.  There were also some authors with tables set up to sign copies of their books.  One author was Jeff Shaara, who signed his autograph in a copy of his book that I bought, called “The Last Full Measure.”  I noticed on a list of Gettysburg events detailed online that he was going to be there and thought I’d stop by his table.  That too felt like a follow-up to the Shaara book I read back in high school.  It would be great if I had the chance to see my high school reading / literature teacher again. I’d tell her about this recent trip to Gettysburg and getting to meet one of the Civil War authors by the name Shaara.

I also got autographs from father and son Gabor and Jake Boritt for their auto tour book, “The Gettysburg Story Battlefield Auto Tour,” which is broken down into three disks, one for each of a three-day tour.  Only part of one day was covered in that Gettysburg visit.  However, the auto tour book, by the historian and filmmaker respectively, came in handy for the time spent at the historic town to see the battlefield.

One site I really wanted to see again was the Eternal Peace monument, one which my high school reading class saw as we went on a self-guided walking tour.  The only photos I have from back then were taken by my teacher; this time, in summer 2011, I had my good digital camera.

After some touring of the battlefield, the next stop was at the General Lee Headquarters on the way to meeting up with a re-enactor.  A large group of re-enactor were all set up out on the front lawn of the American Civil War Museum.  Heading out the to front lawn were a few interesting sights:  people dressed in Civil War costumes walking among the cars of today parked in the back lot.  Yet even with the modern technology mixed in with all the history, it was easy to feel the town’s past.  Out touring the battlefield, stopping at the museums or resting up at one of the many inns; that feeling of history is everywhere.

Wandering around the re-enactment set-up and among people in Civil War costumes, I saw a lot of old housewares items.  Stones and unlit candles were used as paperweights for delicate old maps and other such documents.  A Civil War soldier’s tent stood in one spot, filled with a quilt-covered bed and a lantern and gun belt hanging nearby.  Elsewhere on the museum grounds, a mannequin displayed a maroon Civil War dress with a paisley print and fluttery solid brown detail at the end of each sleeve.  A few women in costumes sat nearby talking, drinking tea and snacking on grapes, crackers and cheese.  It was easy to get a sense of daily life during the Civil War era with such detailed scenes.

Before leaving the re-enactors’ set up, I asked how to get to spots in the battlefield such as Devil’s Den, Little Round Top and others from the museum.  So the re-enactor gave a some directions and it was back to the battlefield and its monuments.  Winding along a narrow road at some point, trees on either side, a sign for Little Round Top came into sight.  One parking spot was left at the time, so with the car parked, I walked up a little trail in the shade of trees past a huge boulder and a statue looking out over the battlefield stood ahead of me.  Other tourists of many ages were milling about the boulders that make up Little Round Top, viewing the vast battlefield with man-made monuments in the distance.  Some kids found a narrow path between two massive boulders, taking them out to a great spot for a 360-degree view.  I decided to make my way around to the front of the statue standing on top of one enormous boulder.  Getting down there, I walked around to the left of the statue and was eventually a foot or so below the boots of the Civil War figure’s likeness.  It was at that point that I could see the marker with engraved information about the statue, which was of Major General Gouverneur (as spelled on it) Kemble Warren.

Before I went back around the statue, I heard one of the kids saying, “Look, it’s like Stonehenge.”  There was a pile of boulders standing in such an odd manner, you couldn’t help but wonder how they ended up that way.  Smart kid; he knew his world landmarks at a very young age and could reference them from similar yet unrelated objects!

Out in the distance, I could see Devil’s Den.  I took a few photos of it, in which a huge boulder to my left juts out overhead and dwarfs the distant well-known rugged Civil War spot.  Next time in Gettysburg, I’ll make sure to actually visit it instead of get a view from across the battlefield.

A little ways off to the left of Little Round Top was a small castle-like structure, which I had also once stopped at in high school and wanted to see again.  This excursion was a step back into Civil War time and also brought back nice high school memories of learning experiences through travel.  More tourists were walking around on a roof area and around the structure.  However, I managed to get one photo with nobody in the frame.  I didn’t remember from my high school trip what the structure represented, but learned before this recent visit that it honored the 44th New York Infantry.

On the way out of Gettysburg, I caught a quick glimpse of the historic Farnsworth House Inn Bed and Breakfast.  I’ve seen this inn featured many times on the Travel Channel, when they have shows on about places said to be haunted.  Ghost tours, by the way, will have to be something for next time in Gettysburg.  Maybe next time will be an overnight or even weekend-long stay to allow time for more exploring.  I remember stopping at a bookstore before my high school reading class left Gettysburg.  I bought one or two “Ghosts of Gettysburg” books by Mark Nesbitt, and another book about Jenny Wade.  The Jenny Wade House and her grave are also among the sites for next time.  Although I didn’t see those this time around, I did go past Gettysburg College briefly.  I’ve heard a lot about its history regarding the Civil War and the battles going through the town.

Dinner wasn’t until after leaving Gettysburg that day.  That lead to another stop at a favorite in my family, the Shady Maple Smorgasbord.  I love their assortment of breads, the turkey, mashed potatoes, other vegetables and for dessert, a warm apple crumble!

I’m hoping to go back to Gettysburg for this year’s Civil War history events, getting video footage as well as more still photos.  Check out the rest of my Gettysburg photos from summer 2011 here.  I left a lot of spots to back sometime and see up close.  Gettysburg is definitely worth multiple visits anyway, for a history buff like myself.

About caroldwyer

A freelance photographer and blogger, I'm also a non-traditional graduate of Cabrini College with a B.A. in communication, minor in English and concentration in film studies. As a student, I was a staff writer, photographer and copy editor for the Loquitur. In my final semester, I assisted in promoting campus literary events for Woodcrest Literary Magazine. I love travel, historic places, nature, wildlife and the arts. I hope to be involved in some way with one of those areas throughout my media career. Currently, I'm pursuing my M.F.A. in creative writing and publishing. Read my film blog at http://cdwyerfilminspired.wordpress.com - and my literary blog at http://cdwyerbookishgrad.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Battlefield, Ghosts, Haunted, Historic, History, Military, National Parks, Pennsylvania, Travel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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