This past weekend I drove up to Pennsylvania to pick up my boys. I hadn’t seen them in almost two month and my parents thought that meeting my wife, daughter, and I in Gettysburg would be more fun that meeting in Columbus, Ohio (no offense to Columbus intended). As the day approached we learned that my wife would have to stay behind for her Triathlon training. It was very upsetting for her and the boys, and I wish she could have made it, but she is working on hard on her training and it was the right choice.
My daughter and I were on the road ten minutes before five o’clock AM with our camping gear in the trunk and our snacks in the front.
Six hours later we arrived at the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center. We met my boys and my parents in he Visitor Center just in time to watch a film and see the Cyclorama. With that done, we went into the museum. All of the artifacts and presentations were interesting, but I’ll be honest, I was far more into being with my kids and seeing Kaitlyn glomming onto her brothers.
After a quick break for lunch, we started on the driving tour through the park. We borrowed the CD’s and booklet from the Gettysburg KOA where we were staying. Not to get too sidetracked, but I would definitely recommend the campground as an affordable overnight option if you don’t want to pay for a tourist town’s hotel rates. It’s a great place for the kids to play and includes a playground, swimming pool, over-sized chess set, and breakfast on the cheap. There is a little store with snacks, toys and touristy stuff. I bought the auto tour book and CD’s after the fact and I plan on coming back.
I enjoyed the auto tour immensely. Of course I had to get out at a number of stops to read some of the numerous markers that litter the park with information. Much of it would mean little to anyone not well read on the Civil War, but even for the uninformed it would be interesting. When we got to Seminary Ridge I was completely in awe. Staring up at Cemetery Ridge and knowing that on the third day of the battle, 12,000 Confederate soldiers lined up a mile across and marched up that field to face the Union troops tucked behind a short wall and makeshift fortifications. The insanity of it is mind boggling. Those men were incredibly brave and I cannot imagine marching into the face of so much firepower.
The auto tour was cool, but we got kind of a late start, so by the time we got to the Army of Northern Virginia Memorial, we had to make a decision and opted to skip some sites in order to hit the two places I really wanted to check out: Little Round Top and Cemetery Ridge.
Little Round Top was amazing. What a commanding view of the battlefield. I can completely understand why the Union dug in and the confederates fought so hard to take it. We walked around, took a bunch of pictures, and I got to spout off to my children about the battle that was fought where we stood. The one thing I missed out on was Chamberlain’s memorial. It was a little way down the hill from where we parked and I could tell the kids were getting tired. I’m looking forward to checking that out when we come back.
Cemetery Ridge. Wow. Walking onto the field and seeing the path traveled by Pickett’s Charge was incredible. Standing on the spot where the Confederate troops briefly broke through the Union line and standing beside the spot where Lewis Armistead reached the Union cannon before being shot was breathtaking. Zachary went with my mom to check out the cemetery, while Katie, Connor, my dad, and I walked the length of the ridge. It was incredible. some of the monuments brought up more questions than answers, but all of them were beautiful in their own right.
We ended the day with a visit to the Pennsylvania Memorial. It stands out in a field of exceptional monuments. It is the largest structure in the park outside of the Visitor Center and amazing to behold. It was the ultimate stopping point for our little trip. As a reference, the statue at the top stands twenty-one feet tall, so you can imagine just how immense the structure is.
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