Gettysburg

1 May

Our knowledge of American history has improved considerably during our travels, we have touched on the Civil War along the way, especially recently as we have been travelling through areas where intense action took place. We had seen small graveyards – just a cluster of headstones really, and large ones too, historical markers with names with which we were becoming more familiar, but we were not getting the details in a chronological order. As we reached the border of Pennsylvania our route was to cross very close to Gettysburg and the National battlefields monument. A visit seemed like a good way to put in order the jumble of historical facts we had collected.

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We were amazed at the size of the complex of buildings and the number of visitors pouring from private cars and coaches. We unfortunately arrived at the same time as four coach loads of school children!

Our National Park Pass did not cover the entry fee as the site is run by a concession so we paid $10.50 each for the museum tour, orientation film and to view the cyclorama. The film started with how and why the war began before going into detail of the three day battle which raged in the fields nearby. Names, dates and places begin to jumble like history lessons in school, you need something to fix them in place.

Immediately after the film we were directed to escalators which took us up into a circular gallery around the edge of which is a painting, depicting the scenes of the third day of the battle. The lights dimmed and the commentary took us through the events step by step lighting each little portion of the picture as the battle unfolded. The details began to fall into place as we watched the picture before us.

This was not a modern day computer generated graphics and light show, the painting 377ft long by 42ft high, was commissioned by a Chicago business man and completed in 1884 by a French artist Paul Philippoteaux. It was recently restored and rehoused in the visitor complex. We were amazed at the three dimensional quality of the painting and like many who viewed it at the same time, spell bound by the way the story was brought to life.

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We began to get a clearer picture of just how many soldiers were involved, how bravely they fought and how horribly many died. When the three day battle was over on 3rd July 1863, more than 51,000 were dead, injured or missing. The surrounding countryside was littered with bodies, the local buildings were overflowing with injured, four months later many injured were still being cared for in the neighbourhood. At a time when medicine was still very crude many died because of the way their injuries were treated.

A local business man upset by the death of so many soldiers bought land and arranged for the burials to take place, in November of 1863 Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication ceremony for what became the National Cemetery, a speech which became very famous.

In the many many rooms of the museum we watched other short films which elaborated on certain aspects of the battle, we were able to view genuine artefacts from revolvers to canons, buttons and badges to uniforms, the field tents and equipment used by both Unionists and Confederates and flags and banners used to signal the orders of the commanding officers.

This battle and the almost simultaneous one which raged in Vicksburg signalled the beginning of the end of the Civil War

We finished our day very pleased we had decided to make the visit and much better educated on this important part of American history.

Our overnight campground was just outside town, as usual we watched the local weather forecast at tea time discovering that severe weather was heading across the country once more. We were due thunder storms. A hot humid night was broken when the storm began around 4am, heavy rain battered on our roof and unable to sleep I got up to make a hot drink. As light dawned around 6.15 I could see we were parked in the middle of a huge puddle. I was quite amused when we got a visit from a duck, obviously delighted at a new paddling place!

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I was not so delighted a short while later though when Robert spotted the fact that the river which circled around two sides of the campground was very near to the top of its bank! We hastily got ready to leave as the manager was moving the few other visitors to safer ground.

 

 

 

The up side was we were able to tour the battlefields early in the morning before anyone else was around enabling us to stop and take pictures without worrying about there being enough room for us to park. The roads were running with water, the streams and rivers brim full. What we did not know at this point was the devastation and death toll in Alabama and the fact that not too far away in Pennsylvania two tornadoes had caused damage.

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You may be aware that I enjoy knitting … and I belong to a internet social community for knitters called Ravelry. I have made many new friends through this community a number who also enjoy the RV life and some who will be reading this blog!

I was contacted a while ago by a fellow knitter and RV traveller asking if we might be wandering into Pennsylvania, and if we were, to pop by and see them at The Mannings (weaving, spinning, knitting and yarn store) in East Berlin. After a few mails back and forth, not too much twisting of Roberts arm, and a little route juggling we arranged to stay at Codorus State Park near Hanover to enable us all to get together.

What a great visit we had with Carol and Ron who made us so welcome. I was like a child in a sweetie shop with big round eyes trying to take in all the wonderful yarns and equipment housed in the huge buildings set beside the river.  We chatted for many hours, (something which comes easily when you are with like minded folk) the men talking RV’s and boy’s stuff Carol, Ron’s Mum and I busy with the knitting conversations and girly chat!

This morning we  drove  to Washington DC, or at least to the outskirts, tomorrow we will take the bus and metro into DC and visit the Capitol, I wonder if the President has left for England and his State Visit yet? 

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7 Responses to “Gettysburg”

  1. Jennie May 2, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    WHAT a day to visit Washington DC!!!!

  2. Liz aka Oouchemama May 2, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    What a trip and I am sure there will be crowds in DC today with the news on Obama. So enjoying your trip. If you make it up to Vermont, stop in to see the Ben and Jerry Ice Cream store, the cheese and Maple farms.

    • elainethehill May 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      Well surprisingly it was not as busy as we thought it might be! Thoroughly enjoyed our Capitol tour and visiting the galleries in both houses but not a lot going on in there. Tired feet now….. need to rest up ready for tomorrow and the museums.

  3. Liz aka Oouchemama May 2, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    oops I did mean to say Osama Bin Laden, because I am a great supporter of our President!!!!

  4. Susan May 2, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    I loved Gettysburg- you can feel the history in the area.
    It’s raining here again, probably for the 28th day in a row . At least no tornadoes tonight.
    It sure makes me want to head back west, that’s for sure.

    • elainethehill May 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

      I know what you mean about the west but they have had their fair share of weather too! Hot and humid in DC today. We went out dressed for a cool damp day. Why do I still believe what I hear on the weather forecast?

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