The Gettysburg National Military Park

Trip Start May 19, 2013
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Trip End Jul 03, 2013


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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

After a continental breakfast in the motel, Ruth and I took a walk up to Cemetery Hill (only a few blocks away) and looked at some of the monuments and historical markers. There were also quite a few cannons placed in groupings of three to five. From this hill you could see out over the valley to the northeast. It wasn't hard to imagine what it could have been like for the Union Army to defend this position as the Confederates approached from the valley below. Having and holding the high ground was certainly a distinct advantage for the Army of the Potomac.

We went across the street and walked through the Gettysburg National Cemetery. This cemetery has graves for soldiers of not only the Civil War (marked by long concentric arcs of inscribed concrete flush to the ground; each arc maybe 10 feet from the next; the inscriptions were the soldier's name with an abbreviation of their rank and company; many were simply marked as "Unknown"), but also from wars since then. At the center of all these concentric arcs was a large monument at the location where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the cemetery in late 1863.

We then drove out to the Visitors Center (a new, impressive facility that opened in 2008) where we watched a 22-minute film (on a very large Cinemascope-type, almost IMAX-type screen) that summarized events leading up to the Civil War, events leading up to this battle, and this 3-day battle itself. The film was narrated by Morgan Freeman.
 
We all were then ushered upstairs to view the Gettysburg Cyclorama - a huge 360 degree mural painting of the "Pickett's Charge" as it might have appeared from Cemetery Ridge. The mural is 27 feet high and 359 feet in circumference. We stood on a large platform in the center so that the whole painting could be viewed as we turned around. The effect was enhanced by 3D objects and scenes in front of and below the painting (like in a diorama) that blended into the cyclorama painting itself. It was very effectively done. They also provided a narrative describing the battle, with sound and lighting effects, all which made for a spellbinding experience.

We then spent some time in the accompanying museum, which was extremely well laid out and incorporated lots of multimedia features (there must have be at least 4 or 5 small theaters). We could have easily spent several hours there alone, but we needed to move on.

Finally, we did a small segment of the "auto tour" (without the CD audio narration, which was available) to look at some of the battlefield -- so many monuments, large and small; some commemorating states of the Union (or Confederacy), some -- individual regiments; some -- individual persons.

We then left Gettysburg in mid-afternoon as we wanted to visit the town of Lititz and then drive to Kennett Square (near Longwood Gardens) yet today.
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