"" Writer's Wanderings: Mini Road Trip - Gettysburg, PA

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mini Road Trip - Gettysburg, PA

There are many ways you can explore the Gettysburg National Park. Self-guided and audio driving tours, bus tours, bicycling, hiking, and our choice, a licensed battlefield guide. Since John is a friend we made special arrangements with him but you can reserve a tour with a guide for up to six people for $75. It would be well worth it.

John met us and we spent a little time catching up as we walked to our car. He got behind the wheel and started us out with maps on which he'd drawn the battle lines for the three days of battle that were fought here, explaining the advancements and retreats. With the information from the movie and the museum, we felt a little more prepared and able to understand.

It was nice to have John driving. It gave Bob the opportunity to look around rather than have to concentrate on where he was going on the road. John began with some stops to see some of the Ohio monuments that were in the park since he knew that was our home state. All of the states that participated whether Confederate or Union are represented in the park. Each of the regiments usually have a monument placed at the spot where they held the lines or advanced.

When the battle took place of course there were not as many buildings and roads and as John explained, there was less undergrowth and trees. More open space meant that you had less cover to hide behind. The hills of Gettysburg were instrumental in the Union winning the battle. They had most of the high ground and with cannons that fired a little better than the Confederate side's they held their position.

Still the Confederate armies made a valiant effort, pushing back the Union soldiers in some spots and advancing. Over the three days however, there were 51,000 soldiers dead, wounded or missing. Not long ago after reading Gods and Generals, I looked up the toll the Civil War took on our country. There were 620,000 that lost their lives, more than World War I and II combined.

Each time we stopped at a different vantage point and got out of the car, John would explain what part of the battle took place in front of us on which day. It began to make some sense as we compared it to our maps.

Our last stop was at the Soldier's National Cemetery. It is adjacent to the Evergreen Cemetery which is the cemetery for the town of Gettysburg. The general public is not allowed in the Evergreen Cemetery but that is actually where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. He was invited to speak along with Edward Everett. The dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery could not take place at the actual spot where it is because they were still in the process of the reinterment of the soldiers from other hastily dug graves. On November 19, 1963, Edward Everett gave his two hour long speech followed by Abraham Lincoln's mere 272 words that obviously made a much bigger impact.

The cemetery is in a half circle surrounding the Soldier's National Monument. Many of the graves are marked "unknown". We were surprised to learn that there were actually some Canadians who also fought in the Civil War and are buried there.

It was a beautiful fall day and a wonderful three hours spent with a very knowledgeable friend who joined us for dinner as well. Bob still was looking for ice cream though and since it was a Friday night we thought we would try the ice cream shop again. To his delight it was open.

We never questioned why the shoppe might be called the Cannonball Old Time Malt Shoppe. As we stood outside while Bob ate his ice cream, a family with some young children came out and a man with a flashlight engaged them with some information about Gettysburg. Then he centered his light on a spot just above the door to the shop. There stuck in the brick was a small cannonball. It had been shot toward the town from a distance of 1800 yards according to the man who it turned out was a historical interpreter who dressed during the day in the period and gave talks to passers by.

It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. I was amazed at the information I'd taken in. If only history had come alive for me in high school I wouldn't have struggled so much with it. I might even have enjoyed it.

 John R. Krohn is the name of our friend who is a licensed Battlefield Guide. He has a lineage that dates back to the Civil War and because of that it created the desire in him to learn more and eventually become a guide. You can contact him for reservations at the address and number on his card pictured here.

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