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Gettysburg, PA

I had seen enough of bloodshed in Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville I thought but a trip to Pennsylvania just would not have been complete without a visit to Gettysburg where the war began to end after days of the bloodiest fighting ever and the South’s failure to win on northern soil. The South had hoped to humiliate the North with a solid win and thus get the North to consider ending the war and allow them to secede. I guess they did succeed in part of that but not in the way they imagined.

Gettysburg is where 10 roads meet near the Virginia border. That set it up to be destined for a fight sooner or later. Both commanding generals had selected other good spots where they wanted to fight though neither knew exactly where the other was. Scouts were sent out to find food, shoes, etc. They accidentally stumbled upon each other and the fight was on at Gettysburg. Cannons everywhere fired incessantly. Snipers in rock clutches in fields and in houses in town picked off many officers and others. Streams were undrinkable as they filled with blood. It was a horror no man should ever have to see.

It was here that Pickett’s famous charge occurred. It was a brilliant though unsuccessful move with thousands of confederates crossing open fields hollering like banshees to scare the enemy and come within 400 yards of the union line before being turned back. Many things went right but there were also so many mistakes made by both sides that the battle could have ended very differently. The whole country could have been changed by that one battle. A couple of note are one union commander who failed to follow orders and had his men posted out of position thus leaving Little Round Top ridge unprotected and a hole in the union line. The other would be a southern commander who took orders very literally which General Lee was not used to so he failed to seize an opportunity when it presented itself to go over a ridge. He was afraid there might be a trap on the other side. Had he gone over, he would have found a small group of very tired union soldiers and a bunch of food, ammo, etc. that could have been easily won. I believe that had Lee’s right hand, Stonewall Jackson, who was totally in sync with Lee and understood his general orders, not been killed 2 months earlier, Gettysburg might have ended differently.

Amazingly, only 1 civilian was killed in Gettysburg. A young woman was shot accidentally as bullets whizzed through her kitchen door while she was baking bread for the soldiers. Her fiancee never knew as he died in battle a short time later.

After the battle ended, a new national cemetery was created for the fallen union soldiers and Lincoln was invited to the opening. He delivered his famous Gettysburg Address there. Of note, the southern dead were left where they fell and eventually buried in mass graves. Years later, a group of southern ladies raised money to take them home for proper burials.

Today, Gettysburg is a wonderful tourist destination with monuments to individual units and generals lining many roads. Generals are usually portayed on horseback. If the horse has all 4 legs on the ground, he survived unhurt, 1 leg in the air shows he was wounded, 2 in the air means he was killed.

The houses in town are still right up next to each other as they were then and many of them did exist during the famous battle. Those that have been confirmed to exist then, have bronze plaques by their doors. There are several museums including a huge Visitor’s Center which are excellent. Many of the museums are within walking distance of each other. The best way to see it all since the battlefield is some 6,000 acres is to take one of the many bus tours. I took the one with a synchronized tape explaining things as well as the driver pointing things out.

I stayed at the Gettysburg Battlefield RV Resort right next to the battlefield. It is a C2C park which I highly recommend. I loved my site, the bathrooms are very fancy and nice, they have 3 dump stations if needed, a lovely clubhouse, pool, playground, pavilion, pond, snack bar, well stocked store, RV repairs next door, etc. They even have a battle reenactment field. The people were all very nice there and it really filled up over Mothers Day. They provided a delicious meal free for all mothers on Mothers Day as well as fine evening entertainment. It was the first time I have ever been singled out to be sung to. The guy singer kept picking on me. I managed to turn the tables on him when he sang the Witch Doctor song (his doctor told him to tell his girl ooh-e-ooh-ah-ah to get her back). At the end I jumped up with open arms and yelled “Honey!”. 😉

For more pics, click here.

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