If you’ve never been to Gettysburg, I highly recommend it.
First of all, the countryside is stunning, as you can see from the photo. As you look out over the battlefield, you see rolling hills, stone walls, green meadows, wooded areas, and mountains in the distance.
It’s difficult to juxtapose this peaceful and bucolic setting with the horrible fighting which took place here, resulting in 7,000 deaths, and many more wounded. We attended an excellent ranger talk on the battlefield, which helped us to envision the soldiers, see the clouds of smoke, and hear the sounds of the cannon and musket fire, at times so loud that the officers’ commands could not be heard by the men. We visited the cemetery where Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address was delivered, and where the Union soldiers are buried. We watched various films in the very impressive National Park Service Visitor’s Center, and saw battlefield artifacts. We purchased the auto tour CD from the Visitor’s Center, and drove to all the significant sites, which was an excellent way to get the full overview.
Eric has two great-great-grandfathers who fought at Gettysburg, one on his mother’s side and one on his father’s side, both from Elberton in Elbert County, Georgia. They enlisted in the 15th Georgia Infantry on the same day in 1861. Hosea Ballou Mattox was a Private, only 20 years old at the time of the Battle, and was shot in the neck and captured there. Peter J. Shannon was a Major. Certainly they would have known each other.
An online search yielded a fascinating account written by one of the officers of the 15th Georgia, Colonel DuBose, as well as a National Park Service blog entry, both of which described a battle near Devil’s Den on 3 July 1863, where the unit suffered great losses. Our son isn’t much older than Hosea was at the time, and I can’t imagine what such a young man must have been going through, watching his comrades fall around him, and himself being shot and captured.
We located the place at Devil’s Den where they fought, and it was quite a feeling to stand there and know that Hosea and Peter saw the same rocks, the same hills, the same view, 153 years ago.
We stayed at Gettysburg for three nights at the Artillery Ridge Campground, which was very expensive ($60/night) but a comfortable and pleasant place. So, we had two full days to explore Gettysburg, used every minute, and wished we had more time.