We spent a day at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. We bought a CD that allowed us to do an audio tour of the battlefield. It made it much easier to be out on the battlefield and then listen to the CD to hear what happened at that particular point. Just like the other battlefield visitis it was very sobering. The battle was fought July 1–3, 1863 and at the end of three days, over 51,000 men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
There is so much history here and it is well worth the visit. We learned all kinds of interesting things and were continually amazed at how little things made such a big difference – one person’s decision, the timing of troops arriving (or not), etc. One example — there was high ground called Little Roundtop and having control was very important. The Union troops were supposed to be there, but the commander had moved his troops (without orders) to another part of the battle field. General Meade sent an engineer to Little Roundtop (third picture commemorates) who found no one there and saw the Confederates coming toward it. He was able to scramble and get some forces there to defend it. According to the CD, if the Confederates would have been there 10 minutes earlier they would have been able to take Little Roundtop and it might have made a big difference.
We also learned some things about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He did not write it on the back of an envelope on the train, he actually had several drafts of the speech. The speech was only 270 words and took him two minutes deliver. Legend has it that the crowd was silent after the speech and he initially took that as a sign that he had failed. The person that spoke before him spoke for two hours (so perhaps the crowd was stunned that Lincoln’s speech was not longer or they were catatonic). He wrote in a letter to Lincoln “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” The Gettysburg Address is considered one of the greatest speeches in U.S. history.
The pictures below show a monument that marks the spot where Lee viewed the battles, cannon on Cemetary Ridge (scene of Pickett’s charge), Little Roundtop, and some graves at the Soldier’s National Cemetary (very sad the number of Unknown head stones).
We have received feedback that people like the history lesson, so here it is (those of you who have had enough history, skip to the pictures).
The Battle of Gettysburg is often described as the war’s turning point. After his success at Chancellorsville in Virgina in May 1863, General Robert E. Lee led his army through the Shenandoah Valley to begin his second invasion of the North—the Gettysburg Campaign. With his army in high spirits, Lee intended to shift the focus of the summer campaign from war-ravaged northern Virginia and hoped to influence Northern politicians to give up their prosecution of the war by penetrating as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or even Philadelphia. Prodded by President Abraham Lincoln, General Joseph Hooker moved his army in pursuit, but was relieved just three days before the battle and replaced by General George Gordon Meade.
Elements of the two armies initially collided at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, as Lee urgently concentrated his forces there, his objective being to engage the Union army and destroy it. Low ridges to the northwest of town were defended initially by a Union cavalry division, and soon reinforced with two corps of Union infantry. However, two large Confederate corps assaulted them from the northwest and north, collapsing the hastily developed Union lines, sending the defenders retreating through the streets of town to the hills just to the south.
On the second day of battle, most of both armies had assembled. The Union line was laid out in a defensive formation resembling a fishhook. In the late afternoon of July 2, Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den and the Peach Orchard. On the Union right, demonstrations escalated into full-scale assaults on Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill. All across the battlefield, despite significant losses, the Union defenders held their lines.
On the third day of battle, July 3, fighting resumed on Culp’s Hill, and cavalry battles raged to the east and south, but the main event was a dramatic infantry assault by 12,500 Confederates against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, known as Pickett’s Charge. The charge was repulsed by Union rifle and artillery fire, at great losses to the Confederate army. Lee led his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia.
The next day we went to Lancaster, PA and the surrounding area. The surrounding area is made of Amish farms, stores and restaurants. We ate lunch at Dienner’s Restaurant. We feel that Amish restaurants are very much like the southern three vegetables and a meat restaurants, except less butter and fat back. Lancaster and the surrounding area is very cute, with lots of interesting older buildings. Also a lot of cute stores and pretzel factories. The bad thing about the cute stores is since we have no extra room, if we cannot eat it or drink it, we cannot buy it. We must come back when we do not have to carry everything for four months with us :).