The Battlefield at Gettysburg

Gettysburg Travel Blog

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Gettysburg National Military Park visitor center

For a pre-Memorial Day Weekend getaway, we had decided to visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg was the site of the most pivitol battle of the Civil War and neither Susan nor I had made a thorough visit in many years. Gettysburg really is not that far away. About 1 and 1/2 hours with no traffic. Leaving home at 9:30 a.m., the route would take us along the Capital Beltway to I-270 in Maryland and then to Frederick, Maryland.  US Highway 15 leads from Frederick to Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, passing Gettysburg on the way.

Shortly after 11:30 a.m. we exited from US 15 to Steinwehr Avenue leading in to town. Steinwehr is the original Emmitsburg Road, one of the seven roads that met at Gettysburg and that made the town the focus of the battle.

 Great care has been taken to preserve the rural nature of the area around the battlefield and so the approaches to the town are largely undeveloped. Signs of the battlefield quickly began to appear as monuments and markers commemorating the events of early July 1863 lined the road.

We located the new Visitor Center for Gettysburg National Military Park with little difficulty. The new visitor center was opened in 2008. As part of an ongoing preservation effort, it is located in an area where little action took place during the battle. The visitor center contains a museum, a theatre showing an excellent film about the battle, and the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama painting. We purchased tickets for admission to the three. The timed tickets were for the 12:15 p.

Musuem in the visitor center
m. showing of the film. After seeing the film, visitors proceed to the Cyclorama. This was a real highlight! The Battle of Gettysburg is a circular painting depicting scenes from the battle and focusing on Pickett's Charge. It was painted by French artist Paul Philippoteaux in 1883. (The painting was displayed commercially in Boston, a sort of IMAX film of its time. The National Park Service acquired it in 1942.) In the new visitor center, the painting is displayed in its newly restored state, including originally planned three-dimensional effects of fences, rocks, and roads coming out of it. The presentation takes the form of a sound-and-light show, with lighting effects highlighting portions the painting and the battle. Soft lighting comes up for the full display of the painting.
The Union and the Confederacy clash at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
It's very impressive!  

Next was the museum. Well-interpreted exhibits describe the issues and events leading up to the Civil War and its aftermath, as well as the battle itself. Lincoln vs. Douglas. Slavery. Abolitionism. Economics. Strategy. There were a lot of middle and high school students on school trips, all trying to answer questions on assignment sheets. 

After the visitor center, we went to lunch at Dobbin House Tavern before beginning the Battlefield driving tour.

The Battlefield Auto Tour is a 24 mile circuit roughly following the order of events over the three days of conflict. A guide map is free at the visitor center. (They recommend you also rent the audio tour to take along or hire a Licensed Battlefield Guide to aid in the interpretation of the scene, but we availed ourselves of neither, relying on the map and interpretive markers along the route.

The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama painting
)  The circuit begins north of the town, where the Confederates approached along the Chamberburg Pike. In this area is the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, erected in 1913 at the 50th aniversary of the battle. A diversion through town took us to Seminary Ridge and the main part of the tour. The majority of the tour focuses on the third day. Confederate forces had lined up along Seminary Ridge, facing Union forces across the fields on Cemetery Ridge. Through the middle ran the Emmitsburg Pike (today's Steinwehr Ave.).  The vistas are are remarkeably well preserved. While there has been modern development, it has been held to a minimum. There is car and truck traffic on the old roads, but it serves to mark their location. All along the park roads are monuments placed by the states, north and south, represented at the battle and by the Union units that participated, more than 1,600 monuments in all.
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama painting
Monuments are placed where the recognized troops were situated. The Auto Tour road wraped around Seminary Ridge across to Big Round Top and Little Round Top and down along Cemetery Ridge. Of course, we made numerious stops to read the information on the Auto Tour brochure, read historical markers, take in the landscape, and take photos. At Little Round Top, a uniformed Civil War reenactor was a popular sight. He said his uniformed represented a Pennsylvania unit from Wilkes-Barre. We finished the afternoon drive at the High Water Mark, where Pickett's Charge was repulsed. The sun was beginning to go down, making a fitting end to the day.

 

Susan and I proceeded to the Hilton Garden Inn and checked in to relax after a day productive of sightseeing.

The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama painting
We had decided to have a later dinner. First choice was the Appalachian Brewing Co., but we found it closed at 9:00 p.m., about the time we arrived there. So did every other Gettysburg restaurant, we found. But, it all worked out, as we discovered the 24 hour Lincoln Diner downtown. It was a classic American diner, a type that is often imitated, but rarely seen in its orignal form like this.

spocklogic says:
I last visited Gettysburg in the 1990's. At that time the visitor center was run down & dated. The cyclorama was in poor shape. It looks much improved from what I see in your photos, and worthy of a revisit for me!
Posted on: Oct 29, 2014
jamartin39 says:
The more I read the more excited I get about going haha
Posted on: Mar 12, 2011
missandrea81 says:
Great blog with lots of info. I wouldn't expect any less from you. :)
Posted on: Jun 20, 2010
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Gettysburg National Military Park …
Gettysburg National Military Park…
Musuem in the visitor center
Musuem in the visitor center
The Union and the Confederacy clas…
The Union and the Confederacy cla…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg cyclorama…
The Battle at Gettysburg cycloram…
The Battle at Gettysburg original …
The Battle at Gettysburg original…
Robert E. Lees field headquarters
Robert E. Lee's field headquarters
Union enlisted encampment
Union enlisted encampment
Union cavalryman
Union cavalryman
Brass Napoleon gun
Brass Napoleon gun
Union Zouave style uniform
Union Zouave style uniform
William. T. Shermans hat
William. T. Sherman's hat
Telegraph key used to announce teh…
Telegraph key used to announce te…
Uniform jacket with Lincoln mourni…
Uniform jacket with Lincoln mourn…
Peace Memorial (1913)
Peace Memorial (1913)
Peace Memorial (1913)
Peace Memorial (1913)
Railway cut
Railway cut
Gettysburg from the Confederate li…
Gettysburg from the Confederate l…
Confederate artillery line
Confederate artillery line
Union vantage point at Barlow Knoll
Union vantage point at Barlow Knoll
Confederate artillery on Seminary …
Confederate artillery on Seminary…
McMillan House on Seminary Ridge
McMillan House on Seminary Ridge
View towards the Union positions
View towards the Union positions
Seminary Ridge
Seminary Ridge
North Carolina memorial
North Carolina memorial
North Carolina memorial
North Carolina memorial
A North Carolina soldier points to…
A North Carolina soldier points t…
Picketts Charge historical marker
Pickett's Charge historical marker
View towards Little Round Top and …
View towards Little Round Top and…
Virginia memorial
Virginia memorial
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Louisiana memorial
Louisiana memorial
Little Round Top and Big Round Top
Little Round Top and Big Round Top
Major William Wells at Big Round T…
Major William Wells at Big Round …
44th New York Infantry monument
44th New York Infantry monument
View from Little Round Top towards…
View from Little Round Top toward…
General Warren surveys the scene
General Warren surveys the scene
Union reenactor
Union reenactor
Rocky ridges at Little Round Top
Rocky ridges at Little Round Top
Little Round Top from Devils Den
Little Round Top from Devil's Den
Monument at The Peach Orchard
Monument at The Peach Orchard
Minnesota monument
Minnesota monument
Pennsylvania monument
Pennsylvania monument
Pennsylvania monument
Pennsylvania monument
East Cemetery Hill
East Cemetery Hill
23rd Pennsylvania, Birneys Zouaves
23rd Pennsylvania, Birney's Zouaves
East Cemetery Hill
East Cemetery Hill
New York Tammany monument
New York Tammany monument
The High Water Mark
The High Water Mark
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photo by: Andy99