Maryland/Virginia 2023

Gettysburg

Day 3

This morning, we woke up early, ate breakfast and made a somewhat spontaneous decision to drive to Gettysburg for the day. The Pinkertons had never visited, so of all our day trip options, we settled on making the trip to southern Pennsylvania.

Cyclorama, Movie

We arrived at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center, checked in, purchased our tickets, and began our tour. We began by watching a short film that showed in the theater at the visitor center, and then headed upstairs to view The Battle of Gettysburg, a cyclorama painting by Frenchman Paul Dominique Philippoteaux. The painting, which depicts Pickett’s Charge, is 360° and stands 42′ high and 377′ in circumference. It’s quite an impressive work of art, and is supplemented by a light show, narration, and artifacts on the ground to “extend” the painting.

Museum

We spent the rest of the morning visiting the museum, which has nearly endless information about the war, the battlefield, and the preservation efforts for the area. We learned so much interesting information, but a few things in particular stood out to me:

(1) Seeing recruiting pamphlets in foreign languages was interesting. I had never thought about the state of immigration at the time, and how a lot of people, particularly in the north, were still flowing in from other continents, bringing their native tongues with them.

(2) I didn’t know anything about the conservation efforts made by the people of Gettysburg. After the battle, almost every building in the area had to be converted into a field hospital or some kind of shelter. All the farmland was a huge mess, and the locals knew it would be years, if not decades before the land could be farmed again. They also realized the magnitude of what had happened, so they immediately began efforts to preserve the area, rather than to try to use it again. Thus, it’s one of the best preserved battlefields in the entire world, if not the best.

(3) The 1913 Gettysburg Veteran’s Reunion, which marked the 50th anniversary of the battle, was the largest gathering of Civil War veterans ever. All honorably discharged veterans from both sides received invitations, and over 53,407 veterans (mostly Union) attended. Episode 9 of Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War provides even more fascinating info about the reunion.

"We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten—except that we shall not forget the splendid valor."

Battlefield

It was now noon, and since we’d gotten a later start to the day, we decided to delay lunch a while. After grabbing a quick snack from the car, we began the driving tour of the battlefield, which loops you through the key sites on one-way roads, guided by a National Park Service audio tour.

Tommie's Pizza

Leaving the battlefield, we drove over to Tommie’s Pizza to grab a quick late lunch. Tommie’s is a pizza parlor nostalgic of somewhere I’d been in my childhood, with a self-serve drink machine, lots of circular booths, and a typical menu. Faith and I got a pie with pepperoni and pineapple, which was very good, with a nice crispy crust and charred cheese. The done-ness came with a price: I burned the top of my mouth so badly it hurt for days afterwards!

Battlefield, Part II

Post-pizza, we resumed the battlefield driving tour, heading to the Longstreet Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. The tower is right next to the Eisenhower National Historic Site, the farm and retreat of our 34th President.

As the sun began to descend, we continued the audio tour, stopping a few places of particular interest. Unfortunately, Little Round Top was completely closed for maintenance from all approaches. William was especially disappointed, since he’d spent much time studying the battle here. I think he was ready to re-take the hill all over again!

We ended our day at Gettysburg by stopping at the High Water Mark of the Confederacy, the farthest the Rebel Army advanced during General Pickett’s infamous failed charge, which ultimately led to the final downfall of General Lee’s armies.

The view from here was spectacular, and we spent some time reading the signage and monuments. Finally, thoroughly chilled by the wind, we returned to our vehicles and began the journey back to Havre de Grace.

Long Way Home

Instead of going around the outskirts of Baltimore and dealing with I-695, Faith and I decided to drive due east through southern Pennsylvania and then cut down through Bel Air, MD. It was a beautiful drive through the Pennsylvania countryside, and I’m glad we went that way, even though it cost us some extra time on the road. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures during the drive, so you’ll just have to take our word that the scenery was spectacular. Just after dark, we arrived back at the house. 

Dinner and a Movie

Back home in Havre de Grace, we ate some turkey sandwiches and soup for supper. Once the kids were in bed, we made some affogati and started the movie Gettysburg, a 4h 31m depiction of the battle starring Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Stephen Lang. After watching a couple hours of the movie, we decided to save the rest for another night and head to bed.

The Best Things we Saw Today

Isaac

The best thing I saw today was… “sunset at Gettysburg and driving through the Pennsylvania countryside”.

The best thing I ate today was… “affogato for dessert”.

Faith

The best thing I saw today was… “the Pennsylvania countryside”.

The best thing I ate today was… “pizza at lunch”.

Conclusion

Tomorrow, we’re heading to Annapolis to tour Maryland’s capital, visit the Naval Academy, and hopefully chase down some crab cakes.

– Isaac

One Response

  1. I hope you got to see the North Carolina monument. It is one of the most impressive monuments n the park.

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