Saturday, June 28, 2009
This was our 2nd day in Gettysburg and our plan was to go to the visitor’s center, pick up an audio tour for the car, and drive the battleground.
Kory has arrived at the visitor’s center.
Eventually, we would do this, but after purchasing the CD we noticed a board explaining all the NPS (National Park Service) Ranger Programs for the day. Kory found one he wanted to do! He joined the Army! The Union Army! His enlistment was for 3 years or 1 hour and he was honorably discharged after 1 hour. We have the enlistment and discharge papers to prove it!
Kory taking his oath.
The “Join the Army” program was for kids and about 20 were in Kory’s enlistment group. Adults were allowed to watch and take pictures. The purpose of the program was to learn why the men and boys joined the army, what women did during the war, what the soldiers wore, what they carried, the nine steps of loading a rifle, and what they ate. They also learned how to march in formation, follow commands (left face, right face, about face), and they participated in a mock battle. For those of you who have ever watched a child’s soccer game, marching in formation was much like that. They were all going in different directions, and occasionally a few would pick someone to follow. It was educational and a lot of fun.
Kory learns to shoot.
Kory shooting during mock battle.
Our next NPS Ranger Program was called “High Water Mark” and was about the battle of Pickett’s Charge. This was the last encounter on the last day of the battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, and Lee’s plan was to break the Union Army by breaking through the middle of the Union encampment on Cemetery Ridge and crushing them. It was disastrous and many men were lost on both sides. In fact, it is to this day, the bloodiest battle on American soil. Lets all hope it stays that way. We walked the line where the Union soldiers were positioned and looked across the open field to Seminary Ridge where the Confederate troops were positioned. You could close your eyes and imagine the cannons blasting, the guns firing, and the devastation that followed. The fear the men must have felt, the loyalty that kept them going, with smoke filling the air so much that they could not see, but could hear the screams of those injured and dying around them. The people in town would say the smoke was so thick that they could taste the saltpeter from the cannon fire. In 3 days of battle 51,000 casualties were incurred. This battle was the deciding factor of the Civil War, and Robert E. Lee took full responsibility for the loss.
Lee’s life would never be the same. It had been a difficult decision for him to leave the US Army that he had served in for 32 years, but when his home state of Virginia chose to
secede from the Union he felt the need to follow her and accept the position as General of the Confederate Army. Lee’s citizenship was revoked and was reinstated 100 years after his death. His home in Arlington, Virginia, was seized and later turned into a national cemetery, Arlington.
Our final NPS Ranger Program of the day was at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. It is at Cemetery Hill so named because there was a cemetery established in 1850 for the city of Gettysburg. It was felt that there needed to be a resting place of honor for these men who fought and died defending their Union and their state. This cemetery was for the Union dead, and it was 9 years before a contingency from the south was able to raise the money to remove the Confederate dead and take them home. However, there are 9 known Confederate soldiers buried here by mistake.
Pop and Kory in cemetery.
There was only one civilian killed in the Gettysburg battle and that was a young woman by the name of Jennie Wade. She was helping her sister who had given birth 3 days prior, and was baking bread when a bullet penetrated 2 wooden doors and hit her in the back.
Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address here in November of 1863 at the dedication of the cemetery. He was not the main speaker, but is certainly the one remembered. There are many soldiers buried here in graves marked unknown.
The rangers who presented our programs were all students who do this as a summer job, and you could tell that their love of history is great! They made it come alive for us and we look forward to returning again some day.
We finally started our driving tour and were amazed at the size and scope of the battlefield! The driving tour is 24 miles around and leads you through the sequence of the battles and the positions from which the fighting occurred. The battlefield area is the largest monument display in the world.
If you have never been, or if it has been a long time since you visited the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, do yourself a favor and go! They have a brand new facility that just opened in April 2008, and it is phenomenal! I would suggest you wait until September 2008, however, because that is when the new Gettysburg Cyclorama Painting Experience will open. The museum has one of the world’s most extensive Gettysburg Civil War collections, 7 different films including a new 25minute feature, interactive stations, and a computer resource center. You will hear the story of the Civil War as told by Lincoln, Meade, Davis, Lee, soldiers, townspeople, and war correspondents. You’ll hear their voices and gain a new understanding of the battle, the Gettysburg Address and the entire war, including the impact on our lives today.
The above was by our guest blogger Kathy.