Fri, 02 Sep 2011

Visiting Gettysburg, PA.

We visited the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, PA., on Wednesday and Thursday (August 31/September 1st). This was actually our second visit.. We'd made our first one when our kids were very young (maybe 5 and 7 years old). We couldn't visit the battlefield that first time, neither could we take part in many of the historical 'shows' at the time (if they even existed back then). The kids were just too young, and I was having a bad time then kind of suddenly with the MS that I had. This time was different though. I was feeling great, and we'd blocked out two days to just wander about giving us the ability to see the entire battlefield along with it's monuments.

Fought during the first three days of July 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War having occurred at a time when the fate of the nation literally hung in the balance. Often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion", it was the culmination of the second and most ambitious invasion of the North by General Robert E. Lee and his "Army of Northern Virginia". The Union "Army of the Potomac", long the nemesis of Lee's army in Virginia, met the Confederate invasion at the Pennsylvania crossroads town of Gettysburg. Under the command of Major General George Gordon Meade, the Union army fought with a desperation not always seen before on other battlefields. Despite initial Confederate success, the battle turned against Lee on July 3rd, and with few options remaining to him, the general ordered his army back to Virginia. The Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg resulted not only in Lee's retreat to Virginia but an end to the hopes of the Confederacy for independence.

Other online pictures

At the National Military Park, we first watched the cyclorama show in a huge cyclorama theater. The initial 20 minute film was narrated by Morgan Freeman. The show then progresses two stories up and then one story down in the same building. When the attendents saw my balance wasn't the best, they asked me if I'd like them to 'bring up an elevator' for me, rather than have me use the escalators or stairs. I said, sure, by then I was exhausted enough to sissy-out .. but I didn't expect an elevator.. I figured that was some term for a some other type of assistance device.. I was absolutely shocked when the floor to the side of me opened up, and an ELEVATOR (real one, just like the ones on other floors) pushed up through the floor, and opened it's doors hahaha

On the third floor, the Cyclorama show displays a painting, the original, painted by Paul Philippoteaux in 1883. It depicts "Pickett's Charge", the failed infantry assault that was the climax of the Battle of Gettysburg. The painting is in the form of a cyclorama, a type of 360° cylindrical painting. The intended effect is to immerse the viewer in the scene being depicted, often with the addition of foreground models and life-sized replicas to enhance the illusion. Among the sites documented in the painting are Cemetery Ridge, the Angle, and the "High-water mark of the Confederacy". The completed original painting was 22 feet high and 279 feet in circumference. The version that hangs in Gettysburg, a recreation of the original, is 27 feet high and 359 feet in circumference, although that version has lost some of its size due to the ravages of time. Its original size is estimated at 42 feet high and 365 feet in circumference. During the viewing of this painting (which you can't believe, it's so beautiful), the museum supplements the painting with light and sound simulating warfare as various battlefields are mentioned in the narration.

The entire cyclorama show had me near tears, it so well done.

We toured the battlefield next. When you tour the battlefield, you can pay for a tour guide to sit in your car and point out the battlesites, your can take a ride on a tour bus, or you can purchase a CD in the 1st floor Museum Gift Shop. We decided to purchase a CD so that we could take our time with the tour and get out of our car when we wanted. Ron and I were mesmerized by all the places we'd read about all of our lives (we're a bit of Civil-War afficionados, since Ron's great Grandfather was wounded seriously there (he lost an arm). The most amazing thing we decided was seeing what a difference there was between actually seeing the battlefield as opposed to viewing topographical maps or pictures.

You just never got the full sense of awe of the distances covered, the incredible courage it took to charge across, or to defend some of that territory until you actually saw the battefield up close.

Sometimes there was a sense amongst us of "my god, what were they thinking?" as we saw some of the sites, like Little Round Top.

The field where Pickett's charge went across was another site that seemed impossible. You can't imagine what Lee was thinking when he ordered that charge.You could see that it had to be a real act of desperation.

The Wheat Field (that changed hands 6 times in 2 1/2 hours) and the Devil's Den were images that will never leave your mind once you've seen them.

I've put some pictures my daughter took for us online on my blog if you'd like to see them.. you do see some of the topology in these pictures, but...

More pictures later!

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