Bob and I vacationed in Gettysburg earlier this month. We attended Gettysburg Remembrance Day activities, toured the battlefield, and caught the last few minutes of the Gettysburg Dedication Ceremony.
The Gettysburg National Military Park was formed in 1895 on the land where the battle was fought as a memorial to honor the Confederate and Union soldiers. The park’s highlight is the 24-mile auto tour which covers the notable events that occurred throughout the conflict. The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North. Gettysburg was the Civil War’s bloodiest battle and was also the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”.
We toured the Gettysburg battlefield on Sunday, November 18th.
Visitors can choose to go on a self-guided auto tour of the battlefield, using the National Park Service’s free “Touring the Battlefield” map. The map is available at the National Park Service Information Desk in the Visitor Center. In addition there are several guided tours available at various prices. For example visitors can tour the battlefield, via the Gettysburg Foundation, with a Licensed Battlefield Guide—privately, in your own car, or by bus. A bus tour with a Licensed Battlefield Guide currently costs $35 (adult, ages 13+) and $21 (children, ages 6-12). Children under the age of 6 are free. Visitors can tour the battlefield at their own pace, too. The Gettysburg Field Guide, which includes an 80-page battlefield guide and audio CD/smartphone versions of the tour, costs $29.99. This field guide, as well as others, can be purchased in the Museum Bookstore either in person or online.
We opted for a guided battlefield tour at our own pace. We purchased the Tour Buddy app “Gettysburg Driving Tour” for $9.99. This app is available on the App Store or Google Play. The Gettysburg Driving Tour app follows the National Park Service’s 16-stop self-guided auto tour. The tour starts at the Visitor Center and traces the three-day battle in chronological order. The app is GPS triggered. As we drove through the battlefield, the app triggered at various points. Our tour guide, Joe, told the story of Gettysburg at each of these points. You can take your time and spend as long as you like touring the battlefield or zip through in about 1.5 hours. We did both 🙂
I will prepare three blog posts about our tour of the Gettysburg battlefield. This blog post pertains to Auto Tour Stops 1-3 and provides notable events that occurred during the first day of the three-day battle (July 1, 1863).
Auto Tour Stop #1
“The Battle of Gettysburg began at about 8 a.m. to the west beyond the McPherson Barn as Union cavalry confronted Confederate Infantry advancing east along Chambersburg Pike. Heavy fighting spread north and south along this ridgeline as additional forces from both sides arrived.” –The Auto Tour
Leaving Auto Tour Stop #1 we crossed over the McPherson Ridge Railway Cut. On July 1, 1863 the railroad tracks had not yet been placed but provided a deep entrenchment. During the day, the Union army deployed near the railway cut to contest the attacks of the Confederate army. The Confederates were held off during the morning and early afternoon but were able to drive off the Union army due to superior numbers.
Auto Tour Stop #2
Eternal Light Peace Memorial
“At 1 PM Major General Robert E. Rodes’ Confederates attacked from this hill, threatening Union forces on McPherson and Oak Ridges. Seventy-five years later, over 1,800 Civil War veterans helped dedicate this memorial to ‘Peace Eternal in a National United’.” – The Auto Tour
Auto Tour Stop #3
“Union soldiers here held stubbornly against Rodes’s advance. By 3:30 p.m., however, the entire Union line from here to McPherson Ridge had begun to crumble, finally falling back to Cemetery Hill. When the first day ended, the Confederates held the upper hand. Lee decided to continue the offensive, pitting his 70,000 men army against Meade’s Union army of 93,000.” – The Auto Tour
We did not climb the observation tower, from which I read one can see Oak Ridge–the top of a hill that was the location of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg combat.
Please check back soon for Gettysburg Battlefield Tour, Part 2.