Updated: Dec 26, 2020
Yesterday was another crisp, cool morning as I got on the road headed north, saying goodbye to the beautiful little village of Harper's Ferry. So much of the town remains unchanged from the time of the Civil War. Here are some pictures of some of the quaint little homes that are still there.
None of these homes have enough closet space to qualify for my significant other and myself to live in any of them. And that's all I have to say about that.
Soon after leaving Harper's Ferry, I crossed the Shenandoah River into Virginia and a few minutes later, I was in Maryland. Only a couple of hours later I arrived in Gettysburg.
Gettysburg is the scene of the largest battle of the Civil War and the battlefield here has been preserved. There is also a museum, movie theater, cyclorama painting, and a national cemetery. The town itself is a sort of museum as many, many if the buildings date to the time in July of 1863 when the battle was fought here. In fact, many of the buildings show damage from the battle, as in the first day, the fight between the Union and Confederacy raged all through the town, as the rebels chased the yankees from building to building until they had been completely run out of town.
Try to imagine a time when you are a simple farmer and it's you, your wife, and your kids and you read the occasional paper when you get to town about a war far away. It's about slavery. But you don't own any slaves. You just work the land that you either bought or inherited. Then one summer day you wake up and there is an army in your front yard. They begin to fire cannons and muskets. You usher your family to the cellar where you live for three days. You wonder what is happening as the thunder of cannon is all around you. Maybe it's hitting your house. You wonder if your plow horse and milk cow will survive. Then, when the shooting stops you come out of your cellar to find hundreds of dead soldiers all over your fields. And horses. And there is no one to bury these bodies who begin to rot in the hot July sun but you. That's what happened here in July of 1863.
War is a terrible thing. It always has been. Especially for the innocent.
Gettysburg has embraced it's role in history. As I mentioned earlier the park service has preserved the battlefield. And the town itself is literally a monument to the heroism of both sides.
A view of the crest of the ridge near what was called "The Angle" where the Confederates briefly breached the center of the Union line.
A monument at The Angle...depicting a defending Union solder swinging his musket in hand to hand combat.
The beautiful Pennsylvania state monument to her soldiers who successfully defended their homeland that bloody day.
General Meade, the Commanding General of the Union Army of the Potomac.
The Lutheran Seminary...the oldest continuously serving Lutheran Seminary in the US. It is the namesake for Seminary Ridge, along which the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was arrayed.
Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
As one drives the battlefield, there are monuments to all the soldiers who fought here. I don't think that there was a single state that didn't have soldiers serve and fight and die here. This is the monument to the memory of the soldiers from Georgia.
This MacDonald's is just outside the battlefield park but I heard that it was a hotly contested objective for the Confederates because they had heard that the MacRib was back.
Okay. Made that last part up. No self-respecting Confederate would get ribs from MacDonald's.
Confederate General Longstreet's monument is very nondescript. It stands ground-level in the woods behind the line from which the Confederate Army began their artillery barrage to prep for the Ill-fated Pickett's Charge.
Longstreet advised against the charge, understanding that a Napoleonic style tactic over a mile of open ground uphill against cannon and repeating rifles was doomed to fail. But Lee demurred and the attack was ordered, Lee thinking that he might be able to break the Union line.
Longstreet survived the war, and took a lot of heat after the war for his criticism of Lee's decision to attack, and became a sort of Persona Non Grata among the former Confederates. He outlived them all though, dying in Gainesville, Georgia in 1904. He's buried in the Alta Vista cemetery there, right up the hill behind the local national guard armory where I got my start as a young lieutenant.
Now, I'm an old solder, and I have a bit of a sympathy for others who have marched before me. It's July, You've maybe eaten something...maybe. Maybe you've marched all night. You're wearing a wool uniform. Maybe you have shoes. Maybe not. Get the picture? Now you're ordered to attack up a hill. And you go. Because your brothers are going, and you don't want to let them down. Maybe, almost certainly you're praying as you step forward. The cannons rip holes through the ranks. And brothers step forward to fill the holes. And you begin to think you might live as you march across that mile of open ground, and as you get about 200 yards from your objective, the enemy stands up and let's loose a storm of musket fire, and people all around you die and the warm, wet stuff you feel hit your face was seconds before the blood of your friends.
I can't imagine it.
No matter what you think about the Civil War, there was incredible heroism on both sides that day.
Just at the end of the Harrisburg Road there's a really neat scale model of the battlefield with an incredible attention to detail, including thousands of miniature soldiers depicting the battle. It gives a really great overview of what happened over the three days. And the little toy soldiers are super cool if you're an overgrown kid...like me
Another really neat thing about Gettysburg is that it is the home to the Eisenhower farm. General of the Army and later President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower had a farm here that is now preserved by the National Park Service. It was closed but I asked nicely so the let me in to take a few pictures.
This is Ike's farm house. His property backed up to right behind where the Confederate line was the day of the battle.
This is Ike's personal putting green in his back yard. Not everybody has a putting green in their back yard, overlooking the battlefield where the biggest battle of the Civil War was fought...and VERY few have a five star general flag as their pin. Nicely played, Ike. Nicely played.
The chow bell on the back porch...with the Presidential Seal. Again, well played, Ike. Well played.
A diagram of the battle lines at Gettysburg.
The VERY nondescript monument to the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment, who, under the command of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, held the line for the Union. They actually ran out of ammunition and with no other recourse available to them, Chamberlain issued the order no infantryman ever wants to hear... "Fix bayonets" and ordered a charge downhill to rout the attacking Confederates. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor.
He may have saved the Union.
Near where the 20th Maine made their stand, a brave Colonel who was an Irish Immigrant was killed. He is immortalized with this monument, where legend has it, that if one rubs the colonel's nose, one gets the luck of the Irish.
Yes. I rubbed it.
Then I went to this nice, historic building for dinner.
Tomorrow it's off to New York. God bless all y'all who are donating, praying, or sharing.