For today's post, we're stopping by a place that's very important in American history. Chi has wanted to come here for years but never did make it. Now that we're mobile, they can come visit and go on some adventures with us!
Saturday, September 18, 2021
The Flowers Explore - Gettysburg National Military Park - 2021/08/20
The night before, all six of us watched a few different YouTube videos giving an overview of what happened at Gettysburg.
Just a few minutes from our campsite is the battleground of Gettysburg. All six of us piled into the truck and headed to the Visitor's Center.
At 10am, there was a Ranger talk out on the back lawn of the visitor's center and those are always informative, so we hustled over, making it right as it was starting. The ranger has set up ropes along the ground, emulating the roads and hills around Gettysburg.
Can I get some volunteers?
Alli and Ian were quick with their hands and got some of the first spots on the battlefield. Ian and Alli were Confederate Generals A.P. Hill and James Longstreet. They were among the first Confederates to arrive at Gettysburg.
And who from the Union is going to meet them? General John Buford, commanding the cavalry of the Union forces here. And what do you do when you're a company of 9000 up against a field of 40000. Delay, delay, delay. Buford sent a messenger back to the rest of the Union troops and engaged in a series of fight, pull-back, battles until reinforcements arrived.
The Ranger walked us through the major events of the battle with the various leaders being played by different people in the audience. It was a good way to visualize the battle and how it unfolded. The kids enjoyed being a part of it.
After the presentation, we all went inside the visitors center. At the information desk the kids both got their Junior Ranger booklet. It's a little busy here, so the Ranger gave me the badges to award to them once they'd completed enough activities in the book to earn them.
I also picked up tickets for the next three activities we'll be doing. A film, something called the Cyclorama, and a visit to the Gettysburg museum. $15 for adults, $14 for seniors, $10 for kids from 6-12, and under 5 is free.
An estimated 7 million rounds of ammunition were fired here. This tree trunk is riddled with bullets and cannon balls.
In the lobby there are lots of displays with memorabilia from the war. The kids posed by the uniforms and decided to salute for some reason.
Oh interesting. Funding for the lobby displays was provided by Northrop Grumman. That's a lot of handguns.
And buttons and buckles. There were battalions from lots of different states represented here.
Our showtime for the film is coming up and Ian wants to be the very first in line.
Why? Because he wants to sit at the very front of the theater! He hustled as quick as he could and all six of us had the front row. For about a minute. Then Richard, Chi, Theresa, and Alli decided they didn't want to constantly be turning their heads during the movie, so they backed up a few rows. Since Ian was so excited to be at the front, I stayed there with him.
The film, "A New Birth of Freedom", was narrated by Morgan Freeman. I thought it was excellently done, but unfortunately it's copyrighted and it's not available online. Still, it gave a good overview, repeating most of the things we've heard before.
After the film, we filed upstairs on the escalators to view something really interesting and unique. In the background you can see the two generals of each side. General George Meade of the Union Army, and the Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
At the top of the escalator, we found ourselves in a large circular room. Surrounding us, on the wall is a painting. A big painting. Actually this is probably the biggest painting I've ever seen.
This is the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Painted by French artist Paul Philippoteaux in 1883, this painting gives the illusion of standing among the soldiers on the third day of battle in the event known as Pickett's Charge.
The painting hanging on the wall of this specially constructed building is 42 feet tall and 377 feet long. That's longer than a football field! This was the IMAX back in the 1800s. The foreground is usually decorated with physical models to give the painting a greater illusions of depth.
Special lighting effects make this painting come to life. Orange lighting gives the illusion of sunrise. Spotlights highlight cannon smoke, and everywhere you look there's something else going on. The scale is truly massive.
The artist, Paul Philippoteaux, didn't sign his works, but instead painted himself in the scene. He's the soldier with the sword leaning against the tree.
Our next stop of the day is the Museum. This gives a background of why the war was fought, plus a history of the 3 days.
In the days leading up to our visit here, we tried to tell the kids the reason for the American Civil War. We also discussed what slavery meant and how you weren't free to do what you wanted and how to live your life. They had all sorts of questions after that. It was an interesting conversation to have and explain.
Slaves were chained for their voyage here, and even when they arrived.
Money! From the Confederate States.
This Union flag from 1861 represents all the states in the United States. Even the ones that are trying to secede. The North never did recognize the South's right to separate from the country.
A look at some of the soldier's personal effects from the war. Playing cards, a chess set, and dominoes. Yes, kids, dominoes. Like the ones you play with.
There were a few interactive elements to the whole museum experience too. This one is applicable to the things we're learning at home right now during our piano lessons. There's 6 different bugle calls that soldiers were listening out for. It played each of them and showed the sheet music.
As a quiz, they played the music and we had to identify which call it was. 3 out of 3 correct!
At this point in the American Civil War, many of the battles had been fought in the South. General Lee wanted to attack in the North and brought his armies up. The Union army was in Vermont and south of Gettysburg.
The Battle Flag of the North Carolina infantry.
And the flag of the Pennsylvania infantry.
The museum is laid out in artifacts from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of the war. If you wanted, you could spend hours and hours here. It was a crowded Friday, as we didn't want to spend too much time around so many people. We hustled through the last few rooms to the end.
One thing I hadn't realized was regarding how the armies were fed. Both the North and the South had agriculture, but while the North had food crops and good trading supply lines, the South had textiles. It was said that "You can't eat cotton." Prices for food skyrocketed and inflation ran rampant as the value of the Confederate dollar fell.
In the final room of the museum is a tribute to Abraham Lincoln. I never realized that General Lee surrendered on April 9th 1865, and Lincoln was shot 5 days later at Ford's Theater.
Kids, between the Ranger talk, Film, Cyclorama, museum, and the coming battleground tour, you guys have more than completed enough tasks to earn your Junior Ranger badges. Congratulations!
That's a pretty cool badge to collect!
Outside the visitor's center is a statue of Lincoln.
This statue by Ivan Schwartz depicts President Lincoln on November 19, 1863 preparing to give his famous Gettysburg Address.
We've seen the videos and walked through the museum, but now it's time to see the Gettysburg Battlefield itself. There was an option for a bus tour costing $35 per person.
Instead, we opted to follow the path ourselves and have a virtual tour guide, in the form of a National Park Service Ranger and multiple streaming videos. It was a great guide to the battlefield and a wonderful alternative to paying $210 for all of us to ride the bus. The path to each stop was clearly marked and it was easy enough to find parking at all the locations.
The virtual tour can be found on the National Park Service's website here: Gettysburg Virtual Tour.
And let me tell you, there were a lot of locations. There are 16 separate stops.
Like here at The Eternal Light of Peace Memorial. 75 years after Confederate and Union troops fought here, 1800 Civil War veterans met to dedicate this monument to "Peace Eternal in a Nation United."
With over 1300 monuments, markers, and plaque dotting the landscape, many of them are dedicated to the Union army and their victory here. In 1917 though, this Virginia memorial was added, showing General Robert E. Lee and his vantage point as it would have been watching Pickett's Charge, which would be the last large assault at Gettysburg where 12500 Confederate Soldiers marched for 3/4 of a mile across open ground to attack the Union Army. They lost 50% of their forces in that charge, and would ultimately pull back and concede the battle of Gettysburg.
One of the more famous battles of Gettysburg was fought at Little Round Top.
It was here that Union troops fought off Confederates trying to overrun the hillside. That would have been a difficult uphill fight for the Confederates.
A local squad of Navy soldiers was being toured around and given a history of the area.
I know there's lots of ways you can experience the battlefield. There's local guides you can rent by the hour who will ride in your car and tell you anything you'd want to know. There's CDs you can buy in the gift shop or online that will give you hours of information.
Over 1300 monuments, markers, and plaques dot the landscape here. One of the largest recognizes the fighters from Pennsylvania (since Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania). The high ranking generals from Pennsylvania, including George Meade, are featured as statues around the columns, but at the base are names of the 35000 Pennsylvania men who fought here at the battle of Gettysburg.
One of our last stops today is at Culp's Hill. This was an important Union holding that was on top of a hill, and the Confederates took heavy losses here. This site was owned by farmer Henry Culp before the war. He had two nephews who were brothers. William, who joined the Union Army, and Wesley who joined the Confederate side. Wesley's regiment fought here on Culp's Hill and he was killed on his family's property during the fighting.
On the site now is a large observation tower, which you can climb and survey the entire battlefield.
Gettysburg was an important battle in the American Civil War. During the fighting nearly 50,000 men lost their lives over just 3 days of fighting. It remains the most costly battle in US History.
It's one thing to read about history, but to come here to where it happened makes it even more real.