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Day 8: Gettysburg

June 21, 2019

Our airbnb was stocked with a variety of foods for breakfast this morning.  Sam was exceedingly happy to sit in the high chair provided and eat Froot Loops!  

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After we checked out, we headed  to Gettysburg. This was one of the few days we weren’t thinking about the Revolutionary time period.  Erik hasn’t yet studied the Civil War, ever, but he enjoyed being outside and being able to climb around.  And the rest of us loved being here on hallowed ground.

When we came over a rise and first saw some cannons and a monument or two (there are over 1300 in the park), I got a little catch in my throat. We’ve loved and watched the movie Gettysburg so many times, and I’ve been wanting to come here again for so long!!  It was tempting to pay the $100 for a licensed battlefield guide to drive our car around for two hours and enlighten us, but I didn’t think a guide would appreciate 2-year-old Sam, and I was certain Sam wouldn’t appreciate the guide.  Maybe another time when everyone’s older!

I knew there was a ranger talk and walk on Little Round Top at 11:00 and wanted to pick up a map and a Jr. Ranger guide (one for the whole family here) and get tickets to the Eisenhower farmhouse before then. So we made a quick stop at the visitor’s center.  There was honeysuckle everywhere and I couldn’t get over how good it smelled!

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I misunderstood the map at first and thought that once you were on the one-way road, you just had to follow it.  But there are many ways on and off the one-way as so many roads converge on Gettysburg and criss cross the battlefield.  But we drove around to the west side where Confederate troops converged for Pickett’s Charge and stopped at the Virginia monument with an equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee. 

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Bill was trying to give an extended explanation to Erik about the battle in general, but I’ll admit I rushed everybody on because I didn’t want to miss Little Round Top.  We made it…barely.  The littles climbed all over the rocks while the ranger talked and walked us down to where the 20th Maine fought on Vincent’s Spur.   I have quite the fascination with Joshua Chamberlain, the 20th Maine, and Little Round Top and was looking forward to this stop.

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Anya on top of Little Round Top.  Devil’s Den is in the background just above Erik’s head.

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We saw the 20th Maine monument, the left and right flank markers, and the boys acted out the rising up and shooting at the Alabamians coming up the hill.  Good times!

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We had a very hot picnic lunch in the van, partially in the shade, now that we were clear out in the farthest parking lot and didn’t feel like walking clear back up to the visitor’s center.  Even though there were many cars, we really didn’t notice many crowds once we were out and about on the battlefield.  Thankfully, a shuttle bus came along just as we were done with lunch, offering to drive us back to the visitor’s center so we could catch the Eisenhower bus.

It was a short drive to the Eisenhower home and farm and once there, we had a short talk with the Ranger out in the shade before touring the home.  It was very interesting and he explained why Eisenhower had chosen Gettysburg for the only home he and Mamie ever owned.  

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The ranger said, “You’ve probably all learned something new today,” and Erik piped right up, “Yeah, I didn’t even know he had a farm!”  Erik wasn’t opposed to touring it though. It really is a beautiful piece of property.

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A mantelpiece that was once in the White House was given to the Eisenhowers and installed in their parlor.

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A few minutes after the house tour, that same Ranger gave a talk out on the back patio about Gettysburg and what was happening there on D-Day in 1944.  Sam was getting especially restless so he and I ended up walking around a bit and missed a lot.

Just hanging out at Ike and Mamie’s:

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Then there were some WWII re-enactors up in the barn with lots of WWII supplies and uniforms.  Colin was very interested but we had maybe ten minutes to look and talk because the bus back was leaving and I didn’t want to be there another thirty minutes.  Sam was getting increasingly tired and needed sleep.  

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Once back at the visitor’s center, we got our car and Sam went right out.  While he slept and Nana largely stayed in the van with him, we found our way back to the south end of the battlefield and Devil’s Den.  We followed the road along, filling in our Jr. Ranger guide as we went.  The High Water Mark which marked the spot General Armistead advanced to on July 3, especially made me a little emotional as I tried to explain to Erik and Anya just where we were and what had happened there.  

A view of Little Round Top from Devil’s Den:

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Colin preparing to fire a cannon:

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The Pennsylvania Monument:

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The angle of the stone wall, where General Armistead fell, which generally marks the furthest advance of the Confederate army at Gettysburg.

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At the angle:

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Monument to the High Water Mark:
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General Meade:

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We finally decided to head back to pick up our Jr. Ranger badges and do a little shopping.  I bought Thomas Desjardin’s book about Chamberlain and the 20th Maine that I’ve been wanting.  

We never did visit the cemetery where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, but you had to walk in; there was no driving. We’d driven by it at least three times, but the heat and humidity were really starting to get to us.  We were tired.  We’ll just add that to our “Next time…” list.

Our pizza dinner refreshed us a little, so we drove out to the Lutheran Theological Seminary which served as a lookout for General John Buford on the first day of the battle. Then we drove down Confederate Avenue one more time to find Longstreet’s monument before heading out to the Taneytown Road which would take us toward Washington.   

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General Longstreet memorial:

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Getting their Jr. Ranger badges, and laughing when the Ranger tried to throw in “mow the other ranger’s grass” as part of their oath, because, “Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to mow part of the battlefield?  For free?!”IMG_4820

 

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