My Travel Memories: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

We took two non-North-Carolina-or-Florida trips in 1979.  I can’t remember which came first, though, and the photographs we have were all taken with a Polaroid SX-70, so they are completely undated.  So we’ll do the bigger trip first, and then move onto the smaller one later.

The bigger trip was Gettysburg, Washington, bits of Maryland (including Barbara Fritsche’s house), Williamsburg, and Jamestown.  Because of my parents’ thing about famous houses, we also fit Mount Vernon and Monticello (homes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, respectively) in on the trip. The order of that photo album has us going to Gettysburg, then the National Cemetery, then to Mount Vernon, then back to do the rest of D.C. and Monticello after Williamsburg and Jamestown, so that’s probably what I will do here.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is home to the aptly named Gettysburg National Military Park, which encompasses the battlefield, a national cemetery, assorted monuments, and a visitor’s center.  The visitor’s center is home to a museum, a “Cyclorama,” which is a circular panoramic painting, in this case, of the battlefield.

The Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought on July 1, 2, and 3, 1863, is thought of as the “turning point” for the Civil War.  Up until that battle, the Confederacy seemed to be doing pretty well, Gettysburg ended the Confederacy’s hopes of victory.  And, indeed, the war only went on for nine months and six days (by my count) after the Battle of Gettysburg ended. Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, with over 50,000 casualties.

Devil's Den Gettysburg in 1979
The Devil’s Den, Gettysburg, circa 1979

We stayed in town in a hotel next door to the house where the only civilian casualty of the battle, Ginnie Wade, died.  Ginnie lived in the center of the town, and she had come to visit her sister on the outskirts of town at the time of the battle.  A bullet, either fired by a sniper, or a stray bullet from a nearby skirmish, passed through two doors and hit Ginnie, killing her instantly.   I looked at this area on Google Maps and I seem to recall more buildings in that area than there are today.

When we visited Gettysburg, there was an observation tower near the battlefield. The National Park has since seized the property under eminent domain laws and demolished the tower. The National Park Service apparently intends to restore the land to what it looked like in 1863, and since the tower had a very 1970s vibe to it (and, indeed, it could not have been built without access to computers to calculate the support necessary to build the tower with the minimum amount of steel), it had to go.  Ir’s kind of a pity, though.  The tower won an award from the American Council of Civil Engineers and was the subject of patent D227448.  The Visitors Center and Cyclorama have been razed and rebuilt in a more 1863-ish style since my visit, as well.  The new building looks more like a farmhouse and barn than the old building did.

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