Gettysburg is the kind of place you could make a quick stop, or spend a full day exploring. The battlefield has roads so it’s easy to drive from one monument or site to the next. There’s an audio tour and there is even an app you can download to help add dimension to what you’re seeing and to find the highlights at the park. It’s especially haunting thinking about the brave and dedicated men who walked into certain death across open fields during battle. It helps to have an appreciation for military history, but even families will enjoy a visit. Some recommended reading beforehand: “The Red Badge of Courage” for background and “The Killer Angels”.
“high Water Mark of the Rebellion”
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. Often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion", Gettysburg was the war's bloodiest battle with 51,000 casualties. It was also the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln's immortal "Gettysburg Address". Fought during the first three days of July 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War having occurred at a time when the fate of the nation literally hung in the balance. Often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion", it was the culmination of the second and most ambitious invasion of the North by General Robert E. Lee and his "Army of Northern Virginia". The Union "Army of the Potomac", long the nemesis of Lee's army in Virginia, met the Confederate invasion at the Pennsylvania crossroads town of Gettysburg. Under the command of Major General George Gordon Meade, the Union army fought with a desperation not always seen before on other battlefields. Despite initial Confederate success, the battle turned against Lee on July 3rd, and with few options remaining to him, the general ordered his army back to Virginia. The Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg resulted not only in Lee's retreat to Virginia but an end to the hopes of the Confederacy for independence.
Visited mid-May 2014. You can read books and watch movies starring Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels, but nothing prepares you for the experience of walking these hallowed grounds.
The Museum and Visitor's Center, owned and operated by the Gettysburg Foundation, offer (for a fee) a museum, film and cyclorama that provide visitors with a good understanding of the events that led up to the battle, as well as the aftermath. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the center. Private battleground tours are also available. Note that National Park Passes are NOT accepted at Gettysburg.
For those visitors who do not want to pay for the museum, film and cyclorama, you can visit the National Park Service desk inside the center and pick up brochures about the battlefield and request the ranger tour times (offered seasonally). We took two tours, and they were outstanding - probably the best battlefield tours we have ever taken, and we've been to a lot of battlefields. These tours are free. We took the Pickett's Charge Tour (1.5 hrs) and the Little Round Top Tour (1 hr). Be prepared to walk a lot.
We spent the entire day and part of the next day at Gettysburg and the nearby Cemetery and will return next year to see what we missed. If you are familiar with the stories of the individuals and soldiers of Gettysburg, like Longstreet and Lee or Minnesota's 1st Infantry regiment, plan to take the self-guided auto tour, which guides you to the individual and regimental monuments.
For parents and teachers interested in introducing Gettysburg to their children, I recommend MacKinlay Kantor's "Gettysburg" for elementary to middle school ages. For older students, I recommend "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara.
For those families with young children who are interested in the National Park Service's Junior Ranger Program, children can earn a badge by completing a booklet on Gettysburg. Ask the Park Ranger inside the Visitor's Center for details. Highly recommended.
The museum here is extremely well-planned, so you can make your way through the history of the battle inside, learning about Pickett's Charge and Little Round Top and whathaveyou, before you go out on the fields and see exactly where it all happened. It pretty excellent.
This place is beautiful! Could spend a week here just soaking up the info and emotions
My husband, daughter (13), and I spent a day at Gettysburg during our 10 day, 9 state road trip. It was amazing! After visiting the museum and the cyclorama, listening in on a ranger talk, and watching the movie, we hired a private tour guide to take us out into the park. It was a bit of a splurge for us, but so worth it. He road in our RV and spent 2 hours telling us about the battle. We got out frequently and explored the grounds and monuments while he told us stories specific to each site. He also brought us to the monument dedicated to soldiers from our state, a nice treat. We were impressed with our entire day at Gettysburg. I highly recommend spending the extra money to hire a private tour guide.
I'm in no way a civil war history fan. It's just not something I found intriguing. Useful and necessary history to study but not fascinating. Visiting Gettysburg changed that. I could have spent an entire week immersed in the history and scenery - definitely worth a visit!!
This place is awesome, and I've honestly seen some truly bizarre stuff while visiting. If you're in Gettysburg for the paranormal, expect this place to be packed at night with groups of investigators. Often times on a busy night it's a sea of camera flashes going off until sunrise so if you're expecting a creepy experience you'll still have fun, but it wont be as creepy as you think.
It was crazy to stand and look around a place where there was so much bloodshed and rich history. Really makes you think.
This museum is really quite sobering. It's one thing to learn about the battle of Gettysburg in school, but to actually go to the museum and experience it's interactive and visual stations all throughout, I left feeling a lot more aware of what exactly led up to the battle where over 51,000 men lost there lives.
Been here several times. It's quite somber to say the least. It's incredibly well-maintained, and there's a fantastic visitor's center that takes you through the entire battle and provides loads of background if military history isn't your thing. Plan on spending a few hours here. There's so much to do and see and explore.
Another amazing National Park to visit. We spent a few hours here but could have spent a few days. Admission fee for the film, cyclorama, and museum was well worth it. Breathtakingly beautiful landscape in which to immerse yourself in such an important moment in American history and honor those who sacrificed their lives for liberty.
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Gettysburg National Military Park
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