The Civil War Battlefield at Gettysburg, PA

We continued our US roadtrip with a visit of the most famous civil war battlefield grounds : The Gettysburg Military National Park.  On July 1, 2 and 3 of 1863 the armies of the Union and Confederates met here and fought a ravaging battle that left approx 50.000 killed and a multiple wounded behind. It was the biggest battle until then and also the biggest bloodshed so far in the Western world. It was only one of many many battles in the civil war but with hindsight, it is considered as one of the turning points that stopped a series of confederate wins.

The thunderstorms of the previous day had cooled off the weather and gave us a grey, drizzly cooler day which felt somehow appropriate for the topic of the day and also refreshing as a change.
The Military National Park extends to the entire area around the town of Gettysburg and is therefore not walkable with children. We understood however that it wouldn't be feasible to join one of the 3h guided bustours with them either, so we chose to do a self-drive with an app on our phone. Since the children were a bit tired and clingy, we decided to also skipp the movie in the visitor center.

Now I wonder if that movie (which is recommended as a starting point of your visit) would have given us some more context of the Civil War or not.  Context is what we missed during our visit.  We started off driving towards auto stop number 1, tried the app which overloaded us with a lot of articles, youtube films with rangers and specialists explaining troop positions, quotes from historic military and Gettysburg locals and their opinions on the battle etc etc... Too much material to digest for one stop (or to filter quickly to find the essentials), especially since there were many stops that would cover the progress of 3 days of battle and the movement of the troops chronologically. On top of that each regiment, each impacted state, each ... has monuments along the roads for remembrance.

Too much information, too much details and I missed the big "why was there a civil war going on? How did that happen? Who were the main actors? What were the events leading up to this battle? What was the result of this battle? How did the civil war end? ".  I wondered if the visitors were too many Americans who are aught to be knowledgeable about this topic out of their education? But visitors from the rest of the world like us, have a much more basic knowledge of this internal American war. Maybe the answers were given in the movie that we skipped? It triggered on a lot of evening reading on the internet in the evenings of our vacation to learn more and fill in the pieces of the puzzle.

Anyway, the children quickly fell asleep in the car while we were browsing through the app on our ipad through the myriad of information thrown at us. In a way this was a blessing as this visit turned out not to be a very toddler-friendly activity and now Jan and I could drive around at peace, read, and get out of the car alternately to check out a spot more in detail. We found a less detailed app but used mainly the park's paper map and the interpretative boards along the road to track the essentials of the park and the battle's history. Especially Devil's Den , Little Round top and surrounding area was nevertheless poignant to watch and try to imagine the artillery positions fighting and ravaging each other

President Lincoln, who speeched with his famous "Gettysburg address" at the opening of the National Soldiers Cemetary 4 months after the battle decidating the loss of lives to a cause of human equality

View on Devil's Den, Gettysburg battlefields

View from Little Round top on Devil's Den below

State of Pennsylvania Monument
Jan and I finished the self-drive tour in 1.5 hours, right on time for the boys to finish their nap in the car so we could go and seek some lunch in Gettysburg town where we looked at a few more historic buildings. 

We were early in the hotel where we had plenty of time to visit some more nearby stores, to relax and test the hotel swimming pool.  During the first days of our roadtrip we didn't always have hotels with swimming pools but here was the start of our daily tradition to go for a short swim before dinner each day. 


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