“If you go to Gettysburg and take the time, maybe take a tour, maybe just drive around, read some of the monuments, read some of the plaques, you will come away changed.”(Jeff Shaara)
Most people who read my blogs realize how enthusiastic I am about obtaining a real glimpse of American History. Yet rarely do I find a place that seems ideally preserved with authentic relics to create a true “time warp” simulation of the past. Our road trip visit to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and the surrounding Civil War National Military Park would however provide such a place. A lazy walk along Steinwehr Street through center of town seemed surreally “antebellum” in character as I spied strange sights of men/women dressed in mid – 19th century character blending in perfectly with stately mansions, stone taverns, and grand churches along narrow pathways. To the immediate east/west of downtown, a twenty one mile tour of the hallowed grounds at Gettysburg Battlefield presented a captivating look at the strategic positioning of Union/Confederate soldiers culminating in the July 1-3, 1863, “turning point” battle of the Civil War.
DOBBINS HOUSE TAVERN
Built in 1776, by an Irish pioneer, as a farm house serving a natural springs, this simple stone structure was later used during the Civil War as an escape haven for runaway slaves. Still standing as an eating/drinking ale house, Ruth and I savored a romantic dinner in candlelight amidst an amazing interior decor of glowing fireplaces, stone walls, hand carved woodwork and other authentic relics of this pre-Civil War period. Taking a curious peek around, I found added pleasure in spotting a dusty and dark corner with steps leading down to the original basement where escaped slaves were hidden.
EISENHOWER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Dwight Eisenhower, America’s 34th President and hero of D-Day in World War II bought a 189-acre farm/residence for $40,000 adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield in 1950. He later retired there after his Presidency until his death in 1969. In Gettysburg, Ike found this place as as a refuge for finding a more quiet and settled life as he had in fact moved to over thirty places during his illustrious military/political career. Booking a semi-guided tour of this famous site, I felt deep understanding of his Midwest roots inspiring him to spend “quality time” with his family, raise cattle, and relish the hard work challenge of farming. For added interest, I noted that over 90% of the relics in his home and farmstead stood authentically original on this two hour tour.
GETTYSBURG BATTLEFIELD AND CEMETERY GROUNDS
Abraham Lincoln’s memorable Gettysburg Address in November 19, 1863 at Cemetery Ridge stands as an enduring symbol of our nation’s freedom. Taking a peaceful walk along the perimeter of this immense burial ground, I soon spotted the solemnly statued presence of Lincoln. What a thrill to imagine his magical words “ four score and seven years to ago”… commemorating the final resting place where more than 3,500 Union soldiers were ultimately buried in the battle of Gettysburg.
The blood-spilled battle clashes at “Little Round Top”, “Pickett’s Charge”, and “Devil’s Den” unfolded in my mind as I meandered from low to high ground throughout the battlefield park. How sad that a McDonalds Restaurant and “chain” retail shop in the distance would be thoughtlessly placed within eyesight nearby. While Gettysburg cannot resist the “hands of modern progress”, the town will timelessly live on, however, as a reminder of America’s historic will to remain free as a united country.