Gettysburg National Military Park can be found in the south-central part of the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has snowy winters and lovely summers and is home to one of an essential historical battle in the American Civil War. The town of Gettysburg is well-known and taught in history, and the famous battle site has been preserved through what is now a National Park. The park protects the battlefield and non-battle areas like the reserve, supply, hospital and a few other areas as well. The park pays tribute to the historic battle and turning point in American history.
Battle of Gettysburg
In 1863, the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the eruption point for Union and Confederate soldiers. This conflict caused the most significant number of casualties in the entire war and had been referred to as the “turning point.” The Civil war was a fight between the north and south, referred to as the Union (north) and Confederate (south). The Confederate attacks were defeated by the Union soldiers and ended General E. Lee’s advances to invade the north. Gettysburg was the meeting point of the two armies, as one tried to advance and the other tried to defend. The number of casualties was devastating to both sides, and the battlefield has remained as part of our preserved history.
The Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg address is one of the most famous presidential speeches in America’s history. President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address on November 19, 1863. Four and a half months after the battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln gave this speech at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery. In this famous speech, he addressed a “new freedom,” and also that the Civil War was not just a struggle for the Union, but “for the principle of human equality.”
Tour the Park
The park offers several options for tours. Touring the battlefield is the best way to see the famous destination as well as hear about the events of the battle. Visitors can do a self-guided tour, a licensed battlefield guide service where a guide shows you the park in the comfort of your vehicle, an authorized battlefield guide bus tour, or an audio tour that can be purchased at the visitor center. Guided tours are usually at least an hour, closer to two hours. If you wish to do your driving tour, there are maps and guides available at the visitor center for you to take. These will help you find essential stops, as well as some history or stories in the area. There are designated biking and horseback riding trails throughout the park. Local businesses may offer horseback rides if you are interested.
The National Park Museum and Visitor Center
The 22,000 square foot building features fantastic and interesting displays and exhibits about the history of the area and battle information. There are relics of the famous battle, information on personalities that served in the war, interactive exhibits and multi-media presentations. See the excellent film narrated by Morgan Freeman called “A New Birth of Freedom.” There is also a Resource Room with computers for visitors to research or look up soldiers who served at Gettysburg. There are some great books in the bookstore as well on the subject that visitors may find interesting too. This is a great starting point to schedule a guided tour, get maps, guides, listen to a talk or watch a film, or get answers to your questions.
The Soldiers’ National Cemetery
This national cemetery is a quiet, humbling and beautiful place to commemorate the many lives of the soldiers that were lost not only during the Battle of Gettysburg but from all American wars since 1865. This has also been the burial ground for those lost in all American wars as well since 1865. There are paved avenues for walking around, as well as monuments and the “Friend to Friend” memorial. The many thousands of headstones may leave you in awe. There is an 18 Union states area, as well as three grave areas for the unknown. The Soldiers’ Monument is located in the center, with everything else surrounding it. The cemetery and soldiers rest on a major portion of the battlefield.
The David Wills House
This unique house is where President Lincoln finished the famous Gettysburg address, a speech that is still learned about today and one that turned absolute devastation into a nation’s new birth of freedom. There is a museum inside with six galleries for your viewing pleasure. A few of the rooms have been returned to reflect their 1863 appearance in period décor. It is on the list of National Historic Places and is a neat place to visit while in Gettysburg.
The Town of Gettysburg
The town was made famous by the historic battle and speech. There are many different tours you can take, as well as shops to visit, restaurants, museums and various tour companies. There is a campground located in the park called the McMillan Woods Youth Campground, specifically for youth groups that visit the area to learn about the history here. The winters can get cold and snowy, so the campground is open from April to October. Pack a picnic and enjoy one of the two nice picnic sites for a fun outdoor event. An annual reenactment of the battle is held every year as well. It is not located in the park but Adams County.
The Small Town that Changed Everything
As troops advanced to the north, trying to invade and conquer, the small town of Gettysburg provided the meeting and stopping point in what is known as the “turning point’ in the American Civil War. The green field that stretches out in the park was the final resting place of many soldiers. Over 1300 burial markers can be seen here, and the casualties were the highest in the war at Gettysburg.
The visitor center and museum are spectacular places of information and fascinating displays and films. Try researching in the Resource Room for further investigation or go to the website to search the free database of burials in national cemeteries, including the one at Gettysburg. See the green field where a turning point in a war happened, where soldiers perished, and cannons were fired and pay tribute to those that lost their lives to change American lives forever. The Gettysburg National Military Park is quiet, beautiful and impressive. The paved walking paths offer visitors a chance to walk about and see a piece of history and enjoy the grounds of the battle that changed everything.