Monday, March 8, 2010

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

There are not many displays in war I find glorious. Sure there are certain battles that I find interesting from a tactical standpoint, but I don’t see much heroicness in the sacrificing of lives due to a deficiency of communication. In America, the most pointless war to beseech our homeland was our only Civil War. It’s easy to become caught up in the facts when you’re learning about past conflicts in history class, but when you really think about it there’s nothing more pointless than brothers killing one another.

A significant event in the war’s outcome was the Battle of Gettysburg, what many acclaim to be the beginning of the South’s decline. This three day exchange was the bloodiest campaign of the war resulting in each side losing a total of 46,000-51,000 men. Below you can see how many men each commanding officer had at their disposal before the battle.

Robert E. Lee (CONFEDERACY)- 71,699
George G. Meade (UNION)- 93,921

Today Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is just a small town with a permanent population of 7,500, although the number becomes a lot larger if tourists are taken into consideration. Back in 1786, when tavern owner Samuel Gettys founded the city, there wasn’t much around. Now there’s history waiting to be discovered by visitors behind every corner.

Gettysburg College

One such place is Gettysburg College created in 1832. A private, four-year, liberal arts school, the college only enrolls only 2,600 students. Another attraction is the Dobbin House Tavern, the town’s oldest standing building constructed in 1776. Through the centuries, the Dobbin House has been a main stop on the Underground Railroad and also served as a makeshift hospital during the war. These instances have earned the restaurant a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since being recognized on a wide scale, much of the tavern has been converted into a gift shop and is also home to a large Civil War diorama. To bring its diners back to an earlier time, the restaurants only light comes from candles, while the staff serves traditional food while dressed in original wartime attire.

Did you know?- Before becoming a famous military general and U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower lived a quiet life in Gettysburg. After World War II, Eisenhower returned to the city to retire. It would also be where he would recover from his surprise heart attack in 1955. During these years he became involved with the local college and even spent time serving on the Board of Trustees. Eventually an office was named after the president where it is documented that Eisenhower wrote his memoirs.

Despite the for mentioned attractions, the majority of tourists are drawn to Gettysburg’s bloody history. Growing in popularity are local ghost tours where visitors explore places reported to be haunted by soldiers yet to leave this realm. And of course there’s the annual reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg which replicates the entire three day skirmish. And there is Gettysburg National Military Park which contains actual weaponry and paraphernalia from the battle.

And during your visit you decide there’s too much to see in one day, why not spend a night at the Gettysburg Hotel. Now technically serving as a Best Western branch, the building was constructed in 1797 and continues to hold a certain allure to passionate couples.

Gettysburg Hotel

For those out there who thought this post would be a recount of the battle, you’re not out of luck. While whole books and movies have been dedicated to the Battle of Gettysburg, I will only recite what in my mind is the most famous occurrence of the battle, Pickett’s Charge.

map of Pickett's Charge

It began on the third day, July 3, where fighting resumed on Culp's Hill. Cavalry battles erupted to the east and south. At around 1 p.m., 150-170 Confederate cannons began bombarding Union soldiers with artillery fire, spending nearly all of their ammunition. Soon afterwards, 80 Union cannons returned fire. With the Army of Northern Virginia nearly depleted of ammunition, 12,500 men situated in Spangler’s Woods began their march into the hailstorm of cannonballs. Those left standing would end up having hiked the ¾ mile (1.2 Km) to Cemetery Ridge. You can watch part 1 of a 5 part series documenting the vicious attack below.

No comments:

Post a Comment