Some friends of ours went to Gettysburg last weekend for some much needed quality time, relaxation and checking out the sites. We live a short (1.5-2 hour) drive from Gettysburg, and decided a visit sounded apropos, given the November 19 anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and the release of “Lincoln” in theaters across of the nation. After a short dive into the Series of Tubes, we learned we could easily fill our Saturday afternoon and evening without too much expense beyond gas…so on we went.
First stop: the Gettysburg Museum and Visitors Center. They normally charge an entrance fee to check out their exhibits and film presentation, but we just dropped in to use the restrooms, grab a map for the free driving tour of the battlefields, and of course, take a picture of Honest Abe.
Then we started on the path for the driving tour. It was already after 4pm and the sun was going to set soon, so we headed straight for the last stop, the site of Lincoln’s historic address – Soldiers’ National Cemetery.
From the cemetery parking lot, we first wandered away from the cemetery toward the battlefields. There were several old cannons and monuments to honor the 51,000 soldiers who were killed, wounded or went missing during the three-day battle. As we wandered, we noticed several Civil War aficionados who were touring the grounds in period attire or uniforms.
After the sun set, we headed over to the cemetery for a emotional experience called the Remembrance Illumination. The Friends of Gettysburg light up 3500 luminaries along walkways and on the gravestones in the cemetery.
This spot is known by many for Lincoln’s famous speech, but the rows and rows of luminaries shining on the graves also put a new light on those historic words for us. It was especially striking to see the number of graves with no names – in some cases there was a number, but in others, just the word “Unknown,” and these soldiers do not have a guard posted 24 hours a day to watch over their graves.
After a couple of hours wandering in awe of the the battlefields and cemetery, we felt sufficiently geeked out and humbled by the experience, and so we headed home.
We highly recommend the journey – just be prepared for some walking and try to get there early enough so you have at least a couple hours of daylight. Next year is the 150th anniversary of the war and so there’s certain to be some noteworthy events. If we were to do it again (which we might!) we would probably do the full driving tour, and we might have tried to find a couple local geocaches. All in all, not bad for a six hour tour (better than this).