THE JOURNEY: Our last visit to Gettysburg was way back in August 2006, during our friend’s bachelorette weekend trip. A lot has happened since then, friends have gotten married, started families, graduating college and all other events that occur in life when you are between the ages of 25 – 30. Preparing for our journey back to Gettysburg took time since it has been a while since we’ve been camping with our family. The day started fine, until it began to rain that afternoon when we should have been packing up the car and getting ready to leave the house. As it would have it; we were able to pack the car in time for our departure and got to our campsite in Hanover, PA around 8:30 PM. Which meant we would have to set up our tent in the dark. And it has been roughly 2 years since we’ve camped so trying to set a tent you haven’t set up in the last 6 months can be tricky. But we were successful and were able to get to bed by 10 PM.
DAY 1: Saturday June 29, 2013
OBJECTIVE – Farmers Market & Blue Grey Alliance Gettysburg Reenactment.
After the disappointment at the Farmers Market we bought some subs from subway and got to the reenactment around 10:30 AM. As we were parking the car we saw that a reenactment was taking place little did we know it was going to be the shortest and best viewing one of the day. We parked our car and stayed in line to catch the bus to the reenactment. By the time we reached sutler row it was 11 AM. We walked around sutler row briefly. I was texting a friend who was going to be there and we hoped to tour the encampment with her until we saw the amount of people who already saved their spots for the 2 PM reenactment. So we decided to save our spots for the reenactment and eat our lunch instead. We did not realize that the reenactment was going to be 4 hours long and that the encampments would be closed before the battles and probably a little after.
The reenactment started at 2 PM and ended around 6 PM. By 5:15 PM we still had not seen a whole lot just puffs of smoke from the cannons and muskets. We decided that we had enough and left as the Union troops had slowly reached a distant hill. We got a nice cold lemonade and were thinking about doing a bit of shopping but our brief look inside some of the sutlers earlier had not impressed us to continue. We waited in line for the bus and headed back to our car.
DAY 2: Sunday June 30, 2013
OBJECTIVE – Blue Grey Alliance encampments, Union Mills Homestead and sunset at Little Round Top.
We woke up early was ready to go and get to the reenactment site by 9 AM but our van would not start. For some reason the battery had fried and we could not get it started. We had to wait for 45 min – 1 hour until a park ranger showed up to help us get our van started. We took the van to Auto Zone to get the battery checked out and the manager found no problem with the battery.
We got to the reenactment site around 11 AM, two hours later than our anticipated time and all the encampments were closed to the public due to the reenactment that was going to happen at 12:30 PM. Looking over the schedule the encampments would have been closed all day Sunday since they were going to have some sort of battle at 8:30 – 10 AM and then another battle at 12:30PM. I only wished that the schedule had included the opening hours for the encampments since it is one of the things spectators enjoy doing. Drove to Westminster Maryland to visit Union Mills Homestead instead to tour the grounds and check out their Civil War event.
We received a text from our friend who told us about a concert and illumination starting at 6PM. At that time we were able to relax and recover from the tiring day. We also got a chance to meet and talk to several nice people. One told us that the battle reenactments today would of been the best days to go to the reenactment. The reenactors were close to the viewers. Oh well! When the nightly activity began there were some guest speakers and then they introduced the program “voices of the civil war” which included actors reading personal accounts of what happened in Gettysburg. As the program ended everyone was beginning to light their candles in which we received entering the location. Then they had us all follow the military band to the cemetery where we saw thousands of candles lighting up all the civil war graves to represent all the casualties of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was beautiful yet sad to think all those lives and the lives of their love ones were forever change. You left the holy grounds releasing why you were there to honor those who fell on the battlefield and so that future generations will never forget. To learn the lessons of past generations so a future generations will not make the same mistake.
In the first day of the battle the National Park system in Gettysburg did not have much scheduled. We took this opportunity to prepare our selves for the next two days. We drove to the out skirts of the battle field which included Eastern Cavalry and Culp’s Hill. Then we decided to take the free bus system.
Even though we had the following day behind us. Nothing prepared us for the two last days. As each day went on it seemed like more people were coming. The park services did not do a good job closing and parking people to take the bus system. So thousands of cars were parked through out the battlefield. Which made it difficult for the buses to go through and people to walk around. During walking tours it made traffic even more a challenge because you would have thousands walking on the roads. At the end the party I was with had good walking shoes so we did a mixture of walking around and using the free public system. With that combination we saw a lot of the battlefield.
One excellent thing the park system did was have a great living history program, walking or hiking talks and plenty of locations for public restrooms. At the end our last two days were a success. Yes we missed a couple of walks and talks but what we did do were great.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST: After much anticipation and planning our trip to Gettysburg is over. It is a bitter-sweet moment for us since we can remember when we were only 21 years of age talking it over with friends what it would be like and where we would be in our lives. Now 30 we can say we were living very different lives then way back then. The journey to Gettysburg is very different then what our young 21 selves perceived it would be. And in a way it closes one chapter in our lives and opens up a new chapter that is not yet written but can now be written with acceptance and openance.