The concussion of artillery, the stammering of hooves, the rebel cries, the thunderous roar of musketry and the screams of the wounded have subsided from the now tranquil undulating hills of the Gettysburg battlefield. Gettysburg now stammers with the footsteps of visitors from the world over, its military significance not only for American citizenry but for those abroad.
With the upcoming festivities of Gettysburg 150th anniversary drawing close, the town will bustle and overflow with visitors seeking to relive in their minds the epic battle which occurred there. To some they will take guided tours, to others that have studied the battle, the monuments and their research will be their guide. The heights of Little Round Top will ignite the agony of the Confederate soldiers who descended it and the rippling field that Pickett charged across brings many questions to mind.
To start, visitors traversing Gettysburg this summer and fall should, before they step foot on the battlefield, pick up a book on the battle and read it cover to cover. Amazon, your local bookstore or even a local flea market will have a book on the battle of Gettysburg. Look at the maps provided in the book and absorb the author’s narrative… highlight features in the book you want to see on the battlefield, then bring the book with you on your trip. You will get a fuller experience of the battle and pick pieces that peak your interest… not the tour guide or others.
On the battlefield take time to sit and visualize the battle from your reading, view some of the monuments to get your bearings. Maybe pick a specific unit that a relative fought with or one that you find interesting, for this author it is Berdan’s sharpshooters. If your trip occurs in July, realize that soldiers fought in the stinging, exhausting heat of a Pennsylvania summer with wool kepi, tunic and trousers.
The reader may ask… “What does Gettysburg provide in amenities and diversions?”
One of the most enjoyable diversions on the battlefield has to be horseback riding on the battlefield. Hickory Hollow Farms (http://www.hickoryhollowfarm.com) provides horseback riding for visitors to the battlefield. This author suggests a two hour or more ride because you will be able to see more of the battlefield, also for an extra $5 dollars a licensed guide will ride along. At $40 an hour (or $45 w/ guide) it is money well spent traversing parallel with West Confederate Avenue then entering onto the field where Pickett’s charge occurred then onward… as many hours as you are willing to spend. Hickory Hollow Farms treats their horses very well, looking healthy and well maintained. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60798-d1880589-Reviews-Hickory_Hollow_Horse_Farm-Gettysburg_Pennsylvania.html.
For the military collector, that is seeking a new piece for his collection… from Gettysburg. The Antique Center of Gettysburg (http://www.antiquecenter-getty.com) is an excellent place to stop in. It has displays from sellers all over the country… numerous military items from Civil War onward, also military miniature soldiers. If you read military history books, they have a fine collection of books for very reasonable prices. For Civil War collectibles visit The Horse Soldier (http://www.horsesoldier.com), even if finances do not permit you to purchase an item, it allows you the opportunity to view original weapons, accoutrements and clothing of the period. Finally, Battlefield Military Museum on 900 Baltimore Pike, take a gander at what World War Two items are for sale and see a very fine collection of militaria (rates for the museum are not listed online but this author thought they weren’t more than $10). The owner has been collecting for decades… and can answer numerous questions on militaria.
This was just a short list of some great spots in Gettysburg and a singularly exciting excursion on horseback. Take time to poke around the town of Gettysburg, the out of the way coffee shops that cater to students of Gettysburg College, restaurants and the other multiple antique stores. For the week of July commemorating the battle, Gettysburg will be filled to the brim with visitors. Reenactments, living history camps and numerous other activities will be taking place. Have an enjoyable trip to such an important piece of American history (and may its history not be forgotten). See you on the battlefield.