8. Gettysburg and Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Sunday, July 20
Two days at the same RV park was a new experience. We could leave the RV hooked up, drive the Saturn on a tour of Gettysburg, and do some sightseeing in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The tape tour route gave us a chronological overview of the battle as we viewed the actual places where the fighting took place.
The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1–3, 1863, about 134 years before our visit. The Union and Confederate armies initially collided at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, as Lee urgently concentrated his forces there, his objective being to engage the Union army and destroy it.
From McPherson Ridge, we viewed the low ridges to the northwest of town defended initially by a Union cavalry division under Brig. Gen. John Buford, and reinforced with two corps of Union infantry. From the Eternal Peace Light Memorial and Oak Ridge, we could also see where two large Confederate corps assaulted the Union forces from the northwest and north, collapsing the hastily developed Union lines, sending the defenders retreating through the streets of the town to the hills just to the south.
John F. Reynolds statue at McPherson Ridge
Eternal Peace Light Memorial
Oak Ridge Observation Tower
Then we drove to the sites of the second day of battle. At the Virginia Memorial we could see where the Union line was laid out in a defensive formation resembling a fishhook. In the late afternoon of July 2, Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top (another stop on the tour), the Wheatfield, Devil's Den, and the Peach Orchard. On the Union right, the Confederates assaulted the Union forces on Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. All across the battlefield, despite significant losses, the Union defenders held their lines. The final stop to view the second day's action was at Spangler's Spring.
Little Round Top
This spring supplied Union and Confederate soldiers with water during the battle
Finally the tape tour took us to High Water Mark to view the action of the third day of battle that had resumed on Culp's Hill, and where cavalry battles had raged to the east and south. The tape highlighted the the main event, a dramatic infantry assault by 12,500 Confederates against the center of the Union line on Cemetery ridge, known as Pickett's Charge. The charge was repulsed by Union rifle and artillery fire, at great loss to the Confederate army.
High Water Mark refers to an area on Cemetery Ridge marking the farthest point reached by Confederate forces during Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863
Lee led his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia. Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three-day battle, the most costly in US history. The battlefield was covered with gravesites of soldiers from both sides.
On November 19, 1863 President Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery to honor the fallen Union soldiers and redefine the purpose of the war in the Gettysburg Address.
After finishing the tape tour, we viewed a lighted, panoramic map of the battle in a theater where we could easily follow the flow of the battle.
Pennsylvania Dutch Country
The brochures from the RV park told us that Amish Country was nearby, so we drove for about an hour to Lancaster County, saw some of the local Amish, took pictures, and tried some Amish family cooking. We also encountered another Wheatland (near wheat fields), the Lancaster, Pennsylvania mansion of President James Buchanan.
Next: Gettysburg to Dumfries, Virginia
Back to: Cross Country Trip
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