By Julianne G. Crane
If Gettysburg is on your Bucket List–GO. It will not be a disappointment.
Thanks to the forethought of early Gettysburg residents, most of the battlefield and surrounding area have been preserved in much of their 1863 configuration.
It is a powerful experience when one remembers that the Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War. Both sides incurred heavy losses of human and animal life and property. It is estimated that between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three-day battle, the most costly in U.S. history.
Start with the Film, Cyclorama & Museum
|Artist Paul Philippoteaux painted the Cyclorama in the late 1800s.(Julianne G. Crane)|
First see the 20-minute film, A New Birth of Freedom, narrated by award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, about the Battle of Gettysburg. The film orients visitors to the historic three-day battle and Gettysburg’s place in the American Civil War.
Next comes the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama painting by French artist Paul Philippoteaux. “He spent months on the battlefield researching the battle with veterans, a battlefield guide and a photographer. It took Philippoteaux and a team of assistants more than a year to complete the painting.”
“The result is a breathtaking canvas that measures 377 feet in circumference and 42 feet high. Longer than a football field and as tall as a four-story structure, the Gettysburg Cyclorama oil painting, along with light and sound effects, immerses visitors in the fury of Pickett’s Charge during the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.”
|Jimmy Smith at Gettysburg Museum (Julianne G. Crane)|
You can spend hours in the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War. It features items from one of the largest collections of Civil War relics in existence.
“With 22,000 square feet of exhibit space, the museum features relics of the Battle of Gettysburg and personalities who served in the Civil War, inter-active exhibits, and multi-media presentations that cover the conflict from beginning to end as well as describe the Battle of Gettysburg and its terrible aftermath,” according to the National Park Service website.
Tour the Battlefield by Bus, Auto, Bicycle
|North Carolina on Confederate Line of Battle (J G Crane)|
“Much has been written and said about Gettysburg,” according to the official brochure. “But the most tangible connection to those three days in July is the battlefield itself, parts of which look much as they did in 1863. Fences, hills, rocks, cannon, and even the monuments provide an opportunity to reflect and try to understand what happened there.”
Taken as a group, the Gettysburg Battlefield monuments is “one of the largest collections of outdoor sculpture in the world.” As of 2008, the NPS managed 1,320 monuments, 410 cannon, 148 historic buildings, 2½ observation towers, and 41 miles (of avenues, roads, and lanes).
One striking monument is North Carolina Memorial sculpted by Gutzon Borglum of Mount Rushmore fame. It “depicts a wounded officer pointing the way forward to the enemy while a veteran and younger comrade lead a color bearer in the charge,” according to Gettysburg.stonesentinels.com.
“North Carolina provided 14,147 men … the second largest state contingent after Virginia. It lost over 6,000 casualties, more than 40% of the men engaged.” It is the largest number of casualties at Gettysburg from any Confederate state. One out of every four Confederate casualties was from the Tar Heel State.
Other Visitor Center amenities
Entry to the Visitor Center is free, which includes restrooms, a well-appointed museum store, large cafe and separate coffee bar. We ate soup for lunch each day, along with a cafe latte.Outside the Visitor Center is a statue of a seated President Abraham Lincoln. It is a perfect place for a souvenir photo, even in the rain.CostsIt’s complicated. It depends on what you choose to do and a few other conditions. For complete details click here. FYI: We paid $84 … for two senior adults doing the Film, Cyclorama & Museum; plus the two-hour bus tour. The National Park Service passes do not apply to Gettysburg.
If you go:
Gettysburg Battlefield Museum and Visitor Center
1195 Baltimore Pike
Gettysburg, PA 17325
April 1 – Oct. 31: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Nov. 1 – March 31: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed – Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Early Closure – 1 p.m. on Christmas Eve
From East or West, drive into Gettysburg on US Rt. 30, turn South on Baltimore Street (Rt. 97), and follow signs to the entrance of the visitor center, which will be on your right at the stoplight.
— Text and Photos: Julianne G. Crane
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