Senior editor Gay Nagle Myers visited the battlefields of
Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania on a recent
weekend. Her report follows:
y 8 a.m. on Saturday, men in
blue and gray wool uniforms -- bayonets at their side, Winchester
rifles shouldered and flags unfurled -- clustered at the
Aromas of strong coffee and fresh-baked bread wafted from the
cook tent; cannons gleamed in the morning sun; and horses whinnied
This was Gettysburg, where on three decisive, divisive days in
July 1863, the biggest and bloodiest battle of the Civil War
unfolded and where, 139 years later, history lives on.
The re-enactment scene I witnessed took place not on the
6,000-acre battlefield itself, but on the lawn of the National
Civil War Wax Museum, just steps from budget motels, restaurants
and small galleries.
Gettysburg, population 6,000, remains a shrine to the battle
that took place here.
Farmhouses still stand that bear the scars of bullets and cannon
shells, and Lincoln's 10-sentence Gettysburg Address is broadcast
from dozens of venues each day.
For history buffs, it just doesn't get any better.
Here are some highlights:
• The park has 35 miles of avenues with guideposts and
accessible pull-off lanes for cars, bikes, motorcycles, shuttle
trolleys and double-decker tour buses.
More than 1,300 markers and monuments and 400 cannons pay homage
to soldiers and regiments.
Hikers are permitted on marked trails. Horseback riding also is
available, and park rangers conduct free walking tours frequently
during the day.
An 18-mile auto tour traces the three-day battle in
chronological order. Motorists can rent three-hour audio tapes for
$12 for a self-guided driving tour.
• Entry to the park and Visitor Center is free.
The center's exhibits lay out battle plans, detailed sketches
and poignant photographs.
Many of the historical attractions, tours and museums charge
modest admission fees; a $20 Visitors Pass covers entry costs for
• Across from the Visitor Center is the Gettysburg Cyclorama, a
round building that houses "Pickett's Charge," a 50-foot-high,
400-foot-long circular mural painted in 1884.
Admission to the building and its exhibits is free.
Entry to the Cyclorama is $3, and it is well worth it. A
narrated tape describes events depicted in the mural.
• The National Cemetery dedicated by Lincoln in his Gettysburg
Address is a short walk from the Visitor Center.
Plain white stones and hundreds of small, marble blocks
inscribed with numbers mark the graves of the battle's unknown
The graves radiate out in semicircles from the Soldier's
National Monument, where Lincoln delivered his historic speech in
After I had taken the two-hour Battlefield Bus Tour, visited
some exhibits and bought a tape of Civil War songs, I headed back
into the park to watch men in gray and blue reenact artillery
practice and battle maneuvers.
I could have sworn I spotted Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee,
commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, up there on Seminary
Military Park a popular drive-through
GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- The National Military Park surrounds the town
of Gettysburg on three sides. Battle mementos, monuments, statues
and bronze plaques are as much a part of the Main Street mix as the
wood-frame houses, souvenir shops and antique stores.
The Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau together with the
National Park Service makes a visit here informative, personal and
More than 1.86 million visitors arrived last year, up from 1.6
million in 2000.
Chris Rebmann, one of 135 licensed tour guides with Gettysburg's
Battlefield Bus Tours, attributed the increase to a surge of
patriotism and pride as well as Gettysburg's proximity to large
urban centers in the Northeast and Midatlantic states.
"More people came here last fall after Sept. 11 than in any
other autumn before," Rebmann said.
The increase has continued this year, as well.
Motorcoach business dropped off for a while after Sept. 11 but
has picked up again, although the majority of visitors still arrive
by car, said Rebmann. -- G.N.M.