Driving through a graveyard

We woke up to a happy, sunny but nosehair freezing kind of day. After a quick stop for a couple of McSliders we retraced our route back to the Gettysburg welcome center. Marce had learned about a self -guided tour in a national parks app from the welcoming ranger, even though he seemed to be more concerned about any weapons or explosives we might be concealing under our voluminous heavy coats. The self guided tour actually starts in the town of Gettysburg so a little more backtracking was required.

As soon as we pulled up to the number one sign the app apparently knows that you’ve just pulled up and is keen to tell its story. Unlike most shiny pants installations it actually works.

It’s such beautiful peaceful countryside as you sit there, warm in your car while the voice of a faceless ranger describes the carnage that occurred just over that pleasant ridge, yeah, the one with a dozen cannon facing down the rise.

Really you’ve never seen so many cannons. Monuments and placards were spread out over the fields but more concentrated at the cool bits, where I’m sure something horrendous happened.

And then you come to Confederate Avenue. That’s where, oddly enough, twentieth century Southerners planted monuments memorializing their glorious struggle and they’ve been working overtime. The place is chock-a-block, practically paved with the things, mostly ironically placed on the sites where the Union troops defended their territory. However, I noticed a dozen or so Union cannon on the ridge — there’s at least a dozen on every ridge — facing down the rise in the general direction where the Confederates attacked from. When you win you get to call the tune, but the Confederates seem determined to write their own verses.

We drive from point to point, stopping to listen to what happened in each location. This is classic Pennsylvania countryside with gentle rolling hills, hardwood trees, and grassy meadows. It really is beautiful.

That is with one exception. Little Round Top. After the Confederate troops fought their way through the boulders of the Devil’s Den, they faced a frontal charge up this hill into the face of rifle and cannon fire.

It was a big ask and they knew it, suicidal unless by chance the Union forces were so depleted that they’d leave the hill relatively undefended. That’s exactly what happened. A small force of observers and semaphore communication officers were all there was on top of the mound.

This is where the Union was waiting at the top.

But with incredible bravery, those relatively junior Union officers rallied enough forces to save the day. But it was a close thing.

Marce is paying her respects at the massive Pennsylvania Memorial and looking for the names of her many ancestors who fought in the battle.

Finally you arrive at the site of Picket’s Charge on a hill above Gettysburg where the Flower of the South was spent. General Lee, gambling that one more all-out effort might cause the Union to collapse, sent his army on a frontal assault, charging up the hill directly into intensive cannon and rifle fire. The Union Army was damaged but held just the same. It was another close call but generally considered to have turned the tide for the Union. You can learn more about the entire three-day battle here.

Enough with all this slaughter. By this time you’ll be getting as hungry as Yours Truly was, so might I recommend the famous 3 Hogs BBQ? It’s worth the trip.

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