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Published: December 16th 2009
Winter certainly snuck up on us! Officially I suppose it’s still autumn, but today was bleak and brisk and felt every bit like winter to me. Perhaps the cold breezes and gray clouds and the bundled coat to keep out the 40-degree chill were an appropriate setting for a viewing of a battlefield carrying the memory of so much death. I’m not trying to sound cynical, but I just don’t consider Gettysburg to be a very cheerful place.
It’s an interesting place to visit and included a beautiful drive through part of the Pennsylvania countryside, so it made a great day-trip for us. Once we arrived, we started out with a free, 90-minute walking tour around the battlefield, guided by a friendly employee of the National Parks Service. I was freezing, and my hips didn’t appreciate all the quick walking on uneven ground, but mostly I found that being pregnant and stuck on a battlefield for an hour and half meant that toward the end of the tour all I could think about was finding a bathroom.
When I was paying attention to the guide’s description of the events that passed here, the horribly dreary weather led me to
mostly contemplate all the death and blood this place had seen and it was hard to appreciate the colorful changing leaves of what would normally be a gorgeous Pennsylvania farmland, especially when distracted by the many randomly-scattered monuments that were a bit too eerily similar to tombstones. And as we stood there, shaded by a hazy overcast, with a dank moisture in the cold air and the horizons distorted by the clouds, there was a somber reminder of how these fields were suffocated in constant smoke from canon fire on those three days in July of 1863.
During the tour, the guide mentioned an old saying that “you can’t have a battlefield without a sunken road and a peach tree,” and I was just happy that you apparently also can’t have a battlefield nowadays without a museum. I liked the Welcome Center. It had a rustic feel on the outside, combining stone and red-paneled barn themes, but was warm and cozy on the inside with a shop, café, museum, and theatre.
We were able to meet up with friends for a tasty lunch in the cafeteria and then we all saw the short movie “A New Birth of
Through the Woods...
The journey from the Welcome Center to the battlefield.
Freedom,” which is followed by a trip upstairs to the Gettysburg Cyclorama. The Cyclorama contains one of the four original large format paintings of “The Battle of Gettysburg,” which was painted in the late 1800s and presently measures 27 feet high and 359 feet long. This painting covers the entire inside wall of a circular room and is part of an interactive storytelling which includes lights and sound effects bringing the painting to life.
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