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Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania commemorates the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. It is considered a turning point in the war, with the Union forces repelling Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North. Over the course of 3 days of fierce fighting in July of 1863, about fifty thousand soldiers died…the costliest battle ever in American history.
Five months after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln dedicated a National Cemetary at the site and delivered the famous Gettysburg Address, reminding everyone of the principles behind the Declaration of Independence and urging unity in the hopes that,
“these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
We visited Gettysburg on Labor Day Weekend in 2011. We started out at the Visitor Center where we perused the museum, watched a short film and viewed the interesting Cyclorama Painting. We picked up the Junior Ranger booklet for my daughter to earn her badge.
We then took a two-hour bus tour around the battlefield and memorials. Tours are conducted by licensed battlefield guides…they have to take a course and pass an exam in order to conduct tours on the NPS site. Our guide narrated throughout the bus ride and we had several stops where we could get out, stretch our legs and take photos. There are over 1300 monuments, memorials and plaques here, comprising one of the largest collections of outdoor sculpture in the world.
Our favorite was the Castle at Little Roundtop because we could go inside and climb the stairs to an observation deck. This memorial is for a New York regiment in honor of Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth who was the first Union soldier killed during the war. It was here that there were some volunteers performing a living history. This union soldier spent some time talking to my daughter and helped her with her junior ranger packet.
Location: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325
Designation: National Military Park
Date designation declared: Declared a National Park in 1895, decades prior to creation of the NPS
Date of my visit: 9/3/2011