Anyone familiar with the American Civil War will be aware of the part that Gettysburg played, and the amount of lives that were lost during the historic 3 day battle that took place there in July 1863. The area was the later that year to be the scene of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Although the final outcome of the battle at Gettysburg was a Union victory, the amount of fallen soldiers who lie in the Union burial site at Gettysburg National Cemetary (actually located on Cemetery Hill) is evidence that victory came at a high human cost to both sides.
Today the Gettysburg National Military Park is a silent witness to the military strategies, human heroism, and the loss of life sustained during its history. You should start your visit with a walk around the visitors center, even if you are familiar with the events of the battle, as it will help you to orientate yourself “on the ground”. You can take advantage of joining a guided tour around the park, or pick up a map for a self-guided auto tour. A film in the Cycloarma Center will also help with your orientation to the area before you set off exploring. The Cyclorarma Center also shows other educational films as well as displaying civil war exhibits so you may like to spend time back here once you’ve taken your drive around the park, if not before.
If you are visiting Gettysburg to give your children a living history lesson about the Civil War, check out the programs of special interest to younger visitors – in particular, the summer months usually sees a program where 7-12 year olds enlist in the army for an hour, to learn what life as a solider was like during the period. Another favorite is the Civil War storytelling which shows the roles children played during the time.
Whether your family was involved in the American Civil War or not, Gettysburg is an interesting place to visit. Many of the names such as Cemetery Hill, and Devil’s Den are familiar from Hollywood’s adaptation of history, but here at Gettysburg you can separate the fiction from the fact, and see how life really was for the men who fought and died here.