Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gettysburg Walking Tour

It is difficult to describe all the feelings I experienced walking through the city of Gettysburg. There are 42 tour stop destinations on the "Gettysburg Historic Walking Tour" created by the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, and we walked nearly the entire thing in about 3½ hours. (This was in addition to our 6-hour and 10-minute auto tour of the Gettysburg battlefields the day before. Our conclusion after these two days was a simple one: We have come to know all of Gettysburg very well!)

We began our second day in Gettysburg by proceeding directly to the Visitor’s Bureau at 571 West Middle Street. (This, after picking up 6 lunch bags from the Hampton Inn and stopping for additional lunch supplies at the Giant supermarket. We carry an electric fridge in the car to keep everyhing cold.)

Our stop at the Visitor’s Bureau proved beneficial because not only did it provide the "Historic Walking Tour" brochure, which we closely followed, but it gave us, too, our starting point for our tour: a visit to the National Cemetery.

The National Cemetery was visited first because it is beyond the walking tour, and you must drive to get there. This is where the monument to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is located (just within the Taneytown Road entrance). We spent about one-half hour visiting the Soldier’s National Monument—near the site of the Gettysburg Address. We walked along the upper Cemetery Avenue noticing the cannon of the Union Army along the crest, the Evergreen Cemetery (Gettysburg’s public cemetery established in 1853, just behind a black, iron fence, and the five metal plaques with inscriptions—excerpts from Theodore O’Hara’s, 1847, poem entitled "The Bivouac of the Dead," a poem commemorating the American dead at the battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican War and still befitting the American soldiers buried in National Emetery—and, finally, the New York State Monument—the only state memorial in the National Cemetery—commemorating the number of New York soldiers who lost their lives fighting at Gettysburg—more from New York than those from any other northern state.

From National Cemetery we drive directly to the public parking garage behind the Historic Gettysburg Train Station (in the central area of downtown Gettysburg) where our walking tour began.

The Train Station is a beautifully restored building that is the location where Abraham Lincoln arrived on November 18, 1863 (4½ months after the battle) to dedicate the Soldier’s National Cemetery. It is, too, a visitor’s center, and the woman behind the information desk gave us a great deal of additional information about Gettysburg,

Now, it is impossible to report on each of the historic sites visited along this walking tour. As noted, there are 42 of them. But, here I would like to provide some general impressions and a few specific highlights. After all, the city is full of history—history at every turn.

We loved the brick. Many of the houses and commercial buildings are made of it, and the overall impression is beautiful. Along with the brick, many of the structures are tied to each other with no spaces in between—like "row houses," which were quick and easy to build and more energy efficient as well.

Just one block from the Historic Train Station is Lincoln Square. This is the round-about where York Street/Chambersburg Street and Baltimore/Carlisle Streets meet (and change their names). Lincoln Square is surrounded by magnificent buildings—and it is where four Civil War-era buildings remain.

The most important of these buildings, because of its historical significance, is the David Wills House, built in 1816, and purchased on April 1, 1859 (just 4 years before the war) by David Wills, a prominent lawyer and 1851 Gettysburg College Alumni. Not only did this home shelter wounded men, house Provost Marchall Marsena Patrick, who commanded the military’s after-battle recovery, provide Wills a place to organize the creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, but it is where Abraham Lincoln spent the night November 18, 1863, where he completged the draft of the Gettysburg Address.

As an aside, I loved the "Return Visit" statue in front of the Wills’ home, sculpted by Seward Johnson, Jr., and dedicated in 1991, which shows Lincoln pointing to the second floor window where he stayed. He is wearing his black top hat, and his right hand is on the back of a modern-day man dressed in corduroys and a sweater with a copy of the Gettysburg Address in his right hand. We had a number of pictures taken at this statue by a passer-by: Bert Danielson of the Gunnar Galleries in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (He gave me his business card.)

At 242 Baltimore Street (#16 on our walking tour), we entered the small wine shop which was the birthplace where Jennie Wade—the only Gettysburg civilian killed during the three days of battle. This was a small frame house typical of working-class housing during the mid-nineteenth century.

We were allowed (by the owners( to tour the home, and in the owner’s corner office on the second floor, we looked out a window precisely where Confederate sharpshooters took aim at Union soldiers.

The belongings of the home have been preserved, and it was delightful to put ourselves back into the time when Wade was born.

At stop 18, we stood in front of the home where Jennie Wade was killed while in the kitchen cooking bread.

This is, too, near where we turned around and began our walk back to the parking garage. But, this is the area, too, where there were a number of souvenir shops where we found tee-shirts, puzzles, a small, decorative saber, and I bought a beautiful, white, knit shirt decorated with embroidered stars on the shoulder.

There was an old ice-cream shop (built in 1819) about half-way on our walking tour where we all bought single-serving cones or cups. We sat at a table made from a cross-cut from a tree originally in the front yeard of this building. We figured the tree must have been 200 years old. There was a photograph on the wall that showed the dirt road in front of this building in 1863, just 5 days before Lincoln came down the road, heading the the National Cemetery, just before he gave his famous speech.

What made this walking tour especially impressive was not just the number of historic sites we visited, the houses with the ammunition damage still visible in the brick walls, or even the various stories we read on the historical markers on the sidewalk along the way. What made this walk impressive was being able to relive (in our minds, of course), the lives of these ordinary villagers who, in July, 1863, watched 163,000 soldiers converge on their tiny village by the way of the ten roads that end in downtown Gettysburg, and then wage battle for three days in their town and on their farm fields. It was a battle that changed this town, these citizens, and this nation forever.

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Information on the history, geography, and climate of Gettysburg is located at:,_Pennsylvania but the most interesting information, at least to me, was the material on the Civil War.

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Copyright July, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC

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