Friday, February 15, 2008


Here are a few photos of my trip to Gettysburg Military National Park. Being the history dork I am, I took a ton of photos, without myself being in many shots. For the most part, Gettysburg is really just a field, with monuments dedicated to each side, Union and Confederate. Walking over the battlefield, I tried to comprehend all the blood shed that took place here, all the young men that died fighting for a cause each believed was the "right thing." In the end, this battle became the turning point for the Union, even with the enormous casualties suffered.

What is the significance of Gettysburg, outside of the quickest speech any influential man had given at this time? Because of this battle, the United States began implementing cemeteries to commemorate soldiers who died during battle. Truth be told, the cemetery right across the street from the visitor center only has Union soldiers buried there. This came about when the farmers in the town of Gettysburg returned to work on their fields. Upon plowing the fields, the farmers not only turn over the soil, they also unearthed the bodies of the dead soldiers. Extremely shallow graves were dug in haste to continue with the battle. Rain also contributed to the exposure of fallen soldiers. One has to understand why people would return to such blood-stained grounds. Well remember, even back in the mid-19th century America most Americans livelihood still consisted of agricultural resources. Of course the horrors of the farmers churning over the soldiers dead bodies brought an outcry and thus began the cemeteries memorializing our fallen heroes. Unfortunately I was too tired to look through the entire National Cemetery. Part of me was hesitant, and another part of me just wanted to briefly walk in and pay a silent respect.

Most people would not really care to look around field after field of monuments. In fact, most people would not spend over five hours of their own time traversing across the small town that is Gettysburg. I have never been to the east coast, let alone visit any site pertaining to two of the greatest wars battled on American soil. The only war memorial I visited as a child was the Pearl Harbor memorial in Pearl Harbor. Gettysburg may not have been as moving as Pearl Harbor, but the vast open space made me realize how terrifying the field was. Regardless of advancement in military weaponry, war is violent. To which degree of violence, many can speculate. I find it ironic how much I romanticize these battlegrounds, pondering meetings of Generals coming through the mist-filled fields. We forget sometimes how civil wars once were, where leaders met their opponents, shook hands, and then returned to their respective places. Each side would look at one another, and then charge. Of all the monuments I visited here at Gettysburg, General Longstreet's bronze casting seen to the left, and above right, was perhaps the most captivating. A single, and solemn set of flowers was set down next to Longstreet's bronze casting (he was a General for the Confederate Army). My friend Kim and I were unable to visit, nor did we see, Robert E. Lee's command post because it looked as though the house was under renovation of some sort. Yes, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

If the opportunity arises again, I will return to Gettysburg. The rolling hills, vast open fields, and quaint little town still has so much for me to explore and fully understand. Even if you have the opportunity to drive through, I would say do so. All the park rangers, volunteers, attendants and so on are so passionate about Gettysburg (as are all of those at any of the Military National Parks in America I am sure).

Northern battle grounds, near Pickett's Charge.
Army of the Potomac
(Top and Bottom)

At the Eternal Flame memorial, ground held by the Army of Northern Virginia during Gettysburg.

No comments: