My 11 year old son is an American History buff. While World War II has always been his favorite war to read about, Civil War history is a close second. We’re fortunate to live just over 2 hours from one of the biggest battles in the Civil War – Gettysburg.
Known as the high mark of the Civil War, Gettysburg is General Lee’s 2nd invasion of the North and the bloodiest battle during the Civil War. It also served as the location and inspiration for President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
This past summer, we made the trek to Gettysburg National Military Park twice for day trips. Given the magnitude of the 3-day battle, I’m sure we will be back to visit. A day trip doesn’t even begin to address all the aspects of the battle.
Our first Gettysburg trip focused on the area where Pickett’s Charge took place and Seminary Ridge where the battle started. Both are good starting points for a self-guided tour of the battlefield. The museum at Seminary Ridge has 3 floors of displays outlining the 3-day battle with maps and timelines.
3 Hour Guided Tour of Gettysburg National Military Park
For our second trip, we decided to hire a licensed battlefield guide to take use around Gettysburg Park. We chose the 3 hour tour for 6 people in a vehicle which cost $95. Taking the bus tour would have cost us $132. Using our own car saved us money and allowed the kids to eat lunch in the car while we took the tour.
If you want to save money and have a guided tour, there is a self-guided audio tour available at the Museum and Visitor’s Center.
We started our tour on the northern end of the battlefield with stops at the Soldiers Cemetary, Seminary Ridge and then moving south to the Confederate lines. While the former Confederate states could not afford to build many monuments to fallen soldiers after the war, North Carolina had Gutzon Borglum, sculptor for Mount Rushmore, create a monument marking the spot where A.P. Hill’s Corps came together for the July 3rd assault.
Winding our way south and around to the east of the battlefield, we arrived at Little Round Top, immortalized in the 1993 movie, Gettysburg. Looking down from Gettysburg, we could see Devil’s Den. Nearby is the Wheatfield where more than 6,000 died during the afternoon of July 2nd.
We ended our tour on the southeastern side of the battlefield where the Union lines were located. This area is home to many monuments like the enormous Pennsylvania Monument seen in the distance in the photo above. This is also the area we walked to on our first trip to Gettysburg. It’s under a mile from the Museum and Visitor’s Center.
As part of its initiative to create a more authentic battlefield, the National Park Service has been slowly removing signs of the twentieth century from the Gettysburg National Military Park. All over, we saw these fences erected by volunteers. This is the type of fence climbed over by Confederate soldiers during Pickett’s charge. Imagine being shot at while climbing over this fence on an open battlefield.
After our tour, we made another trip to the Seminary Ridge Museum where the battle of Gettysburg started. Lee had decided to invade the North at this point to draw the Union Army away from Washington D.C. and the Federal Fleet and to gather provisions for an army weakened from lack of food and supplies.
You’ll find maps outlining the movements of both armies during the 3-day battle in the Seminary Ridge museum. The building itself served as a hospital for the Union army. There are displays depicting patients and medical equipment. This museum serves as a good overview of the battle and in depth look at how the battle affected the town of Gettysburg.