In my humble opinion, Fall is the best season to visit Gettysburg. If you don’t mind having some separation between the anniversary of the battle, that is to say, if you don’t feel like you have to be there around the time when the battle would have taken place (the first three days of July, or that week), your best bet is to try to get down to Gettysburg between late September – November. The weather is spectacular, the battlefield is less crowded, the leaves are starting to change, and there are tons of local events.
This past weekend, we took another day trip back to Gettysburg. We all had an agenda for going down; I wanted to go to the second 153rd PA Vol Inf Reg’t monument on Cemetery Hill–the area where that unit fought on the 2nd and 3rd days of the Battle. There was also a huge antique sale downtown, with vendors set up everywhere with tons of amazing trinkets.
So it was another 6:30 morning, into the car and off to Gettysburg. The morning was slightly cloudy but no rain in the forecast; some of my pictures reflect that. The first stop into town was the 153rd PA monument (see here for details about the 153rd PA):
Not on camera (no one took a picture), I had a group of six individuals, no a part of my company, who were walking around asking questions–of which I spent the next ten minutes answering. The first question had been ‘Why are these cannon not at the crest of the hill facing down toward an enemy advance?’ to which I explained that the cannon were positioned to provide counterbattery fire against Confederate artillery on Benner’s Hill; as Cemetery Hill is such a dominating position on the battlefield, which is one reason why cannons seem to be facing in all different directions. They were quite impressed, it seemed, and so they then asked about the location of the field in retrospect of the whole battle, to which I gave them a bit of a geographical history and explained the importance of the location, along with Culp’s Hill, to the Union line. They thanked me and I thanked them, and off I went. Sometimes it pays to know so much history.
Following our detour and my brief impression of a tour guide at Cemetery Hill, our next stop was the Angle on Cemetery Ridge. My fiance’s father wanted to stop off an get a picture of the 72nd PA Vol Inf Reg’t monument as it is what now appears on the Pennsylvania State Park quarters:
He wanted to get a photo of the monument as it appeared on the quarter, because why not? I got a few as well.
We spent some time there, but there were some 3,000 boy scouts at the site also (there were tons of them, marching along, it was intimidating)! Good on them though, as many were working away at the battlefield, do clean-up and preservation. Following a detour to the General Meade statue, we decided to head back into town for some shopping.
I had brought with me some like-new reenaacting equipment that I never wore; I had picked it up a few years ago when I was looking for a new unit to reenact with; since then it has been in storage until a recent move prompted me to dig them out and see if I could return them. I stopped by the Regimental Quartermaster in town, which is really a great sutlery for those looking to get into the hobby of reenacting (of any sort). Unfortunately, the manager was not in and I could not return the items. The employee on hand informed me that I would likely be unable to return them as they were purchased over ten days ago (it has been something like two years), despite their unused condition. So I listed both auctions on eBay. Check them out (here and here)! Considering a brand new jean cloth confederate uniform goes for something like $80 a piece, the kepi at $35-$40 itself, the set price of $160 for trousers, jacket, and kepi is (I believe) a steal. And it is period quality.
We then ate a spectacular lunch at the Dobbin House (if you’re in town, you must stop off and eat there–amazing service and food) following a few detours into one or two souvenir stores along the way.
After a few hours in town, we made our way back to the battlefield towards Pitzer’s Woods. After all, we can’t go to Gettysburg without stopping off to see some reenactors. This area of the battlefield saw some heavy, albeit short, fighting on July 2nd, with members of the 1st US Sharpshooters holding off General Wilcox’s Alabama brigade. And as it would happen, members of the 2nd US Sharpshooters were on sight to greet us:
A good bunch of men are they.
Following a good chat with them, we made out way over to Sachs Bridge. This is probably the most historic bridge in Pennsylvania. It was crossed by both armies during the Gettysburg campaign, including a good number of the wounded and dead from the battle. It was washed away in some floods but rebuilt with much of the same materials. Every inch of it is covered in graffiti.
It is eerily still there. In fact Sachs Bridge is reportedly one of the most haunted areas in Gettysburg, with ghost sightings, vaporous apparitions, and energy orbs spotted there all the time. I’ve never seen anything. But it was creepy. Carvings in the wood go back to 1877 (at least, that is the earliest I saw). I can’t imagine anyone standing there carving their names into such a historic bridge, let alone this particular one, given the vibe you get walking through it.
Next, it was off to town once more. This time we had our eyes set on the antiques downtown. We spent about an hour and half there and felt like we barely scrapped the surface. There were so many vendors. After a long day, several hours in fact, we had decided it was time to leave. It is always hard for me to say goodbye to Gettysburg. I have so many memories of the place, so much interest in it. But it isn’t a ‘forever’ goodbye. I’ll be back again soon! It is hard to stay away.