Gettysburg is a quaint small town inextricably tied to the historic event that took its name from the place: The Battle of Gettysburg.
The battle was actually many battles over three bloody days of the Civil War. The aftermath crippled the town and gave it its legacy.
My recent visit included a spot at the place where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address in such record time that the photographers never got a shot of him speaking. The only existing photo was taken by someone in the crowd (likely using the newest smartphone).
The speech was given to dedicate the national cemetery. Everyone knows the Four score and seven years ago part, but my favorite bit is tucked in the middle:
“…we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced…”
Notice how he changed the purpose from dedicating a cemetery to dedication to the cause of preservation of the union? Masterful!
But here’s a little-known fact thanks to a previous National Parks Service tour. This grave with the funny hollowed place did not always read: UNKNOWN. Imagine the surprise of the veteran, after returning to visit the grave of his fallen comrades, discovering his own grave. There were so many bodies strewn over such historic battle sites as Devil’s Den and the Wheatfield, that identification was difficult to impossible. His body was identified by the contents of his backpack but the veteran reported the pack was stolen the night before the battle.
So the stone should read: THIEF. Or perhaps, UNKNOWN THIEF.
The town still bears the scars of the battle that ebbed and flowed for days. The Farnsworth House Inn was the site of Confederate sharpshooters and the efforts to eliminate them is etched on the stone wall. Each minie ball strike is painted white to show its location. If you walk around the town, you can find other many homes with such scars and some with cannon balls still in embedded in the brick.
We visited the train station where Lincoln arrived in downtown Gettysburg. There is a small museum there and many shops and restaurants nearby.
Outside of town in the Military Park there are numerous monuments (it’s nearly impossible to see them all) and the new welcome center. Funny, I went straight to the old site which once housed the Electric Map. Do you remember that?
GETTYSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK
Well both the map and the building were gone. The new location is larger and includes an extensive museum, film, gift shops, restaurant and cyclorama which is the largest painting (circa 1880) of the battle which is longer than a football field and viewed from a platform inside the circular painting. We were there during an Eagle Scout invasion driving us to take a higher position.
Do you know there was only ONE civilian casualty of the battle? Here name was Jenny Wade and she was making bread in her kitchen when she was struck and killed by a mini ball. Her home is now a museum. This reminds me of the kind of accidental shootings still hitting innocents today. Thankfully, the gift shop does not serve bread.
If you are a history buff, Gettysburg is a must see!
So…Back to the riders hoof position giving us clues to how the rider fared in battle. This from Wiki:
“In the United States and the United Kingdom, an urban legend states that if the horse is rearing (both front legs in the air), the rider died in battle; one front leg up means the rider was wounded in battle or died of battle wounds; and if all four hooves are on the ground, the rider died outside battle.”