Gettysburg National Military ParkPosted: February 15, 2013
Last weekend, Lucas and I spent the day wandering through the battlefields of Gettysburg. This year is the 150th anniversary of the battle, and yet, I still found myself holding my breath and whispering as we walked across the fields of a place where so many people died. It is somehow amazing and horrifying and real.
It was nice to be there during off-season. Often we found ourselves alone or mostly alone on the various stops, and we were free to read every sign as quietly and slowly as we wished. And from the observation towers we could stand and look, unobstructed, for miles in every direction until the constant gusts of chilly wind forced us down.
My favorite places in Gettysburg are Little Round Top and Devils Den. A section of the battlefield that stretches from the rocky hill-top to a catacomb of boulders that served as an outpost for snipers during the battle. Some of the stone walls the soldiers built for cover on Little Round top are still there, making the ghost of the past that much more real. And Devils Den still feels as damp and narrow and cryptic as I imagine it did so many years ago, even with children (and adults) slithering through the cracks and crevices once inhabited by soldiers.
But the place that makes me the quietest, and the saddest, is the field were Pickett’s Charge took place. As I look out at the exposed, dry-grass of a naked field slowly rising to the high-water mark of the battle on Cemetary Ridge, all I can imagine is fear. How impossible it must have felt to walk out onto that field as the Union artillery rained down. Over 6,000 confederate soldiers died trying to cross this field, and it became the turning point of the battle, and most agree, the war. What a strange combination to face in this little Pennsylvania town.