Friday, October 10, 2008

Day 39, Friday, Oct 10, Allentown to Gettysburg, PA

We had been at the Gettysburg battlefield for several hours and it was getting late in the day, but before we headed off to look for lodging for the night Linda prevailed on me to stop and take time to survey the National Military Cemetary, the dedication of which brought an invitation for President Abraham Lincoln to participate, and which gave to the nation and the world the words which are regarded as the finest expression of the English language in any time, place or age: The Gettysburg Address.

I am so glad we stopped and took the time to visit this historic place. This bust of Lincoln sits near the entrance to the cemetary. He was, in my opinion, a man raised up by God to preserve the Union, in a way similar to those great men, our founding fathers who established our country and framed our Constitution. I have the greatest admiration for him.

This is the monument in the center of the National Military Cemetary at Gettysburg, placed on or near the spot where Lincoln stood when he gave his "Gettysburg Address" at the dedication of the cemetary.

Surrounding this monument are concentric ring after concentric ring of stone markers, showing the burial place of soldiers from both sides of the conflict that perished on the battlefield and who could never be properly identified or claimed by their loved one.

From atop this boulder strewn position, Little Round Top, the far left of the Union forces withheld ferocious attempts by Virginians, Mississippians and North Carolinians to turn their flank. Their heroic counter-charge when all but out of ammunition drove the Confederates back, causing Lee to decide on the final day of battle to strike at the center of the Union position and not at the flanks.
This monument with the heroic size bronze of General Robert E. Lee astride his famous horse Traveler is located on Cemetary Ridge near the spot where Lee positioned himself to observe the battle.
General George Meade was the newly appointed commanding general of the Union Army. By a series of fortunate circumstances his army achieved the high ground on Seminary Ridge to the east of the little village of Gettysburg. There they awaited the attack from Lee's Confederate forces.

We opted for the self-guided 'Auto Tour" of the battlefield, following the directions on the map provided.

We were able to drive from point to point around the entire perimeter of the very large national military park that encloses the battlefield. Heroic monuments like this one erected by the State of Pennsylvania in honor of her civil war dead, grace the field. We couldn't begin to photograph all of them.

We arrived at our destination, the Gettysburg National Military Park, 44 miles south of Harrisburg, at about 1:15 pm. Even though it was the beginning of a holiday weekend we were unprepared for the throngs of people visiting the battlefield. Hundreds and hundreds. Many, many older citizens like ourselves, but many younger people and families as well. This is indeed a national shrine that touches people's hearts.

We took advantage of viewing a special film narrated by Morgan Freeman, followed by a most impressive panaramic display of Picket's Charge. This is final moment of the conflict, where on day three of the battle (July 3, 1863), 10,000 Confederate soldiers in full battle dress, banners and flags flying in the breeze stepped off in perfect formation from the trees seen on Cemetary ridge a mile away across these open fields, and marched toward this spot, "the copse of trees," where the Union Army awaited on Seminary Ridge. Though there was a brief breakthrough right at this point on the Union line, led by General Armisted and his men of "Old Dominian" (Virginians) the Confederates were thrown back and suffered terrible loss. Shattered beyond all hope and endurance they withdrew from the field, ending the battle. There were over 53,000 casulties on both sides during these three terrible days, July 1,2 and 3. Many, many of them are buried as "Name Unknown" in the military cemetary nearby, dedicated by President Abraham Lincoln on the occasion of his immortal speech, "Fourscore and seven years ago ..." The Gettysburg Address. It was the turning point of the Civil War. It is sacred ground.

It was very sobering to come to this spot after the orientation and film in the Visitor's Center as the beginning our 'self tour.'

As we came to Harrisburg, PA on I-78 we saw two remarkable old stone bridges spanning the Susquehanna River upstream from us. We were in heavy traffic on the Interstate bridge so Linda took a quick shot with the camera.

Quite the river at this point. Much larger than we realized it would be.

And what was the name of the road through the tiny village of Chapman? Well, of course, "Chapman's Road."

Well, would you believe it? We took a wrong turn as we left the hotel in Allentown, PA this morning, looking for access to the Interstate and came upon this sign along the side of the road.

The area we were driving through was a sort of non-descript combination of commercial, industrial and old residential housing on the western outskirts of Allentown. We drove down the road a short distance and there was the same sign, welcoming eastbound travelers to the "Village of Chapman."

We will need to do a little research to learn about this, but it was interesting to come upon it by accident.