It seems that every generation thinks they are living through extraordinary times, unseen by those who have gone before. But this is not the first time that the world has gone through a pandemic, nor is it the first time that our country has been deeply divided.
Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania reminds us of this time – when Americans were deep into a civil war that was tearing the country apart. But out of that came one of the most uplifting and eloquent speeches that a president has ever made – the Gettysburg Address. Just 272 words that captured the gravity of this national cemetery filled with civil war dead, while providing inspiration to those left behind.
President Abraham Lincoln’s speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery took only two minutes to deliver. It read:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, 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. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Visiting Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg National Military Park reminds us of those words and honors the thousands of men who met their death on this battlefield. More men were lost during the battle at Gettysburg than any other. Gettysburg National Military Park preserves the site of the 1863 civil war battle of Gettysburg.
When you visit, be sure to go to the visitor center and see the cyclorama – a 360 degree painting that depicts the battle. You can also learn more about how this battle fit into the overall civil war at the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War, part of the visitor center.
Then get out into the battlefield. Gettysburg National Military Park encompasses over 6000 acres, with more than 1300 monuments scattered throughout including the Eternal Light Peace Memorial and memorials put up to honor soldiers from various states and regiments.
There is a 24 mile drive with a self guiding auto tour, with pull outs at each of the memorials and battle sites. Plan to take 2-3 hours and visit them all, progressing through the 3-day battle.
There are several walking tours. Cemetery Ridge trail takes you from the visitor center for a 1.5 mile walk along one of the key battle lines. There are also a couple of longer hikes – one 3 miles and one 9.5 miles. It is also a nice place to go for a run or bicycle ride. Or, if you prefer a guided tour, there are lots of those available.
If you are able to stay in the area, we also recommend a visit to Eisenhower National Historic Site and a visit to historic downtown Gettysburg, including a stop at the train station and other historic buildings.
We enjoyed dinner at the Dobbins House Tavern, built in 1776. We loved the atmosphere. There are lots of places to stay and things to see the area. Ghost tours, historic buildings, quaint restaurants… you will easily be able to fill your day.
Need Help Planning Your Visits?
If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.