Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Birthday at Gettysburg

That title sounds pretty morbid, right?  Anyway, the first stop on Atley's birthday trip was Gettysburg.  Immediately, the boys chose opposing sides of the war dressing up like Johnny Reb and Billy Yank. I can imagine as young Virginian's in 1861, the boys may have made a similar choice.  Atley is a staunch federalist and Nash is always the rebel. As you can see in the pictures below, Johnny Reb had a bit too much fun with his sling-shot, even torturing Honest Abe and pretending to eliminate Yankee troops on the Cyclorama painting.

 After watching the film, visiting the museum and the cyclorama at the visitor's center we bought an audio tour from the gift shop and drove around the enormous battlefield ourselves.  I definitely recommend this option for anyone traveling with kids. You can make your tour as long (up to six hours) or as short as you need/want it to be.

Gettysburg is the world's largest statuary garden, with almost 1,400 monuments dedicated to different men and regiments. I took many pictures of monuments most more impressive than those above, but these were the kid's favorites. Top Left:  During the first day of the three day battle a large oak tree stood in that spot.  Receiving a direct cannon hit the tree was decapitated leaving behind only a tall stump.  When the top of the tree fell, a bird's nest also fell out of one of the branches with three baby birds.  In the middle of the battle a Union Soldier picked up the nest and put it on top of the stump.  Several minutes later the mother bird came back with worms for her babies, just like the battle around her wasn't even an issue. Top Right:  Atley standing at the spot where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address.  As a side note I had to memorize that address in third grade for hitting my teacher in the back with a spit wad.
Bottom:  Harley picking flowers to give to the puppy named Sally who died on the battlefield with the Pennsylvania Infantry.
When you read about the Battle of Gettysburg you read about the Peach Orchard and the Wheat Field and of course Big and Little Round Top.  Above the boys played on the rocks of Little Round top where the Union Troops dug in and had a significant geographical advantage over the confederates below.  
The National Cemetery at Gettysburg is a remarkably moving place. I felt fortunate and grateful to be there over Memorial Day weekend. My pictures do no justice to the amount of graves filled with unidentified soldiers. A few, mostly Union graves,  have names but most graves are simply numbers and with 51,000 casualties at Gettysburg the numbers grow larger and larger as you walk through each row.  Each section of the cemetery is marked by a section of poem called the Bivouac of the Dead. Four stanzas from the poem is pictured above. It reads:
The Muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The Soldier's last tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That Brave and fallen few
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.
Your own proud lands heroic soil
Must be your fitter grave
She claims from war his biggest spoil
The ashes of the Brave
Rest on Embalmed and Sainted Dead
Dear as the blood you gave
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave.

No comments: