Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Gettysburg and Eisenhower National Sites

July 5th, we enjoyed ourselves in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and visited the Gettysburg National Military Park and also Eisenhower National Historic Site.  Ryan and Josh were supposed to join us but they flaked out so we ventured there by ourselves.  Too bad they didn't come because we had a great time in Gettysburg with all the history - albeit, solemn - that it had to offer.  The last time I was in Gettysburg was in 2001 just after 9-11 with my sister.  We decided to stop in Gettysburg for two days and stayed at the Gettysburg Hotel.  Back then, the visitor center was a red brick building with some great exhibits.  Then, we drove around the park.  It seemed a larger then.  Today, the park has a new face with a HUGE building and you have to pay to see anything here!  I was disappointed on how commercialized it has become.  There are private guides, bus guides, guide yourself and many, huge parking lots with each with different designations for handicapped, RVs, cars and shuttles at the visitor center.
NPS Photo
Once you enter the visitor center the first thing you want to do is get your tickets for anything you want to do.  This is probably THE most expensive park in the whole national park system - again, I feel like it's way commercialized from when I was here last and I think it took away a lot of the sacredness of the site, which didn't sit well with me.

First is the guided tours via bus option.  This costs $35 per adult and $21 for a child 6-12.  This is the option that we did.That said, I did very much appreciate our tour guide and the expertise he had and knowledge of the events of this location, which I would not have had.  This part of the purchase was very well done.  Here are a few pictures of our guide around the park.
NPS Photo
If you don't like crowds, the Private auto tours with licensed battlefield guides is 1-6 people per car $75.00, 7-15 people is $100 and over 16 people is $150.  The nice thing about this is that it's a private tour and can be adapted to your interest and questions.  Wow!  Expensive!

The next part of the park that we paid for was to go into the museum.  Single payment for the museum was $9.00 for adults and youth 6-12 were $7.00.  But, no one just wants to go to the museum.  To see the Film "A New Birth of Freedom" narrated by Morgan Freeman, the Cyclorama and the Museum was $15 for adult, $14 for senior and military veterans, $14 for AAA, $10 for youth and free for active duty military personnel.  This is the option we chose.
NPS photo
Now, the Gettysburg Visitor Center is also the place where you purchase transportation tickets to go to the Eisenhower Memorial, too.  The catch is that you can't drive to this location.  If you want to go there (and you can only stamp your book at that location), you MUST pay the price to be transported there through Gettysburg to the Eisenhower farm.  The cost for this is $9 per adult and $5 per child 6-12.
And, we still not done.  Tickets to go into the David Willis house also cost.  This is the home of the Gettysburg attorney and was the center of the immense clean-up process after the Gettysburg battle and where President Lincoln put the final touches on the Gettysburg address - the speech that changed Gettysburg from a place of death and devastation to the symbol of our nation's "new birth of freedom".  Normally, the cost is $7 per adult, $6 per senior and military, and $4 per youth over age 5, but from June 9th through Nov 19, 2018, the admission is free.  How nice.
Photo by Ordinary Philosophy
We did a combo package and paid $42 for the Film, Cyclorama, Museum, Battlefield Tour for $42 each and added on the Eisenhower Farm for $9 each.  So, we paid $102 to experience Gettysburg and the Eisenhower Farm!  Isn't that just CRAZY!?!!??!?!?!!!
So, let go on the bus ride.  We got to Gettysburg a little after 10 a.m. and were fortunate to get on the 10:30 a.m. bus ride.  So, we jumped on.  Our tour guild was a well-versed older gentleman who had a great knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg and gave us wonderful insights to the mindset of the Generals and took us step-by-step through the battle progression that happened on July 1-3, 1863.  Here are just a few photos of the highlights of the tour.  I'll leave the history research up to you.  This battle is just WAY too complicated to even try to replicate on a blog.  Some of these photos were taken out of the bus window...sorry.  The highlights of our tour were the town of Gettysburg, McPherson Ridge, North Carolina and Virginia Memorials, Pitzer Woods, Warfield Ridge, Little Round Top (my personal favorite location), The Wheatfield, The Peach Orchard, Plum Run, Pennsylvania Memorial and the Soldiers' National Cemetery.  It's best to refer to the Battlefield Touring Map if you want to do this yourself and get an audio-program.
After the bus tour, we went back to the visitor center for lunch in the cafeteria and looked in the gift shot before heading to the Film and Cyclorama.
The new film "A New Birth of Freedom" narrated by Morgan Freeman and the Gettysburg Cyclorama where probably my favorite parts of the experience.  The Cyclorama was painted by French artist Paul Dominique Philippoteaux and depicts Pickett's Charge, the failed infantry assault that was the climax of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The word, Cyclorama, is a cylindrical 360 degree painting and the cool thing about this painting is that there are effects of cannon fire, red skies, etc. so you feel like you're watching the battle first hand.  The original painting was 22 feet high and 279 feet in circumference!  Astonishing.  The Cyclorama that is in Gettysburg is a version that is 42 feet high and 377 feet in circumference.  It's just AMAZING!!
Once we finished the Cyclorama (I didn't have a dry eye after this.  It was so meaningful to me), it was time to load the van to head to the Eisenhower National Historic Site.
I didn't know that Eisenhower purchased property in Gettysburg and their retirement home...although after the bought it, he became president and there wasn't much retirement until years later and even then, he only was able to enjoy the home for a couple of years.  On the link above, there's a cute 2 minute video you can watch to enjoy the property for yourself.  I'll just put a couple of still photos here but visit the video.  The home is untouched and 99% in tact from when the Eisenhowers' lived in the home.  There is a home guide that we received of the 16 rooms we visited.  The home is 4,100 square feet with 24 rooms (eight are bathrooms).  Here's a few of my favorite rooms and exterior.
Entry Way
Living Room
Mamie over the Piano
Mamie's tuffet!  She HAD to have this even though Dwight hated it.
Guest Cottage
Barn and Car Garage (right of barn)
Their own gas station on site
Visitor Center Gift Shop
Once we concluded Eisenhower's farm, we went back to the Gettysburg VC to see the museum part of the park.  I've showed hundreds of photos of Civil War stuff, so I'm just going to show you things of interest only to Gettysburg.  For instance, this is a photo of Virginia "Jennie" Wade.  She was the only civilian casualty of the Gettysburg battle when a stray bullet shot through two doors and hit her in the back while tending her nephew.  I learned about her back in 2001 on the Ghosts of Gettysburg Tour I took.
So, with Jenny in mind, I want to show you photos of the faces of Gettysburg and just a few others.  When there is a face with a war, things always seem to take on a different perspective.  But, first let's define the Civil War by the states.
Many of these photos were of family members divided by war.
US Flag, 1861
Confederate Flag, 1861
This is what an army was made up of and what the uniforms were.
And, now for the faces of the Civil War.
Killed 3,500 / Wounded 18,000 / Captured and Missing 6,500
Killed 3,155 / Wounded 14, 529 / Captured or Missing 5,365
The Wounded
Wounded Quotes
As we finish our trip, I wanted to tell you that it was Civil War reenactment time at the park while we were there.  There were lots of people from all 50 states and even Europe!
We had a great time today.  It's definitely a must-see place to visit.  Despite the costs, you can also do this on a budget if you do your homework and research before you go by doing the audio tour.  Enjoy!

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