As a history buff and Army veteran, I am interested in Civil War battlefields. There is probably no other city in the country better situated than Washington, DC for touring the battlefields of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Most are within a 2 hour drive away. Having seen Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Antietam, I figured I drive up to Gettysburg, PA to see the big one.
Trip Logistics:From DC, Gettysburg is a nice drive up I270 through Frederick, MD and Route 15 (see map). A lot of great farmland to look at and a few farm stands along the way. I’d recommend going in the fall to catch the changing leaves as you go further north.
Sights: After getting pretty good BBQ at Chubby‘s (Emmitsburg, MD), I started out visiting the town of Gettysburg, which has a classic American-style central square with a traffic circle, off which 4 main streets lead out of the city. One of the streets leads down to Gettysburg College, about a 10 minute walk from the square. It was almost 95 degrees and humid, so my dog Ollie and I didn’t spend too much time downtown or go into any shops, but I got a feel for the place.
Next, I headed to the Gettysburg National Military Park, where you can just drive your car in and around the battlefield without paying an entrance fee. I had a book of Civil War battlefield maps and descriptions, so I did not feel the need to have a tour guide. I am sure I would have learned a lot more with a tour group, but I had my dog in tow.
I started out at Cemetery Hill, near where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, and then walked over to the area where Major General Pickett made his famous ill-fated charge against General Meade’s forces on the last day of the battle.
Navigating some poorly marked roads within the battlefield, I found my way to Little Round Top, the site of a Confederate infantry and cavalry charge against Union forces. Little Round Top is a hill in that held strategic importance during the battle; the Confederates made charge after charge against the Union Forces who held the higher ground. The Union managed to repel the attacks and hold the hill, an event described in the novel Killer Angels.
On the day of my visit, the weather was turning ominous, so I almost had the park to myself. Looking at the rock-strewn valley in front of Little Round Top, it was hard to believe that during the battle the place ran red with the blood of soldiers from both sides.
On the way out, I went to a little market and pottery place called The Lion Potter, a mile or south of the battlefield area, where I picked up some vegetables.