Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 8, Gettysburg

Today started out early in our B&B, with coffee, baked oatmeal and toast. Our hosts were headed out to church so we ate breakfast and took off after they gave Jeff some good recommendations for history books to read about the Pacific Northwest. We said goodbye to "Home of Peace" and headed West to Gettysburg.

We spent nearly the whole day at Gettysburg. We started at the visitor's center and watched a movie. Then, we visited the Cyclorama, a 360 degree painting that was made 130 years ago. It's 42 feet high and quite a marvel. While you view the Cyclorama, a story is narrated depicting the battle of Pickett's Charge, which was a turning point in the battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. After viewing the Cyclorama, we toured the museum which had many cool artifacts which I would show you pictures of, but I'm on crummy wifi so I can't seem to upload my pictures. BUT, if you want to see some cool pictures from today, you can click here to view them on Facebook, where I was able to upload them.

Gettysburg is full of amazing and beautiful memorials, statues, cannons, and scenery, but it was a three-day battle which resulted in nearly 50,000 casualties . IN THREE DAYS. That is a staggering number. These were Americans, fighting on American soil, because the South wanted to keep slavery and stay seceded from the Union, and the North wanted to take back the seceded states and abolish slavery. What resulted was a culminating battle in the civil war, which raged on a full two years after the Battle of Gettysburg.

The sheer number of casualties resulted in every home and building in the town becoming a hospital of sorts. Many men died and were buried at private homes, such that, according to a re-enacter we met today, "the entire town of Gettysburg is a cemetery."

We got to see, up close, the many types of shells and mortars used in battle. Some shells were filled with gunpowder and designed to explode in the air, raining shrapnel down on soldiers. Others were packed full of "mini balls" - 58 caliber lead balls - that released from the cannon, spinning and spraying in all directions, causing gruesome injuries and deaths. Others were designed to shoot at high velocity, so that their initial firing could take out 23 men (literally shearing off their heads) and still explode in front of them, such that "there was a cloud of smoke, a pink mist, and, above that, body parts flying. When the smoke settled, you couldn't find an intact body part anywhere." The re-enacter stated "War is the science of killing. And they were pretty good at it, even back then."

Worse, many (most!) of the casualties were very young men. One was only 19, and already a veteran, when he died in the Battle of Gettysburg. Still another, at age 26, died a valiant death and was promoted to Brigadier General before his death, which he never lived long enough to discover. The only civilian death was a 20 year old woman named Jennie who had stayed at her sister's house to help care for her nephew. A bullet went through two doors and hit her in the back, killing her.

Today, it's hard to believe that the wide-open fields, dotted with over 1300 memorials, were once covered in bodies so deep the townspeople of Gettysburg organized campaigns to quickly bury the dead in the 92 degree July heat to prevent pestilence and illness. Looking over the fields on a beautiful sunny day, such as today, it's next to impossible to imagine the carnage. If you believe in ghosts, this place much be rich with them.

If you plan to visit, set aside a whole day. It takes at least three hours just to drive the route around all the important locations, and every location has photo opportunities, not to mention tons of reading about the history of the place.

As soon as we finished the driving tour, we headed off to Harpers Ferry and our next Airbnb location. I knew it was rural, but let me tell you, I started hearing banjos before we arrived. Kidding! Our new place is a working farm nestled in the hills outside Harpers Ferry, WV. We were greeted by their HUGE dog, McKiver, and two of the sweetest cats. Our room, again, is inside their personal residence, It's warm and cozy with the wood-burning fireplace. We arrived after dark, so we have to wait till tomorrow to see the farm and the animals, which include over 40 chickens and two fainting goats! I'm so excited to see the goats.

We checked in and soon after headed to Shepherdstown for dinner. Our host recommended the Blue Moon Cafe, which turned out to be pretty delicious - their menu included locally produced produce, dairy, eggs and beef. Jeff had a salad of spinach, baby red potatoes, portabello mushrooms and feta. I had a black bean burger. The place had a funky vibe, kind of hippie-ish. Their chocolate pie, which we split for dessert, is locally made and delicious.

Tomorrow I'll write more about the Stony Creek Farm B&B. We'll head to Antietam Battlefield in the morning, then up to State College for Jeff's conference. Our next three nights will be in a hotel. Stay tuned for more!

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