Relive three days that shaped America
On July 1-3, 1863, this Pennsylvania town played host to the turning point in the Civil War. After harrowing fighting in the fields and hills around town, the Army of the Potomac defeated the Army of Northern Virginia led by General Robert E. Lee, incurring over 23,000 casualties. Today, the sacrifices of the Union and Confederate armies who clashed are memorialized in a 6,000-acre park replete with memorials and preserved fields of battle. The area’s history, along with the welcoming local community, puts this destination high on many travelers’ bucket lists.
Echoes of War in Gettysburg National Military Park
Your options for getting around Gettysburg National Military Park are many. Imagine traveling the same terrain as Civil War soldiers did on horseback. Take a bike tour, opt for a carriage or bus tour with a professional guide onboard, join a group tour using a Segway or tour in your own car with your very own licensed professional guide. No matter what mode of transportation or type of tour you choose, your visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield will be an unforgettable one.
Experts advise that before you go on any Gettysburg excursion, you may want to start with an orientation. The Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center has maps and other information. There’s also a deployment of experienced park rangers who stand ready to help you get around and make the most of your visit. The park also offers campfire events, walks and living history experiences — all designed to preserve and accurately interpret the history of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The town of Gettysburg goes to great lengths to preserve its Civil War history. Many historic sites are staffed with costumed interpreters who speak with period accents and share key chapters of the Civil War story. Licensed town historians guide visitors through the Gettysburg of old through walking tours around town.
From spring to fall, Gettysburg National Military Park and local museums host interactive events and demonstrations. The activities include recreations of soldier camps, actors portraying President Abraham Lincoln and performances of songs from the Civil War with period instruments. The Annual Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment is a major event held on or near the battle’s anniversary (July 5-8 for 2018). Thousands of costumed reenactors participate in this event, marching in formation, firing period rifles and charging with bayonets attached. The reenactment of the fateful Picket’s Charge — considered the battle’s pivotal event — shouldn’t be missed.
The Gettysburg Heritage Center gives visitors a glimpse into the lives of residents before, during and after the cataclysmic battle. Educational exhibits and activities engage the entire family. Gettysburg’s Seminary Ridge Museum is another compelling window into the past. A former Lutheran seminary, the structure served as a field hospital for wounded Union soldiers during and after the battle. The last patient left the hospital well after the battle in September of 1863. The museum is part of a tour that includes eight historic churches in downtown Gettysburg, each with its own story of the Gettysburg Battle.
Lovers of preserved 1800s architecture will find a paradise in Gettysburg. Check out the Rupp House History Center and Jennie Wade House, two structures that have been lovingly kept up. Another is the historic David Wills House, a downtown museum that tells the story of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.
The Shriver House Museum features a tour guide dressed in period clothing who tells the stories of how everyday people were affected by the battle. The house was once the residence of the Shriver family (George, Hettie, Sadie and Mollie), who were caught up in the furies of conflict. At the height of the fighting, the Shriver home (built in 1860) was used as an impromptu hospital; medical supplies were later discovered under the floorboards during restoration work. Confederate snipers also used the attic as a perch. The home itself is a beautifully restored period peace.
The role that Gettysburg and surrounding Adams County played in African American history is shared through a pair of guided tours: Underground Railroad Tours of Adams County and African American Voices at Gettysburg Tours. Both require reservations. Nearby, Sachs Covered Bridge gives visitors a glimpse into Civil War-era infrastructure. Located off Pumping Station Road (also known as Water Works Road), this historic landmark was used by both Union and Confederate soldiers.
Every third weekend in July, Gettysburg celebrates the game of baseball, circa 1894. The Gettysburg National 19th Century Baseball Festival pays homage to America’s pastime by replicating the same rules and customs—down to the equipment and uniform styles—used by players of the late 1800s. On the same weekend, make time to enjoy the Adams County Irish Festival at Moose Park in Gettysburg, complete with authentic music, costuming and food.
Speaking of food, there’s even a walking tour of the local cuisine (just under one mile, but not continuous, mind you) called Savor Gettysburg Food Tours. Seven different eateries are featured, and yes, you have the option of trying out each one. For a different kind of excursion, enjoy lunch or dinner at a new attraction called A Day in the Life of a Soldier — in Their Shoes. This camp is specially designed for kids, complete with “Civil War” soldiers in full battle dress, authentically styled wagons, tents and other attractions.
Hit the Links or Shop
Visit Gettysburg’s Steinwehr Avenue for restaurants and gift and souvenir shops, along with art galleries and other interesting finds. For golfers, try out the championship courses at the Links at Gettysburg or Carroll Valley Golf Course at nearby Liberty Mountain. For smaller golfers, Mulligan MacDuffer Adventure Golf & Ice Cream Parlor touts waterfalls, streams and caves.
For More Information
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development