Day 7 - Gettysburg  
   
    The battlefield is littered with cannon, approximating positions held at different stages of the battle.    
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
 

On the Friday morning, the seventh day of my Journey across the USA, I said goodbye to my host Phil, and caught the Metro out to the end of the line, in Shady Grove, Maryland. I was going to meet up with my best friend David, who would be travelling with me for the rest of my journey across the USA.

David had not been able to travel with me for the first part of the trip because he had been in France at the wedding of a close friend. Now he was staying with some Australian expatriates living in Gaithersburg, Sarah and Ian. Sarah and Ian were friends of David's from university, and had generously opened their home to us for the duration of our time in the Washington DC area. Sarah had even arranged to take some time off work so that she could show us around.

I was met at the station by David and Sarah, and we dropped off my luggage at her house before heading off to Gettysburg to experience the famous battleground firsthand. Gettysburg is situated approximately 72 miles from Washington DC, in Pennslvania, and is an easy drive. By the time we got there however, we were ready for lunch. Sarah had been to Gettysburg before, and recommended that we stop at the Dobbin House Tavern for lunch.

 
   
   

Lunch at the Dobbin House Tavern, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

   
 

Minolta XD11 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala

   
 

Dobbin House is the oldest building in Gettysburg, built in 1776 by Reverend Alexander Dobbin. Reverend Dobbin was the Pastor of Rock Creek Presbyterian Church, which was situated about a mile north of the current town of Gettysburg. In 1774 he purchased 300 acres of land essentially where Gettysburg is today, and built the house as a combined home and Classical School, the equivalent today of a liberal arts college. Dobbin House was the first school of its kind west of the Susquehanna River, and developed a reputation as a fine school.

Restored painstakingly to its original state, the Dobbin House Tavern now features formal dining rooms, a ballroom, and the Springhouse Tavern, down in the candlelit basement of the building. The food in the tavern was hearty traditional fare, very tasty and reasonably priced, and served on crockery and with flatware that matched the building's heritage. I highly recommend a visit to The Dobbin House Tavern if you are visiting Gettysburg.

 
 
 
 
The scenery around Gettysburg can be quite sublime.
 
 
Minolta XD11 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC W.Rokkor. Film: Fuji Velvia 100F
 
 

While a federal government had existed in the United States of America since the election of George Washington as the first president in 1789, in the mid 1800's the power of the central government was being questioned by some Statesmen, who felt it was trying to impose a uniform code of laws that exceeded the intention of the republic's founders. Particularly at issue were tariffs on imported goods, that while benefitting Northern industrialised States, hurt Southern States that had an economic base built upon agriculture, and accordingly needed to import finished goods..

In response to these economic tariffs, the South seceded, establishing a new constitution virtually identical to that of the United States of America, except that it also outlawed various practices including protectionist tariffs, and electing Jefferson Davis as President. President Lincoln, declaring that a "house divided can not stand", did not accept the secession of the Southern States, and the war we now know as the American Civil War began in 1861. It is interesting to consider that the Southern States were simply endeavouring to do what the United States had successfully done only 72 years earlier, to establish a new government opposed to what they considered to be external tyranny.

 
 
 
 
The entire Gettysburg National Military Park still uses fences of the kind used in the 1860's.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC W.Rokkor. Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
 
 

After victories by the Confederacy in 1861 and 1862, in 1863 General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, decided on an offensive in the north. This offensive was to serve a dual purpose, firstly to take the fighting away from war-torn Virginia, and also to seek to win a decisive battle against the North on Northern soil, hopefully creating pressure on the Lincoln administration to accept a peace settlement, ending the war.

Lee led his 75,000 strong army north and was heading towards central Pennsylvania when he discovered that Major General George C Meade, leading the 95,000 strong Army of the Potomac, was pursuing him. General Lee sent several brigades East to forage for food for his advancing troops, and to identify exactly where they were. On the 1st of July 1863 these troops met with the advance elements of the Union forces just north of a small Pennsylvanian town called Gettysburg

 
 
 
 
Memorial to Lt. General James Longstreet
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 200mm f/2.8 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
 
 

On the first day of the battle the Confederate troops entered battle with the Union forces just north of Gettysburg, and despite heroic efforts by the Union forces the Confederates drove them south through the town, and into a defensive position on Culp's Hill, just south of Gettysburg. Here, with the onset of night, the Confederate troops halted their pursuit of the Union forces. Taking advantage of the break, the Union forces laboured through the night building defensive emplacements on Culp's Hill, while the bulk of the Army of the Potomac arrived and took up positions in support.

On the second day the two forces were lined up in a curving arc on opposing ridges, with the Union Army to the east on Cemetery Ridge, and the Confederate forces to the west on Seminary Ridge. The Union Army lines extended almost two miles, from Culp's Hill in the North to The Wheatfield in the south. General Lee ordered the Confederate troops to attack the two flanks of the Union forces, and while the attack at the northernmost flank was unsuccessful against the entrenched Union forces on Culp's Hill, in the south Lt. General James Longstreet successfully rolled up the Union Forces in the wheatfield, forcing them to retire in disarray. This attack would have turned the entire flank without the efforts of Union General G K Warren, who seeing that the strategic peak of Little Round Top at the southernmost end of the line was undefended, ordered his men to defend the position, which was done successfully.

 
 
 
 
The triangular field at Devil's Den, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
 
 
Minolta XD11 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC W.Rokkor. Film: Fuji Velvia 100F
 
 

July 2nd 1863 ended with both flank attacks having failed and the Confederate forces still not in possession of the Union high ground. The Confederates maintained the Devils Den at the foot of Little Round Top, and sniped at the Union forces on the hill, but in the north, the Confederate troops had been forced back to their positions at the start of the day.

The third day of the battle opened with Lee deciding to focus on the centre of the Union Lines at Cemetary Ridge. The confederate and Union artillery conducted a battle for supremacy all morning, and then at 1.00pm General George E Pickett led 15,000 Confederate troops in one of the most incredible attacks in military history. The attack, forever after dubbed "Pickett's Charge" saw General Pickett lead his men over one mile of open fields, up a gentle slope towards the Union lines. The entire time, from leaving the treeline one mile away, until reaching the Union lines, the men were under artillery and as they got closer, rifle fire.

In an incredible display of courage, some of the Confederate troops reached the Union lines, after braving cannister shot from the artillery at close range, and the combined fire of all the Union troops. However, after reaching the lines the Confederates were quickly overcome, and the attack failed. In fifty minutes the confederate forces had lost 10,000 men, making this the bloodiest battle in American, and possibly the world's history.

My description of the Battle of Gettysburg is naturally very brief, but I would recommend that anyone interested in getting a more complete understanding of the battle read some of the excellent resources that exist online. The site operated by the National Parks Service is an excellent start, and highly recommended.

 
 
 
 
The view from Devil's Den up towards Little Round Top.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X. Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
 
 

Post battle efforts to save portions of the battlefield were successful, and in 1895 Congress passed legislation declaring the area as a National Military Park in memory of the fallen. However, even before that date many monuments had already been erected around the site of the battlefield. Some of these were erected even before the end of the war. The memorials for the Union troops are generally much larger and more impressive than those for the Confederate regiments, because the south did not have the money to build large monuments due to the destruction to its economy caused by the war, and the abolition of slavery.

Since 1933 the National Parks Service has been responsible for caring for the battlefield, and the Parks service now runs an excellent guided tour of the battlefield.

 
 
 
 
Very soon after the battle the site began to be populated by memorial monuments to the fallen.
 
 
Minolta XD11 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 

Sarah was aware of the National Parks guide service, and so on our arrival she headed to the Park office to arrange a booking. The guide service at Gettysburg is unique in my experience, and is of outstanding quality. A guide meets you at your vehicle, and then proceeds to drive you around the park in your car, following the path of the battle over the three days. In the process you visit all of the key battlegrounds, and recieve an excellent history of the battle. At certain points around the field you stop, and the guide will walk you through a particular action in the battle on the actual ground it was fought.

 
 
 
 
A very fine example of a field artillery piece. A total of 634 artillery pieces were used in the battle.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
 
 

The guided tour was certainly a highlight of the day, and the insight into the battle given by our guide was excellent.

During our day I was fortunate to meet two re-enactors who had come to the park to act as models for an artist who was to be making sketches. The rules of the park require that the re-enactors could only access their weaponry at a certain time as specified by the permit they had obtained. While waiting for that time to arrive they kindly consented to me photographing them.

 
 
 
 
The uniform of a Union cavalry officer, Devil's Den, Gettysburg.
 
 
Minolta XD11 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 
 
 
A Union infantryman's uniform. Soldiers were required to keep the top button buttoned or risk a fine.
 
 
Minolta XD11 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 

The visit to Gettysburg was wonderful, and my only wish was that I had spent more time there, and researched the battle better before I arrived. I think that if I had done more research it would have benefited enormously my appreciation of this amazing place. There is no mistaking, however, that the Gettysburg National Military Park is hallowed ground, and should be visited by anyone with an interest in the Civil War.

 
 
 
 
Next - Day 8 Washington DC
 
 
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