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50 States, Day 124

Day  124, Gettysburg   184 Miles
"The bright uniforms and braided caps of yesterday are gone...Boys who enlisted in their teens appeared changed now into men of middle age."
~Captain Henry Owen, 18th Virginia Infantry, during the American Civil War.

I'm reading a novel and the Russian spy woman asks the cop, "Why do you Americans celebrate your defeats? Custer, Little Big Horn, Pearl Harbor..."

Gettysburg, the most well known battle in American history, fits that question. A city that became a battlefield, through no planning on either side.  We rode to the memorial today and expected a somber reminder of America's darkest days, and it certainly proved true. Yet, like gawking at a car crash, one can't look away but must stare in wonderment at the tragic spectacle. Lee requested his Confederate troops go north to Pennsylvania for no other reason than to let Virginia recover from its battle wounds and perhaps plant crops for the next season. They approached Gettysburg to find Union troops there. 

Soon the battle began.

The Battle of Gettysburg lasted three days and caused 51,000 casualties. Compare that to Vietnam, a twelve year war with 58,000 American deaths.

What most people forget is the little city of Gettysburg from July 1-3, 1863, caught up in a war. On the fourth and fifth days it rained steadily on the dead and injured, and the troops, both North and South, headed south to Virginia. Every house, barn and building became a makeshift hospital for soldiers of both sides. People ripped doors off walls for stretchers, and the stench of the human casualties, not to mention 6,000 horses, was overpowering. It took Gettysburg
fifty years to return to some degree of normalcy.

We toured the battlefield on a bus with a guide, a great idea, as she knew her Civil War history and made the scene come alive for us. Inside the museum, we viewed a movie and a self guided tour documenting the event.

It looks like three days would be a reasonable time to tour Gettysburg, should one be interested in history. However, at five o'clock we looked at one another and said, "Let's go." I don't know about others, but the weight and oppression of this horrible event got to be too much. It's hard to imagine living through it, whether civilian or soldier and not wondering if the world was ending.

We headed back home-that is, to the Hershey campground, stopping at Lyndon's diner for some dinner. If you're looking for great liver and onions, Landon's grill can hook you up. QG enjoyed a bacon cheeseburger. How's that for an
emotional shift?

Tomorrow we head for the outskirts of Pittsburgh, to visit the Flight 93 memorial. There's a pick me up from Gettysburg. Well, Saturday is the AMA National Motocross. We've missed the H-D factory tour and Falling Waters, a Frank Lloyd Wright building, but not giving up. We may steal a few days from another state. You could call us the Pittsburgh stealers.

'Til then.


Mel Nason said...

It looks like you barely missed Intercourse, a short wagon ride from Paradise and a bit farther from Fertility. Those Amish folks sure know how to name their towns, don't they?

................................ Kevin Parsons said...

Your mind is in an Amish sewer. Wait a minute. It's probably an Amish septic tank.