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The Gettysburg Battlefield

Listed under Battlefields in US East Coast, United States.

  • Photo of The Gettysburg Battlefield
  • Photo of The Gettysburg Battlefield
  • Photo of The Gettysburg Battlefield
  • Photo of The Gettysburg Battlefield
  • Photo of The Gettysburg Battlefield
  • Photo of The Gettysburg Battlefield
  • Photo of The Gettysburg Battlefield
  • Photo of The Gettysburg Battlefield
Photo of The Gettysburg Battlefield
Photo by iainstanden
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Without doubt one of the finest battlefield experiences in the world is to be had at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, the site of one of, if not the, decisive battle of the American Civil War.

In June 1863 Robert E Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of North Virginia, launched a second invasion of the Northern States in the hope of achieving greater success than the previous September in taking the Civil War to the Union’s doorstep. The Battle of Gettysburg was the culmination of this invasion and took place from the 1st to the 3rd July 1863 between the 75,000 strong Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Lee, and the Union Army of the Potomac, numbering some 95,000, under its newly appointed commander Major General George Meade. Starting on the 1st July as an accidental skirmish in the town of Gettysburg, the encounter quickly escalated into a full scale battle between the two armies which lasted over the next three days. The Union forces in the minority at the early stages, quickly withdrew to the high ground and adopted a defensive posture forcing Lee’s Confederates to attack them. This they did for the two days culminating in the ill-feted ‘Pickett’s Charge’ on the afternoon of the 3rd July. Despite great courage and determination the Confederates failed to dislodge the Union forces and, on the 4th July, having suffered 28,000 casualties over the preceding three days, they withdrew back towards the Mason-Dixon line never to incur into the Northern States on the same scale again.

Today the battlefield of Gettysburg is a National Military Park, founded in 1933 and occupying almost 6,000 acres of Pennsylvania countryside next to the town of Gettysburg. It is a well-appointed with a huge amount to see and experience. The field is liberally covered with monuments to the combatants – virtually every participating organisation is represented, as are most of the key personalities - whilst strategically placed cannon mark the various battle lines. The visitor is advised to start with a call at the Visitor Centre where the Electronic Map Show provides a very informative explanation and overview of the battle. Housed in the same building are a small museum and a very well-stocked bookstore. (This facility is in the process of being replaced by a new centre which is due to open in early 2008.) For the first time visitor, particularly those unfamiliar with battle, the services of a licensed battlefield guide are a worthwhile investment. These can be obtained through the Visitor Centre and are hugely knowledgeable individuals who, having undertaken a rigorous training programme, will make the battlefield come to life. For those who desire more independence or are familiar with the battle there is a well signed route round the park that can be driven by car, with a number of optional walking trails enabling one to visit specific features and viewpoints.

The importance of the site to the history of the American Civil War, and by extrapolation American history, coupled with the manner in which the park is preserved and interpreted, makes Gettysburg a fascinating place to visit. Very highly recommended.

Written by  Colonel Iain Standen.

Other expert and press reviews

“Fields of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1st-3rd July1863”

This very famous battle of the American Civil War is remembered for it’s large numbers of casualties and is believed by many historians to have been the turning point in hostilities. The outcome, decided over the course of three days in July 1863 was t… Read more...

Written by  Anthony Harrison.

“Path of the Sacred and the Mundane”

By Joshua Kurlantzik Published February 8, 2009 Crossing the Potomac River, I drive through seemingly endless suburban sprawl — one prefab home after the next — until I begin to despair. But finally, I stumble onto my destination: Ball’s Bluff Battlef… Read more...

Written by press. Continue reading on travel.nytimes.com

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Great Time for all

See some films before hand or study your history to understand this battle. Take a full day or more to fully enjoy everything. Stand on top of the hill at the " High Water Mark" and relive the horror of Pickett's charge

The battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War with the South invading the North. It was also a particularly bloody war with over 50,000 casualties. The war ended with a victory on the side of the Union and ended Robert E. Lee's invasion. Start your visit at the Visitors Center, where you will find the information you need to continue your stay. The museum is also a great place to learn about the history of the war and the battlefield itself. From here you may choose from either a guided tour or to explore the battlefield on your own.

I would like to know more information on the skirmish at Marsh Creek in 1863

I would like to know more information on the skirmish at Marsh Creek in 1863 and did it occur near the Gettysburg Campground?

Battle of Gettysburg Re-enactment

The defeat of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on 3rd July, 1863 followed a campaign of battles fought at Gettysburg, climaxing with the Battle of Gettysburg itself, which resulted in more deaths and casualties than any other during the whole American Civil War.

The battle lasted for three days, and the re-enactment does too – but it’s interspersed with live mortar fire demonstrations, costumed dances in the evenings, live musical performances and dramatic interpretations of Civil War generals, spies, soldiers and other characters by professional actors. Specialist historians also hold lectures on subjects such as Civil War medicine, Victorian fashion and Gettysburg ghost stories. The event culminates in a re-enactment of ‘Pickett’s Charge’, the final battle.

To participate in the battle re-enactments, it’s necessary to register with the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee, but other activities are open to everyone.

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