Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My Experience At Gettysburg

This is the closest I will come to posting a family pic at Gettysburg
We arrived in Gettysburg two days ago. Yesterday we explored the Gettysburg National Military Park. We took the driving audio tour. Today we visited the excellent park museum. Normally, while on this trip, when we visit some historical location, I have posted fun family photos. After two days, it’s clear that Gettysburg is not the appropriate place for this. How can you feel right about posting a family selfie in a place where nearly as many Americans lost their lives in a single battle (51,112) as in the entire Vietnam War (58,209). The whole place is a giant cemetery.
Some faces of men who lost their lives at the battle of Gettysburg from the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum
After spending a day travelling the battlefield and hearing the historical retelling of the battle and a day exploring the museum, I can only think of one other place that I have felt was darker: Birkenau. Mind you, Birkenau was a Nazi death camp where along with Auschwitz over 1.1 million people were put to death. However the feeling is the similar, this is a place where too many people died. Not a place for family selfies.

The town of Gettysburg is surrounded on three sides by the battlefields. As you travel the battlefields or even the town it is hard to go more than an 100 yards without viewing a memorial for fallen American soldiers. It is a hard place to introduce your children to history, especailly as the audio tour introduces you stories like the Wheatfield, an area the size of a couple football fields where thousands of men died. There were so many deaths that they said you could walk portions of the field without touching the ground. However, both the Union and Confederate armies retreated from this field for days leaving the wounded to fend for themselves. Even as a nearby farm’s pigs were unintentionally set loose from their pen, with the injured having to fend off the pigs as they fed on the dead and dying.

Despite the horrors of the battle that was fought here, I am glad I came. I learned more about the Civil War in the past two days than I could have possibly imagined. There was so much to take in, and my daughters really don't have any mental frame of reference to be able to begin to appreciate what happened here (actually I don't have any mental frame of refernce for this), so I'm not sure how much of this is sinking in now. I can just hope that later on, perhaps when my daughters are in highschool, they study the American Civil War and they will have the memories of this place to draw upon.

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts on your visit. My comparison was Normandy. Yet those that died there were not citizens of the same country. It is hard to imagine the enormity of the battles and the loss.