Monday, June 7, 2010

Tips for a Visit to the Battlefield....

Alfred R. Waud, artist of Harper’s Weekly, sketching on the Gettysburg battlefield. July, 1863

I can't even imagine what it must have been like to be there, I mean right there in the middle of it all, and undertake the incredible task of trying to express this part of the Civil War in such a way for those of us in coming generations to understand.
One can't help but be overcome with all that happened when you stand anywhere on the battlefield-each one of us chooses to comprehend it in our own way to help our minds to make sense of the magnitude of this page in time. The beauty mingled with such strong emotions that drove men to battle years before....
It's hard to say the best way to experience such history-if you are like me, it's hard for my brain to absorb all the details in a short period of time-I need to take it all in slowly and in a way that will resonate with me so I will be able to remember important details in the future-I want to know everything, but yet I realize the limitations of my mind and I try not to set such high expectations. It never ceases to amaze me when I am standing near people when I visit the Battlefield who can easily spout off a multitude of facts-I will never be able to do this. But, I feel that if you can interpret things in a way you can retain easily in your mind, do whatever works best for you.

For first time visitors, if you can muster up the admission fee, it's always great to visit the Vistor's Center on Baltimore Pike, route 97. I would recommend visiting before 10am (you also have the best chances of immediately booking a tour guide at this time, too) or swinging by after 4pm when it's quieter to plan your trip for the following day. The Visitor Center is open daily 8-6pm and summer months until 7pm. The info on admission can be viewed here. In addition, you can now book a tour guide online by clicking here.
Another suggestion for families with children is to print out some points of interest in advance-you can find some great suggestions to the bar on the right on my blog right here, and if you have your own car, you can have fun finding them at your own pace, as well as parking and seeking them out on foot. I like to give each of my kids a blank notebook, and I ask them to make journal entries-i.e. write about their emotions, their thoughts about what they are seeing, even a poem or what they are hearing or smelling, along with making sketches-nothing has to be perfect, and it's always fun to look back on what they logged at a later time.

I also like to pick one person that was involved with the battle and follow them as far as we can through the battlefield-some suggestions are Robert E. Lee, Lt. General James Longstreet, Major General George E. Pickett as well as Jennie Wade.
It's always a big hit to bring lunch or a snack-we always go to Subway or KFC (on route 30) across from the Walmart-it's relatively cheap), and have a picnic at Devil's Den, sitting on one of the huge rocks, taking in the spectacular views. Everyone loves exploring around this area-just remember to do your part and clean up afterwards!

The National Park tour roads are open from 6am until 10pm in the summer months and it is free to roam the park. For Park updates, visit their website. Just remember to be flexible, try to bring a hat or cap and drink plenty of water.

Don't forget to have fun and make your own artistic moments in history!

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