Gettysburg Battlefield on Lincoln’s Birthday 2018

Our practice while taking a long trip in the car is to travel during the day, when possible, and to stop for a rest and some exercise every two hours. We were returning to Ithaca from a long trip down south when, at about the time for a rest stop we crossed the Mason-Dixon line to approach the city of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on US Route 15.

The signed for the Gettysburg Battlefield pulled us in and we spent three hours looking around, longer than we planned for a rest stop.

The staff at the visitor center were very helpful with our off the cuff visit plan. With the auto tour in hand we made our way to the “High Water” of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, the Union battle line that marked the end of Lee’s second invasion of the north and the turning of the Civil War.

Pennsylvania Memorial Fact Display
The Pennsylvania Memorial near the Highwater Mark of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.

The expanse of the Gettysburg National Military Park warrants a stay of three days, at least.

These photographs from my cell phone, augmented with titles and description, will give you a taste of what this national historic site has to offer.

Fact board Soldiers' National Cemetery
Gettysburg National Military Park includes the graves of more than 6,000 United States Servicemen, including 3,580 Union soldiers killed in the Civil War.

Notably, the day of our visit, February 12, is Lincoln’s Birthday. February was a quiet time to visit and we were blessed with a sunny, mild day. In the warm weather the place is packed with visitors.

I have a feeling for the place because my 10th birthday in 1963 coincided with the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War. Also because a figure in the aftermath of the battle, David Wills, shares my surname. A lawyer who lived and practiced in Gettysburg, David Wills organized the burials and it was at his home that President stayed before the dedication of the cemetery and where the final touches of the Gettysburg Address were written. His home, a museum, is closed in the quiet season.

Most Americans alive today would not exist if this battle turned out differently.

One of the chilling realizations from the day is almost half the Union graves are for unknown soldiers.

Graves of Unknown Soldiers
Nearly half of the Union graves are unknown soldiers.

25 thoughts on “Gettysburg Battlefield on Lincoln’s Birthday 2018

  1. “Unknown, 425 bodies.” It’s hard to fathom the loss when you consider that this is but one of dozens of similar markers. Thank you for sharing the human side of this horrible battle — and also for sharing your family connection to Gettysburg. Wonderful post.

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  2. Wow, Michael. This is pretty interesting! Gettysburg is such a pivotal time in the war, so glad you went. I admire Lincoln a lot. Great post (and smart that you and your wife take exercise breaks when you travel!) Blessings to you both. – Debbie

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    1. We have plenty of time now, so there is no reason not to break; besides coming to gripe with our limitations. So glad we followed the impulse that day. The landscape of the area is wonderful, open fields with high hills. “Hallowed ground” sign posts abound.

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  3. The battlefield at Gettysburg really is hallowed ground. It is such a peaceful place now, it’s difficult to envision the battle. I’ve visited it three times. I’m so glad the site has been preserved. One of my great-grandfathers was wounded there. It was sobering to visit the portion of the battlefield where his company fought.

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  4. I came from Pacific Paratrooper’s site. Glad I checked your website. I always wanted to go to Gettysburg while we lived in NY but somehow never did. I lost my chance. These images are just wonderful. Great memorial for the soldiers who fought there. Thanks for sharing.

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      1. You’re welcome. I agree, Pacific Paratrooper is a great site. I contributed a piece for the Pacific Paratrooper about my parents’ life when the 11th Airborne landed in Batangas before the Battle for Manila. Best regards.


  5. Another great place to visit is the battlefield ‘Antietam. Saw the holes in the walls of some of the house in Gettysburg from the battle. As one person described the battle, as the northern soldiers were going out the front door of houses the southern soldiers were coming in the rear doors.

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    1. We almost lost Antietam battlefield to development (shopping center), until at the last moment the place was saved. 22,717 Americans dead, wounded, missing in a single day (battle). Lee’s first invasion of the North ended there.


  6. Chills ran through me as I read this post and viewed the photos. Historic sites like this one always stir up visceral emotions and more so when I walk the grounds.

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