Monday, October 24, 2016

Ghosts in Gettysburg

The Queen Of The World and I went to Gettysburg yesterday and took a horseback tour of the battlefield.  It's an outstanding way to see the site - it gives you more of a nineteenth century feel.

Our guide was outstanding and really helped visualize the battle.  Looking at just how far in front of the lines General Sickles pushed the III Corps was something that makes your stomach lurch when you see it.  I'd known the story, but in an intellectual way.  Seeing that 700 yard gap where he exposed his troops made clear just what an idiot he was.

It was also eye opening to visualize just how big Pickett's charge was, which covered maybe half a mile in width.  It was still a huge mistake, but the sheer scope of it was something that I'd only known intellectually.  I really recommend this ride, from National Riding Stables.    The horses are all rescued from kill pens (the last stop before the slaughterhouse).  I rode Gus, a former plow horse who had been cruelly abused but who is a gentle giant who cannot get too much love and affection.  He's also by far the largest horse I've ever been on, which made it easier to see the sights that were pointed out.  Gus wasn't particularly peppy, but that wasn't the point.

And then we went on to dinner at the Dobbins House in Gettysburg.  As a funny coincidence, reader Roy left a comment yesterday recommending the place which I only saw when we sat down to eat.  I can heartily second his recommendation - the food was excellent and the venue is fabulous.  It was built in 1776 and was a way station for the Underground Railroad, and has a nice (if small) museum.  It also has ghosts*, apparently - The Queen Of The World took this picture while we were eating.  The ghost can be seen right behind the young lady.

Highly, highly recommended.

* You might not believe in ghosts, but I'm told that I do.  And I'm actually OK with that.  It was a fun evening.


Old NFO said...

Yep, 'walking' the ground gives one a whole new appreciation of the reality...

Sherm said...

I tell anyone visiting The Little Big Horn Battlefield (about an hour away) to pay attention to the terrain. The ground and the markers are about all anyone has to "see" the battle and if all you do is read a few road side signs you've missed most of the story.

The incongruity, both there and at the Fetterman Battlefield an hour down the road, is you can stand where where at least some of the men fought using stone aged weapons and watch truck traffic run up and down an interstate highway.

Richard said...

I have walked the ground at most of the Civil War battlefields and Indian War battlefields. In a number of cases, seeing the terrain has helped clarify what happened. For example, there was no way that Custer could not have seen most of the Indian village along the Little Big Horn from the top of the ridge. Reno's attack on the lower village went in along what is now the median of I-90, well beyond the trees along the river (and there are more today than in 1876). Plus there was the gigantic horse herd on the hills on the opposite side of the valley. Chancellorsville/ Wilderness/Spotsylvania, on the other hand, looked exactly like what you see in the narratives and maps. In other cases like Stones River the battlefield is so chopped up my modern development, seeing it actually impairs your understanding. What you really need to be careful with are treelines. Most of the 19th century battlefields have many more trees today than at the time of the battle which distort perceptions about what the commanders could see. At Gettysburg, the NPS has been removing trees setting off a fight between the historical preservationists and the environmentalists.

Minecraft Chuck said...

Walking the Sunken Road at Antietam battlefield was a real eye opener. The cornfield ends RIGHT THERE! You don't need a rifle to hit the men standing there - a stout stick or a rock would do just fine. And the men marching through the corn couldn't see a thing until it was too late.