Charlie has become a bit of a Civil War buff. His mild obsession began when Bob purchased the 1993 miniseries, “Gettysburg.” Charlie has viewed it countless times and legitimately knows almost as much as Bob now about the battle (although, his descriptions tend to be a bit more rudimentary). There is something about those men and that fight that has truly captured his attention. While packing the car on Thursday, after the movers departed, I found him standing on the big boulder that was in our front yard, holding a long stick to the sky and yelling, “FOR VIRGINIA!” as loud as he could.
When a few nights between house closings this past weekend left us with no base camp, we decided to capitalize on the time off and head up to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania so Charlie could fulfill a yearlong dream of reenacting Pickett’s Charge on hallowed ground. Bob had also promised him a new musket. So, that was a strong motivating factor as well.
I had been to Gettysburg on a couple of occasions but only to the museum and visitor’s center – never to any of the monuments. And, despite the miniseries airing on a near constant rotation in our household, I knew nothing of when the battle took place or who the major players were. My Civil War knowledge was limited to central Virginia and even then, mostly just the area between Petersburg and Appomattox.
After spending the entire day Saturday at Gettysburg National Military Park, I now know when the fighting at Gettysburg took place (July 1-3, 1863), who made a bad call (Longstreet acting on orders from Lee) and how many casualties were suffered in battle (51,000).
I also know how high an unsuspecting museum-goer will jump when she turns around and sees a four-year-old carrying a rifle.
There are a lot of different ways to explore the park but we chose to skip the museum (young kids), hit up the gift shop (aforementioned musket purchase) and head straight for the self-guided auto tour (less guilt over keeping your kids restrained in their car seats while you enjoy the scenery because: HISTORY, KIDS!). The auto tour winds through both the Confederate and Union lines with stopping points that give a true appreciation for the conditions and topography the soldiers were fighting against those three days that became the turning point in the war.
And, the scenery was breathtaking. I don’t know what I was expecting or if we hit the right combination of mild weather and low crowds but the battlefields were very moving. It was easy to imagine the tens of thousands of soldiers gathered there and to appreciate their bravery in charging across open fields and up ridgelines.
One of the benefits of touring by one’s own car is that we could stop frequently and let the kids run around. It was super windy so Millie had some challenges staying upright at times and Henry could be found frequently inquiring about the availability of Legos during the 1860s, but Charlie. Oh, Charlie. He finally got to lead that charge.