It was a warm day. The air felt heavy in the absence of a breeze. But for once, the humidity helped, rather than hampered, my experience. Walking around Soldier’s National Cemetery, the final resting place of the Union soldiers and where President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address, I tried to imagine what being here in 1863 must’ve been like: the smell of gunpowder hanging in the air, the blasts of cannon fire, the shrieks of dying men.
It’s believed that nearly 51,000 soldiers, from both sides combined, lost their lives over the course of those three days of heavy fighting between Union and Confederate forces. Gettysburg was a crucial battle because it stopped the northern advancement of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and turned the tide for the Union army. Today, much of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania feels like hallowed ground.
A visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park and Visitor Center is a good place to start. There, you can tour the museum and watch the film, “A New Birth of Freedom”, narrated by Morgan Freeman 😄, to fill in the gaps on your knowledge of the civil war. I thought both the museum and the film were done well. The museum exhibits on the battlefield hospitals (or lack thereof) was especially gruesome and interesting.
You can also see the restored Gettysburg Cyclorama. The cyclorama, a large oil painting displayed within a circular auditorium, depicts the climactic battle scene during Pickett’s Charge. To make the scene even more life-like, there are props, including light and sound effects that accompany the painting.
Because the battlefields at Gettysburg are spread out over a large terrain, you can opt for a self-guided auto tour or sign up for a guided one. I chose to drive myself – in the RV no less – using Google Maps and a map you can find at the Visitor’s Center. It’s the same route that tour buses take, so RVers should not have trouble finding pull-offs to stop for a while. Note that during the summer the roads can get congested, so it’s best to start early and you’ll have an easier time.
Where to eat
Dobbin House Tavern
It was built in 1776 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The lump crab cake sandwich I ordered was tasty. They also have a small gift shop on site.
RV/Over-sized vehicle parking: There’s RV parking at the Gettysburg National Military Park. As far as camping goes, we spent a couple of nights at the Gettysburg Campground which was roughly 10 minutes from the Military Park.