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 Posted: Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 12:09 am
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pamc153PA
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Hi folks, I'm back!

I'm always reluctant to leave Gettysburg, and this time was no exception. The weather was hot but perfect, the tour I took was terrific, and the food and drink were, well, way better than hardtack and salt pork (sorry, hardcores!).

Obviously the big deal at G-burg is the new visitor's center. I tried to take it as neutrally as possible, and I can say it's not horrible. If you were going to G-burg for the first time, or didn't want to know minute details about the battle and just wanted to experience it, then the VC was perfect. If, like many of us, you already know a lot about the battle and don't need a museum's help to understand the basics, then it's a flashy, modern (touch-screens and videos) sort of review; walk through quick, and get out on the field. There seemed to be a lot of open space not being used for anything--impressive, I guess, but I'd rather see more of their collection out. The 22-minute intro film was pretty bland and a little too PC for me (according to it, you'd think the only thing Lincoln thought about before and during the war was slavery--not preserving the union, etc.)--not worth the 8 bucks it cost, in my mind. And if you're willing to fork over $2.50 for a cuppa joe, or $4 for a hot dog, the Refreshment Saloon is for you. And the Museum Bookstore was what lots of people said: Trinket and Toy Central, mostly, but with a decent collection of books at one end.

This new VC is supposed to be a destination in itself, I think, which if you're running it for profit, is what you want. All this said, however, I have to admit, I go to Gettysburg for the battlefield, not the VC, so at least now I'll have a large, spacious new restroom to use before I do that!

My tour was excellent. I'm lucky to have a LBG as a friend, so he took me on what we called the Random Tour: crawling through the underbrush on Culp's Hill to see the Confederate burial pits, hiking through the Rose Woods to find where Semmes was hit, heading out to the East Cav Field to try to teach me something about Custer and Gregg. Lots of ticks, sweat and poison ivy--which means it was a great tour!

The biggest battlefield change for me this time was the timber cutting in the Triangular Field area. Actually, it's not a triangle anymore because most of that area is now open scrubby field, just about all the way from Warfield Ridge to LRT. It's a little disorienting, but cool, because you can really see how Hood's men would have had to struggle through scrub and rocks and hills--in mostly open areas-- BEFORE they even got to Devil's Den and the Slaughter Pen. No wonder he followed orders under protest.

As for food, I think we pretty much hit everything that was suggested to me but for The Mine, and adding in the Cashtown Inn and the DQ. No generals at O'Rourke's to speak of, and the game pie WAS delicious, according to my husband.

So, yes, I'd rather be there than here. Anyone heading that way I can hitch a ride with?

Pam

 



 Posted: Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 01:32 am
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Crazy Delawares
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Spacious new restroom...that's funny!
Great report! Glad you had such a good time. My g-g-grandfather fought in the Rose Woods with the 2nd Delaware. Been there MANY times!



 Posted: Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 10:08 pm
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mikenoirot
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I was at the new Visitor's Center on my last trip to Gettysburg, this past April.  It had just opened, within the past week, or so.  Like Pam, I have been there enough, and read enough history that I would not learn too much in the VC.  It is target towards people that are there for their vacation.  People with little, or no knowledge of the Civil War - or Gettysburg.  For those people, it is a MUST see.  They will certainly have a better understanding of the battle, and what they are looking at.

Nice post, Pam.

Mike



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 Posted: Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 01:23 am
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pamc153PA
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Ed,

My guide and I came onto Culp's Hill from the Stevens Knoll side. He knew where to pull off by finding a couple different monuments, then crossing the road and finding a path. I'd say we walked straight up the hill about halfway between the road and Culps' Hill observation tower. There were few landmarks; that side's not as full of boulders as the Spangler's Spring side. He was counting off paces as we walked a faint path, and we had to keep detouring around downed trees; apparently, the park service fells trees across paths to deter people (like us, or probably more like teenage partiers) from walking back into the woods.

When we finally got there, it was really hard to see the pit at first, under the leaves and all, but we walked the edge of it, about 5 by 10 yards, and it was vaguely rectangular, and about two feet deeper than the surrounding ground. There were a couple blazes on nearby trees to mark it, and someone had actually trekked back there to plant several small Confederate flags. According to my guide, this was one of two pits John Burns showed to dignitaries visiting the battlefield several years before his death. I'm guessing it was an easier climb about 140 years ago.

Like most of Culp's Hill, it was REALLY quiet there. Part of that's because almost no one goes there as compared to the rest of the battlefield. But somehow it felt like more. Of course, you KNOW as you walk any battlefield that men fought and died on the ground under your feet, but this was so secluded and almost pristine that it was more real to me. It didn't matter if it was Confederate or Union men.  Nothing creepy or spooky, just very real.

To be honest, I couldn't get you there again, but it was by far one of the coolest things I've seen on the field in a long time!

Pam



 Posted: Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 05:51 pm
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TimK
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Pam-

It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'm looking forward to my trip out there late next month. I'm going to reserve judgment on the new VC until I see it for myself, but it doesn't sound as horrible as some people say, nor as great as others do. I think that there is going to be a learning curve for the new for-profit association, and I'm willing to give them time.

You're note about the ticks and sweat and poison ivy really hit home with me. It seems as though if one wants to get to where it is quiet enough to hear the ground speak to you, one must endure the ticks, sweat, and poison ivy. It is amazing how the best days I've had stomping through a battlefield have ended with some fairly uncomfortable evenings - but I loved it. Those feelings - nothing creepy or spooky - they are real. It was those feelings that compelled me to do what I do, much like it compels others to write, paint, teach, or volunteer. And kudos to your husband for humoring your interests yet one more time.



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 09:56 am
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gettysburgerrn
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Welcome back it seems like you had a great time ( in gettysburg how could you not :) )I know what you mean about the VC...They appear to be trying to tell the entire story of everything civil war there....I wish it was just a tad more Gettysburg oriented...I really don't spend that much time there anyway (Just had to see what all of the hub ub was about) if it helps tourism great, though I am pretty sure the relocation is hurting businesses on Von Steinwehr....

ken



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 01:38 pm
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dunkard
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Has anything been done with the old visitor center ? Have they tore it down yet or what are the plans?

Kevin



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 03:04 pm
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pamc153PA
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Kevin,

Nothing has been done with the old VC. The grass is all grown up, and it looks pretty forlorn. It's interesting that, just about each time I drove by it, there were a decent number of cars in the lot, and people seemed to want to go see it, anyway. One time I drove by I saw Supt. Latchar and some guys in suits standing in front of it with the front doors open, but who knows what that was.

The plan, as I've heard it, is to eventually knock it down, along with the old Cyclorama building, and return Ziegler's Grove to how it was in the battle. They need the money to do that, first, though, which could take time.

Side note: one of the times I was leaving the new VC, I happened to hear a man say to his wife, "This is nice, but I think the old Visitor's Center was closer to things like the cemetery and the battlefield. This feels way out of my way." I wonder how many others feel that way?

Pam



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 04:16 pm
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lifl2003
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Hey everyone,

I did not go to the VC in June when I went primarily beacuse it is "out of the way".

I am counting the days until I return in October!!

Mike



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 04:24 pm
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TimK
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I need to throw my two cents out there on a couple points.

First - I will be tickled when the old VC is down and the field restored. It may be further from the new VC, but I am all for the restoration to look like 1863. The Cyclorama building, as I understand, may be there longer. I believe there is a lawsuit by the architect's son to have the building named as a historic site. It can't be manned by the NPS, so I imagine in a couple years it may be no more than an eyesore.

Second - The knowledge on this discussion board is amazing. I am in awe of some of the posts I read. However, sadly, that is not the case with a vast majority of people. A case in point - I was at Shiloh a few years ago and ready to take my family (wife, her mother, and my three children) on the driving tour. I explained that this may be confusing because the auto tour is not in chronological order - if something doesn't make sense, speak up. My mother in law, before we started, asked if this had anything to do with the Boston Tea Party and all that. Now granted, most people have more knowledge about history than her, but in my experience, most people need a general background on the whole CW. For those of you that need more, I understand there is a nice new library and study area. I agree with the NPS to try to cater to the majority to hopefully create more interest.

This is just MHO, as I have not experienced the new VC yet. I probably will have more opinions after I see the refurbished Cyclorama and VC next month.

Tim



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 05:29 pm
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pamc153PA
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Tim,

I agree with your second point (your second of two cents!). I'll be the first to admit that, if you give me a chance, I'll try to find a connection for just about ANYTHING to the Civil War! But most of us (should I guess all of us?) who contribute to these discussions feel a lot the same way. I have to keep reminding myself not everyone wants to know everything about the Battle of Gettysburg or the CW in general. If a family from Anywhere USA comes to Gettysburg on their vacation even for a day, that's a plus, and the new VC does a decent job of giving an overview of a part of history so they might leave with a bit more knowledge of it. I'll admit, I was that tourist once: seeing my family name unexpectedly on the PA Monument was what got me "hooked!"

On a related subject--I subscribe to The Civil War News, and this month's edition spends the first three pages of letters to the editor (including a defensive one from Supt. Latschar) letting people vent/complain about the new VC. I thought it was pretty over-the-top and not particularly objective for the CWN, which I usually tend to agree with. Most of the letters are from people who know a lot about the battle/war, and want the VC to be geared to their needs, not the casual visitors'. I think that those of us "in the know" about the CW know where to go--like these discussions, for example--and don't expect the VC to be what it wasn't meant to be.

I think I added a couple of cents to yours!

Pam



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 05:40 pm
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susansweet
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Making everything related to the Civil War ?  I can relate to that. Yesterday I was at a funeral for a very dear older gentleman that my father worked for .   As the honor guard played Taps , it was all I could do to not lean over to the person next to me and say , "You know Taps was written during the Civil War by Butterfield."  I stopped myself just in time. 

Susan



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 05:55 pm
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Texas Defender
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Susan-

  I think that you are overlooking the contribution of the bugler from the 83rd PA, Oliver Wilcox Norton. Opinions differ as to who actually wrote what is now known as: "Taps."

  Some sources credit Butterfield alone, but my guess is that the two collaborated on it. Thus, I believe that Norton is due an : "assist."

Oliver Willcox Norton (1839 - 1920) - Find A Grave Memorial

The Story of Taps

Last edited on Fri Aug 8th, 2008 07:42 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 06:09 pm
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TimK
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I too read the CW News and was taken back a little by the newspapers attitude.

In doing research for maps, I get to spend time with some NPS historians and listen to some of their stories. They run everywhere from people that want to know "why are so many CW battles fought in National Parks?" - and "how come there aren't any bullet marks on any of the monuments?" (my mother in law type questions) to people that have very detailed, specific questions about the 153rd PA (sound familiar to anyone?). I think the NPS does a great job catering to the vast majority of the people that fall in the middle.

And Susan, my wife has a look she gives me that means "don't start" when somebody even casually mentions Custer, Fredericksburg, Lincoln, or any any other "spark" words. Kudos for biting your tongue, because I did actually say that at a funeral.



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 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 07:35 pm
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susansweet
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Gee guys , I am a female that gets that look from friends who are not Civil War people.  I get the rolled eyes and blank stare every so often.  Of course many are glad I am off the Shakespeare thing I used to go on and on about.  lol.  Of course I have linked Shakespeare many times to Civil War  

Defender I had forgotten about the bugler .  mea culpa.  Just the first thought that flashed in my mind was visiting Berkley Plantation and reading that Butterfield have written taps there on one of the signs. 

As to visitors to Gettysburg I know friends are always saying there are the people who ask where Buster Kilrein 's monument is.  First time someone told me that story I asked who is Buster kilrein.  I had not seen the movie or read Killer Angels at the time.  I know you are all in SHOCK!!!

Susan



 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 08:09 pm
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pamc153PA
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Susan,

I'm with you on that--my friends are far less tolerant of my CW "jags" than my husband, lucky me. He'll still listen to me go on about this or that CW thing, or at least does a good job pretending.

I used to teach Shakespeare--how'd you connect him to our Civil War? Wish I'd thought of that!

Our ninth graders watch the whole Gettysburg movie as part of the CW unit. I'm still working on the 9th grade SS teachers to tell the kids Buster was NOT a real person!

This is my favorite line: A guide friend told me that once he was giving a tour and was at the Railroad Cut, talking about the fierce fighting there, and how the soldiers, once they got down in the cut they were pretty much caught there and couldn't get up the other side. A man in the tour asked, "Why didn't they just use the bridge?"

Pam



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 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 11:02 pm
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Pam , Lincoln was a great lover of Shakespeare and of course Booth acted in many plays of Shakespeare.  Then there is Fanny Kimble who came from England to do Shakespeare readings and married one of the largest slave holders in Georgia.  Wonderful book called Fanny Kimble's Civil Wars about her problems with her husband and her suffort of Union causes.  Also Fanny Kimble's Journal.  By the way she is the grandmother of Owen Wister of the archtypical Western , the Virginian . She is the niece of Sarah Siddons one of the greatest female Shakespearan actresses. 

Sherman even quotes Shakespeare in his Memiors. 

 

Bama I know better than to pass on the sappy story.  I heard it and did research on it as it didn't ring true to me. 

 

Now if only I could move California closer to Gettysburg so I could still live here and visit Gettysburg more often.  AND NO I don't mean by means of an earthquake all of you who were thinking that.

Susan



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