May 5 - Gettysburg National Military Park

I got up this morning and took a shower, most of the state parks I've been to in PA have great facilities. Individual shower stalls, hot showers even, lots of tile and stainless steel. They're cleaned every day, maybe even twice a day which makes it extra nice. I went to pay for my second day and they told me that the spot was reserved for someone else that night...Friday night, so I went for a quick drive around to find a new site. I chose a non-electric site in a different area where there weren't any other campers...I've been wondering what warm spring weekends in the state parks are like...crowded, not crowded? I'll have to wait and see.

Then it was off to Gettysburg. The drive into town was really nice, through several small towns, one of which was Hanover, Pennsylvania. The sign welcoming me to town said "Welcome to Hanover, named for Hanover, Germany." That's the Northern German town where Volkswagen manufactured this white van I'm driving in February of 1982...I think I was in second grade then. There was a traffic circle in Hanover, as well as in Gettysburg.....it was funny, and a little scary, to watch clueless tourists try to accommodate it.... a la European Vacation...."Big Ben kids, Parliament, Big Ben, Parliament." I easily picked up the 18 mile auto tour of the battlefield and surrounding area, the place where so many people died those first few days of July 1863.

I'm never sure how to feel when I go to such a place. The battlefield looks like any other field, I've driven by so many. Red winged black birds chirping, dandelions. The cannons in the woods around it, and the monuments, monuments for the troops from every state that participated in the Battle let you know it's no ordinary field. I took pictures, but they don't really show you much. We can't imagine what that place must have looked like, sounded like, smelled like....we're so soft, it's beyond our comprehension. The numbers break down like this....Total casualties (wounded, killed, missing, or captured) in three days, 23,000 Union troops, 28,000 Confederate troops. During "Pickett's Charge" on July 3rd 12,000 Confederate troops advanced across the open field towards the Union army positions, 5000 soldiers became casualties in one hour alone.

After the battlefield I went to the National Cemetery within the park. It was dedicated by Abraham Lincoln just 4 months after the battle. All of the little squares in the one picture below are numbered grave markers, no names. Other veterans are buried in this cemetery as well. Pennsylvania veterans from other conflicts. There were casualties from the Spanish American War in 1898 all the way up to Vietnam. Notice the date on the one marker, June 6, 1944, D-Day was the day after his 24th birthday. It was a powerful place, I don't know what to write about it, looking at the place just makes me wonder why I'm so lucky.

On the drive back to the camp ground I stopped off and washed the Westy down. When I got back to camp I used the rear mosquito net in the van for the first time. All the way around the back door of the van there are snaps that you snap this bug screen into, original factory equipment to keep the bugs out. There is also a picture of a bunch of caterpillars in their silk like nest. These things were all over the trees in Pennsylvania. I had some on my oatmeal in the morning, they tasted fine to me.






















































A look onto the battlefield.

Union soldiers lost in the battle.

Gettysburg National Cemetery.

Died on D-day, a day after his 24th birthday.

Washing the Westy.

At camp with a fire, bug screen in the westy.

Caterpillar nest in a nearby tree.
 
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