For our family vacation this year, I wanted to travel east to see some American history first hand. My husband was game, so we loaded our 6-year-old son, Isaac, into the car and made the journey from our home in Fort Wayne to the eastern U.S. We went to eight places in seven days and saw Gettysburg, Antietam, Ford’s Theater, Mount Vernon, and more; it really was an education. We saw so many historic sites in seven days that I felt like I was on a school field trip (without the noisy bus and sticky floors). But, unlike in school when I wouldn’t have appreciated the value of such an experience, I enjoyed this trip.
One of our first stops was Civil War battle site, Gettysburg, PA. To get the full experience, we opted for a personal tour of the battlefields with a licensed field guide, rather than the bus tour.
After booking a field guide, we had some time before going out onto the battlefields.
I like to start out my learning with a movie, so we watched an excellent film about the famous battle. It was straightforward enough to teach those with zero knowledge or refresh the memory of those who have some familiarity of the battle.
After the film, we met our guide, a retired fellow, who told us this was his summer job. He drove our car (the weirdness of having a stranger drive our car wore off quickly enough) to about eight different battle sites. At each one, we got out of the car and he described in great detail the progression of those three fateful days in July 1863. Actually, the detail got to be too great sometimes as the trip lingered on for over 2.5 hours. I may have enjoyed the bus tour more.
One salient point of the tour was the statue of civilian John Burns standing in a battlefield on McPherson’s Ridge. Mr. Burns was the only Gettysburg civilian who came out to help the Union troops fight the battle. He was a veteran of the War of 1812. By the time the Civil War was in swing, Mr. Burns was elderly. I can only imagine the frustration of his family as he suited up to go out to fight.
Mrs Burns, “John, please, it isn’t 1812 anymore. Let the younger men help.”
Mr. Burns, “No, no, they need me. It’s my duty!”
Mrs. Burns, “You were always stubborn!”
However, he did fight and after receiving some wounds to his legs, he returned home to heal. Several months later when President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to give his famous address, it is reported that he called Mr. Burns on stage and recognized him as a hero.
Gettysburg was completely worth seeing and I highly recommend it.