The most famous and arguably most important battle of the American Civil War, took place over three hot summer days in July 1863 around the small market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. What began as a skirmish between General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (the South) and the Union Army of the Potomac (the North), evolved into a three day battle involving around 160,000 Americans. It also produced one of the best known speeches in American history – The Gettysburg Address – given by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, four and a half months after the guns were silenced.

(Along with the battle of Waterloo, Gettysburg is one of the most documented battles in history and I’m not going to attempt to add to that!! You can click here to read more about the battle and the key players involved.)

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After our immersion in the fun and frivolous world of chocolate, it was somewhat sobering to travel a mere forty miles and be immersed in the world of battle and bloodshed. Despite not being American or having any sort of link to the Civil War, both Richard and I found it to be a very moving and haunting place, and once again we were kicking ourselves that we never got to Ypres in Belgium, where so many Kiwi soldiers lost their lives during the first world war.

At the Gettysburg museum we watched a short film narrated by Morgan Freeman – yours truly in tears before it was even half way through – and then experienced the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Cycloramas are panoramic scenes painted onto the inside of a cylindrical platform. They are designed to make the viewer feel as if they are in the middle of a famous place or scene and the first cyclorama was opened in Edinburgh in 1787. The Gettysburg Cyclorama was painted by a French artist, Paul Phillipoteaux, and depicts Pickett’s Charge which was the climax of the battle of Gettysburg.

Philippoteaux at work on the Gettysburg cyclorama.
Philippoteaux at work on the Gettysburg cyclorama.
Scenes form the cyclorama.
Scenes from the cyclorama.

We were all keen to explore the battlefields but they are spread out over a huge area. So we hired a guide who drove us around for two hours and brought to life key moments and people involved in the battle. With a degree in Civil War History he was the perfect teacher and kept us all engrossed as we visited key sites – Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard, Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill.

Out and about with Kyle our wonderful guide. Even Olive had questions for him!
Out and about with Kyle our wonderful guide. Even Olive had questions for him!
Exploring Cemetery Hill and the National Soldier's Cemetery.
Exploring Cemetery Hill and the National Soldier’s Cemetery.
So many interesting things to experience in Gettysburg.
So many interesting things to experience in Gettysburg.

President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg in November 1863 for the dedication of the new soldier’s cemetery. There were numerous speeches given on that day, the 19th of November, but it was Lincoln’s that became synonymous with the great battle. At around 270 words it was on the short side for a Lincoln speech but is now widely regarded as one of the greatest speeches ever made.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Abe shows up in many places around Gettysburg.
Abe shows up in many places around Gettysburg.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stop in Gettysburg and plan to go back in July when my parents come to visit and we’ll be making sure to book Kyle again so we can learn even more about this very important place.

I’m writing this after eating a delicious Mother’s Day lunch cooked for me by my wonderful husband. Wishing all those mothers out there a wonderful day…very excited and happy at the prospect of seeing my Mother in a couple of months 🙂

Take care everyone xxx