Today I took my 11 year old daughter to Gettysburg to soak up the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg [Before I continue: she went willingly and she had a good time!]. Anyway, I consider Gettysburg in early July to be a history carnival, since the town is abuzz with reenactors, encampments, book signings, and Park Service battle walks. Like a carnival it gets crowded, but for me that is part of the appeal. As evidence of the crowd, my daughter and I played the license plate game and we witnessed 35 state and 2 Canadian province license plates. I'm sure if we really tried we could have found all 50 states.
Our first stop, after driving through two parking lots to find a spot to park (and license plates, of course), was the new Visitor's Center. This is a first class facility. We first went to the gift shop which has more souvenirs than the old Visitor's Center. I tried not to spend too much time in the book section, which could get boring for an 11 year old to wait for history nerd Dad to skim through several dozen books, so we moved on to the amazing lollipops (she got a watermelon and I got a peanut butter and jelly). We then went to the exhibits. We watched the three short movies dealing with each day at Gettysburg and tried our hand at a couple of the interactives. Before we left the exhibits we went into the Gettysburg Address room and listened to a rendition of the Address while reading it on an etching on a glazed window.
By this time we were getting hungry so we made our way to parking lot 3, and proceeded to General Pickett's Buffet. We then worked off lunch by walking into town. We stopped at some souvenir shops and at the Greystone American History Store (my favorite in Gettysburg). On the way back to the car we walked through the National Cemetery. We were going to go on a battle walk in the Cemetary, but the crowd was too big and we were getting tired so we made our way back to the car. I think it's important to visit the National Cemetery. It makes Lincoln's words in the Gettysburg Address more immediate by actually seeing the graves of the men who brought Lincoln to Gettysburg in the first place. We read some of the names from the soldiers graves and then walked through the hundreds of unknown graves. Those soldiers may be unknown to us today, but they were all known and missed by loved ones 145 years ago. Just a thought to put our lives into perspective (which is what Lincoln wanted us to do).
Before heading home we made a detour to the Cashtown Inn. Since my daughter is interested in ghost stories I thought the Cashtown Inn would be the perfect stop since it is allegedly haunted. It was also a building that witnessed most of the Army of Northern Virginia pass by in the days before, during, and after the battle. We couldn't go inside so we took in the views from outside and imagined what it would have been like to be there 145 years ago.
We then went home after spending a fun day at Gettysburg. The day was relatively light on battle history but it was successful because my daughter wants to return for an overnight visit. Plus, the kicker is we just got done watching the 1st part of the movie Gettysburg. I think I may be making a mini-me, history nerd out of my daughter. Scary thought...