There are Battlefield Tours by Car, tour buses, walking tours, audio CD's available but we did the tour on our own. We purchased a map of the Military Park and stopped at the Auto Tour signs with numbers to the left coordinating with a map and guide navigating the battlefield tour and identifying historic sites. We stood at many of the markers or monuments on the restored battlefield from the perspective of the units that fought on in 1863.
Veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg have placed monuments and markers in locations where their units had fought on the battlefield. At Gettysburg, monuments also take the form of state memorials; Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland Memorial were prominent. Memorial commemorated Confederate and Union Generals at Gettysburg such as Meade, Reynolds, Sedgwick, Hancock, Howard, Slocum and Longstreet. A few memorials to lower-ranking soldiers are here like Pvt. George Nixon, the great-grandfather of former U.S. President Richard Nixon. John Burns has a memorial; he was a 69 yrs. veteran of the War of 1812, fought beside the members of the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg. He was injured in the battle and, soon after, became a national hero.
The Battle of Gettysburg (Pennsylvania). Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee concentrated his full strength against Union Gen. George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac at the crossroads county seat of Gettysburg. BTW, General Meade had been given command of the Army of the Potomac only three days before this fateful battle began. On July 1, Confederate forces converged on the town from west and north, driving Union defenders back through the streets to Cemetery Hill. During the night, reinforcements arrived for both sides. On July 2, Lee attempted to envelop the Federals, first striking the Union left flank at the Peach Orchard, Wheatfield, Devil's Den, and the Round Tops with Longstreet's and Hill's divisions, and then attacking the Union right at Culp's and East Cemetery Hills with Ewell's divisions. By evening, the Federals retained Little Round Top and had repulsed most of Ewell's men. During the morning of July 3, the Confederate infantry was driven from their last toe-hold on Culp's Hill. In the afternoon, after a preliminary artillery bombardment , Lee attacked the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. The Pickett-Pettigrew assault (more popularly known as, Pickett's Charge) momentarily pierced the Union line but was driven back with severe casualties. Stuart's cavalry attempted to gain the Union rear but was repulsed. On July 4, Lee began withdrawing his army toward Williamsport on the Potomac River. His train of wounded stretched more than fourteen miles and many argue that at this point the Cicil War was over.
The battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest of the Civil War with over 51,000 casualties.
Take a 2 hour tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield on a guided coach bus or an exciting open air double decker! Both bus tours cover all three days of the Gettysburg Battle in a comprehensive and entertaining 2 hours. You make a stop a the beautiful little round half way through. I recomment this because it is the best way to see the battlefield! You do not have to worry about navigating the confusing network of roads, and are able to have someone there to answer questions and point out where the action took place!
Ride the open air double decker through the Gettysburg Battlefield while you listen to the townspeople and generals telling you about the historic events which took place during July 1st 2nd and 3rd 1863. Another option is to ride in an enclosed coach bus interacting with a Licensed Battlefield Guide taking you through the battlefield. Both tours are 2 hours long and both tours are outstanding!
Gettysburg, the seat of Adams County Pennsylvania, was the site of the Battle of Gettysburg from 1 to 3 July 1863. This small town, with just 2,400 residents at the time of the battle, stands at the center of a network or major regional roads in all directions in Pennsylvania and Maryland, including turnpikes to Chambersburg, York, and Baltimore. This made Gettysburg a natural meeting point for the large armies that were traveling the area.
While the vast majority of the battlefield extends south of the town several miles, the battle actually began due west of town and the battle lines on the first day started west then north of Gettysburg. Throughout the day forces from both sides converged on the town, expanding the lines and engulfing the area in fighting.
In the morning, Buford's Union cavalry met Heth's Confederate infantry on the Chambersburg Pike. Soon Union General Reynolds arrived with reinforcements, but the General was killed. General Abner Doubleday took over command of the corps... yes, this is the same Abner Doubleday often credited with creating the American game of baseball!
In the early afternoon more forces had arrived for both the north and south, and the lines now extended north from the Chambersburg Pike across the Mummasburg, Carlisle, and Harrisburg Roads. To extend the lines this far, the Union forces were reinforced by a corps under the command of Major General Oliver O. Howard, and the Confederate forces received assistance in Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell and Lt. General A. P. Hill's corps. Around two PM fighting commenced along all four major roads to the north and west with the Union generally holding their positions.
At around 3pm on 1 July the battle began to swing in favor of the Confederates. Significant portions of Barlow's XI Corps were stretched thin at the northeast edge of town, and these units were directly attacked by Ewell's Second Corps. At around the same time Union forces due west of town had reinforced their positions at the Seminary with cannon and barricades. By 4pm elements of Confederate General Hill's Corps had pushed through Union position at the Seminary while at the same time Union forces northeast of town began to collapse under pressure from Ewell.
Union forces began a general retreat through the town of Gettysburg. Some units organized fighting retreats to buy time for their comrades; civilians panicked as cannonball burst overhead; some Union soldiers panicked, none more than Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig who si said to have hid in a woodpile for the next three days of the battle.
The defeated Union troops retreated to Cemetery hill just south of town where Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock organized then men in defensive positions that would help turn the tide of the battle. When Confederates under General Ewell finally worked their way through town, they had orders from Robert E. Lee to take Cemetery Hill if practical, but the newly entrenched Union forces probably made this task impossible, so both sides rested overnight to await the continuation of the battle the next day.
The first day at Gettysburg saw about 22,000 Union soldiers engaged by some 27,000 Confederate soldier. Had the battle ended there, it still would have ranked as the 23rd largest battle of the war in terms total troops engaged. This was also a bloody first day as total Union dead, wounded and missing totaled 9,000 soldiers, while Confederate casualties numbered about 6,000. Overnight the remaining three quarters of Meade's army would arrive, as would the final two thirds of Lee's army, placing about 165,000 soldiers on the battlefield for the start of day 2 of fighting.
The Pennsylvania State Memorial, the largest memorial at Gettysburg Battlefield, was dedicated in 1910. It features a huge marble dome supported by four massive pillars. The main generals from Pennsylvania who fought at Gettysburg have their names engraved around the base of the dome, and their statues stand at each corner of the base along with statues of President Lincoln and PA Governor Curtin. The monument also has the names of all of Pennsylvania's soldiers who fought in the battle, organized by their units. A statue of "Winged Victory" adorns the top of the dome; it was sculpted by Samuel Murray.
Visitors can go to the base of the high dome and observe the battlefield.
During the Battle of Gettysburg approximately one million shots were fired by infantrymen from all over the northern and southern states. One particular shot was said to have been fired by a Union Lieutenant named Marcellus Jones from Rutland County, Vermont.
Marcellus Jones and his family moved to Illinois in 1858, and he enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 after President Lincoln's call for volunteers for the war. He joined the 8th Illinois Cavalry on 5 August 1861 and found himself up at Gettysburg on 1 July 1863. Here Jones led a forward listening post of his Calvary Division along the Chambersburg Pike just west of Gettysburg. This was the road chosen by Confederate General Robert E. Lee for his advance from Cashtown to Gettysburg. According to lore, around 7:30am, Jones saw dust in the road indicating approaching cavalry, so he grabbed the rifle of one of his corporals and fired a shot at a Confederate officer.
Today there is a monument marking the location where Jones claims to have fired his first shot that started this grand battle. The monument was erected in 1886 with Jones in attendance at the commissioning ceremony.
The monument marking the first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg stands on the north side of US Rt. 30 (Chambersburg Pike) at the intersection of Knoxlyn Road.
Jones' claim is not undisputed, however. Soldiers from the 6th New York Cavalry, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and 9th New York Calvary were all deployed west of Gettysburg and came in contact with the approaching Confederates. Members of each of these units also claim to have fired the first shot of the battle. In fact, the 9th New York Cavalry erected a monument on the Gettysburg battlefield in 1888 that has a quote saying solders from this unit fired shots at 5am on 1 July, a full two hours before Marcellus Jones' supposed first shot.
Seminary Ridge, named after nearby Lutheran Theological Seminary, was the base of most Confederate operations during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg.
On the first day of fighting, much of the action took place on Seminary Ridge itself. The Lutheran Theological Seminary's cupola was used as an observation post, and later the same building served as a field hospital.
For the second and third days of the battle, the ridge formed the base of the Confederate lines from which they launched their assaults against the Union forces on Cemetery Ridge. These assaults include McLaws and Hood's attacks against the Peach Orchard, Wheat Field, Devils Den, and Little Round Top as well as General Ewell's attack on Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill to the north on 2 July. Pickett's Charge on 3 July also originated from Seminary Ridge, this time with the attack against the center of the Union lines. After this final assault failed, the Confederate forces fell back behind Seminary Ridge in anticipation of a Union counterattack which never came.
Today Seminary Ridge and the Confederate Lines for the Battle of Gettysburg are marked by Confederate Drive. Along this route you can see some 80 cannons marking the positions of the southern guns, as well as numerous southern monuments including the North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Virginia Monuments.
The Wheat Field, or Bloody Field, is another of the central battle sites where Confederate forces advanced into heavy contact with Union troops. The Wheat Field itself occupies just 20 acres of the former Rose Farm, and it sits between the Devils Den to the south and the Peach Orchard to the north.
The fighting here took place on 2 July 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and it primarily involved Confederates under the command of Generals Hood and McLaws up against the Union Corps commanded by General Sickels then Birney. This phase of the battle began when Longstreet ordered the charge of Hood and McLaws against the entire southern and middle of the Union forces.
Throughout the day, fighting here lasted two hours and involved a total of 11 divisions from both sides. The small field changed hands several times throughout the day, but Union soldiers possessed this piece of ground at the end of the day. The Confederates suffered total casualties of about 1,394 killed, wounded or missing, and the Union had 3,215 casualties.
At the same time as the fighting in the Wheat field, the remainder of McLaw's Confederate attacked just to the north at another well-known point, called the Peach Orchard, while the majority of Hood's men struck the Union forces at the Devils Den, south of the Wheat Field.
The small rocky hill called Little Round Top is about two miles south of Gettysburg, and it marked the end of the Union lines during the battle. Experts call this point the key to the entire Union defensive position, because from here, artillery fire could be poured down the Union line and the Confederates would have access to Union rear areas.
On 2 July 1863, Confederate forces under General Hood began advancing toward the southern end of the Union lines on Cemetery ridge in an attempt to roll up the flank of the position. Hood was wounded during the advance, but forces under Generals Law and Robinson continued to fight their way to Little Round Top with fierce battles at the Devils Den along the way. Union General Sickels had been ordered to Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top, but he chose to place his forces at the high ground along the Wheat Field and Devils Den, closer to the Confederate lines. This eft Little Round Top undefended and the entire Union line vulnerable.
As the Confederate forces approached the hill, Union General Sykes sent an urgent order for Union forces to occupy the strategically important hill. Union Colonel Strong Vincent, commander of the third brigade, seized the initiative and directed his four regiments to Little Round Top. He placed his units in line on the hill with the 16th Michigan to the north, with the 44th New York and the 83rd Pennsylvania in the middle, 20th Maine marking the far southern end of the entire Union line.
Confederate General Law's men attempted to take Little Round Top multiple times, but were exhausted from their 20 mile march that day. Each time they failed, but the small Union force on the hill was also weakened and low on ammunition. The 20th Maine, under command of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, stretched its lines to meet the attacking southern soldiers, then "refused the line" or took half of his unit and formed an L-shape to prevent being outflanked. When the Confederates attempted their last advance, Chamberlain gave the order for the 20th Maine to charge the attacking Confederates. The maneuver crushed the Confederate infantry, enabled capture of many of the attackers, and held the line for the Union forces at Gettysburg.
Simultaneously, at the northern end of Little Round Top, the small union force was holding the line against overwhelming numbers of Confederates. Many of the commanders were killed, but not before buying time for reinforcements to arrive and turn the tide of battle against the attacking Texans of Hood's Corps.
At Little Round Top, some 2,996 Union troops squared off against about 4,864 Confederate soldiers. Union losses numbered about 565 casualties (134 killed, 402 wounded, and 29 missing) compared to Confederate losses some 1,185 men (279killed, 868 wounded, and 219 missing or captured).
The Devils Den is an area of large boulders and low shrubs that became a center of heavy fighting on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. On 2 July 1863, Major General John Bell Hood's Division under Longstreet's Corps attacked the Union left flank defended by Major General Daniel E. Sickles's III Corps. Sickles was actually out of position because he had disobeyed General Meade's orders to defend Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top, and instead moved forward to a line connecting the Peach Orchard, Houck's Ridge, and the Devils Den.
The Devils Den marked the far left of the Union lines, and it was occupied by Brigadier General J. H. Hobart Ward's brigade of about 2,200 men. As Hood's Division approached the Union lines, Hood was injured and his forces attacked without coordination. The 1st Texas and 3rd Arkansas of Robertson's brigade and the 44th and 48th Alabama of Law's brigade headed in the direction of Devil's Den. The fighting here was fierce, and some units lost half of their fighting strength in just 20 minutes. Throughout the day Confederate and Union forces clashed in this area, with Union reinforcements arriving from other parts of the line. Finally Ward was forces to retreat and Hood's Division held the Devils Den for the next day, constantly harassing the Union forces on Little Round Top with fire.
At the Devils Den, some 2,423 Union troops battled about 5,525 attacking Confederates. It is estimated that the Union forces here suffered about 821 casualties (138 killed, 548 wounded, and 135 missing) while the southern units had about 1,814 casualties (329 killed, 1,107 wounded, and 378 missing).
"The Slaughter Pen" and "Valley of Death" are the nicknames given to the small valley between the Devils Den and Little Round Top, through which flows a stream called Plum Run. From Devils Den to Little Round Top is just about 900 yards, but this half-mile stretch of ground saw some of the heaviest and bloodiest fighting at Gettysburg. Not only did this area play a role in some of the flank attacks during fighting at the Devils Den, but it was also the battle ground of subsequent Confederate assaults on Little Round Top.
The area which was once farmlands and then battlefiels is forever preserved as a National Park. It is a large areatoo much for us to stroll the entire thing , so we drove to key point and then got out to take a closer look.
Exploring the individual areas early in the morning, preferably when few other people are around, and listening to the silence, imagining the bloodshed that was spilled on those fateful days.
To stand on the hallowed ground where so many died is a moving experience. The locale where these cannon stand is where the turning point of the whole war took place. It is the spot of the high tide of Pickets Charge on July 3, 1863.
This strategic point overlooks the Valley of Death. Neither the Confederates nor the Union army realized the importance of these heights at first. Fortunately, the Union sent soldiers to this site immediately after realizing the mistake. It was reinforced in time for the first wave of Confederates to charge the hill.
Park Hours are Nov.1-Mar.31, 6 am-7 pm; Apr.1-Oct.31, 6 am-10 pm.
If you only have an hour or so, walk behind the Cyclorama center and stand at the apex of Pickett's Charge. It will bring tears to your eyes.
Then, cross the street from the Visitor's Center and enter the Cemetary where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.
If you have more time, tour the battlefield. Over 1400 monuments, memorials and markers dot the field. Each describes the unique experience of the men who fought there.