A few weeks ago my husband and I took the kids to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to learn more about the Civil War and the history of it’s accomplishments and losses. Upon arriving at Gettysburg, we entered the lot to the Museum with much concern. The grass and trees were overgrown and not very well taken care of. The land looked as if it hadn’t been mowed or trimmed in several months and it left a bit of a damper on the spirit. It was a disappointment to see this when entering the area, but as we walked up towards the museum, the environment became more welcoming with a cleaner appearance and a caring demeanor.
The theater show was already in progress when we entered so we didn’t have the opportunity to view the show, but we did tour the gift shop and ate lunch in the cafeteria. For the price they charged us, it could have gone to landscaping the entryway, but that’s a different story.
The battlefields of Gettysburg are extremely large, so the best way to experience the history with kids was to do the self-guided driving tour. The maps were located at the entry of the museum and they gave us the exact routes to follow. Signs guide us along the way, taking us through the small town and presenting statues and historical presentations along the paths through the battlefield. According to the information pamphlet, if you stayed on the trail and stopped at every historical monument, the tour would take approximately three hours.
We didn’t take the entire tour with the kids, but we did stop at a majority of the notable places. We also stopped to listen to some of the tour guides explaining the battle to the small groups along the way. The fact that so many lives were lost in a single area was haunting in and of itself. The sounds of the cannons, the screams of the soldiers, and the smell of battle that filled the air must have been a most chilling moment. I imagine that the silence that befell the fields as I stood there overlooking them, was as deathly eerie as the calming moments immediately following the death of those soldiers. The battles were said to have been long and draining and the monuments that towered the fields today were reminders of everything that was given for the freedom many American citizens have today.
As my kids read through the history of the battle, they asked questions that I couldn’t answer. The history of Gettysburg had been lost after all these years and the sacrifices the soldiers made were just old tales of folklore to some. Our family didn’t forget. War is war and many lives are lost.
Abraham Lincoln understood this in his infamous Gettysburg Address where he stated,
a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal
His promise of the Gettysburg graveyard was not a reunited country, but a new country freed from slavery. Whether you believed in him or not, Gettysburg is still a reminder of what was fought … and won. All that death was just the beginning of a new life, and yes, “white men and women” fought and died to save and free “black men and women” … but our country seems to have forgotten that drowned out by political correctness and American hatred.
Gettysburg was also another reminder to our family that what once made our country great is not the power we held, but the love the PEOPLE held for each other – that they would lay down their lives for the freedom of people they did not know and they were remembered and thanked.