A few weekends ago, we wanted to dabble in a little Civil War history (you know, it was one of those mornings), and took a day drip to Gettysburg. We chose probably the hottest day of the summer to do this, but we had been planning this trip ever since I got here, and we really didn't want to postpone any longer. Sadly, neither did a motorcycle convention, which made the town packed and extremely loud. There were motorcycles EVERYWHERE and the streets were inundated with the noise of roving Harleys.
Gettysburg is less than an hour away from our house, and what a charming little town it is.
What gives Gettysburg its historical importance is the fact that the Union and Confederate armies chose to duel it out on the fields surrounding the town for 3 days in July 1863, during the American Civil War between the North and the South. This is also the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in November 1863. What I didn't know is that Lincoln's speech, considered one of the most powerful and eloquent pieces of oration in the US history, was only 272 words and 2 minutes long. Talk about concise! Even more interesting is that Lincoln delivered his short address right after the main speaker, politician Edward Everett, who spoke for over 2 hours. There must be a lesson in this.
The town delivers and caters to history buffs and philistines alike, with antique shops, small museums and a self-guided tour of the battlefields. We went into an antique shop gallery which, in a town like this, was like going into a museum. Stray bullets from the Civil War? Check. Old bottles of Coke? Check. Vintage tins? Check. Coins and stamps? Check and check.
While we were walking around town, we came across this little gem of a museum, the Gettysburg Museum of History, which is privately owned and free to visit. This was probably the highlight of our visit. We admit, it's not every day that you get the chance to see a lock of Martha Washington's hair, Eisenhower's golf clubs, President Ford's glasses, Lincoln's wallet and – the cream of the crop – Elvis Presley's underwear (plus underwear that was thrown at him by his adoring fans, thankfully all women). Oh, and if you're that much into Elvis, they also had his Graceland bidet cover on display. It was yellowish-mustard. I kid you not. But if you think this is creepy, another item on display is a prescription for sedatives for one Marylin Monroe, dated close to her death. And one of Evil Knievel's jackets. So yeah, don't miss this museum if you're in Gettysburg (and into weird things).
After closely scrutinizing hundreds of objects belonging to dead people, we decided to lift our spirits with ice cream and a walking tour of downtown. Gettysburg looks very European-like, with small cafes nestled in the ground floors of old buildings, squares full of flowers and wide sidewalks swarming with tourists. Needless to say I was homesick, and demanded to move there immediately.
We ended our visit with the self-guided auto tour of the battlefields, which is 24 miles long and includes 16 tour stops. It would have taken us about three hours to complete the tour at the optimal speed, stopping at all the memorials along the way. But it was too hot and too sunny for this kind of a history lesson, so we took the short route, cut corners, and promised ourselves we'll come back for a complete tour and a visit to the Gettysburg Ciclorama - a sound-and-light show of the spectacular 377-foot painting by Paul Philippoteaux.