The Gettysburg Visit

On Sunday, November 21, your instructor will be at Gettysburg to conduct a tour of the site of the Gettysburg Address. This is not a required class activity. For those students who choose to join me, being at the place where this most famous of American speeches was given provides you a fuller understanding of Lincoln's moment. And, of course, this will be appropriate for your November "Beyond the Classroom" Assignment.

Schedule Details

Before 1 PM: I will arrive at Gettysburg. If the weather is nice (check the website after 9 PM on Saturday evening for a judgment on this), I will bring a picnic lunch and will have lunch at the picnic grounds next to the Visitors Center. You are invited to bring a picnic too, or food can be purchased in the Visitors Center. If it is too cold for a picnic (a likely event), I will be in the Visitor's Center food facility.

2 PM: We will walk over to the cemetery (about a 15 minute walk), walk the grounds, and I will point out some sites to you and talk a bit about the address.

Before or after the above: You may well want to take some time to tour the battlefield at Gettysburg. Although our activities are at mid-day, you may well want to get an early start on Gettysburg. The regrets I hear most often from those that visit is they run out of daylight in November. The battlefield opens at dawn, the Visitor's Center hours are 9-5.

Getting to Gettysburg

Route: From campus, go north on US 1 to the beltway. Take the beltway west to I-270. Take I-270 north to Frederick. In Frederick I-270 turns into US 15 North. Take US 15 north to Gettysburg. Follow the signs to the Visitor's Center.

Time to Drive: My AAA Map-n-Go estimates the time to Gettysburg as 1:39 from College Park. I would say 2 hours is plenty of time on a Sunday morning if you drive at reasonable speeds.

Your Visit

My purpose for the visit is to let you experience the cemetery that Lincoln dedicated on that famous day in 1863. I think this alone will make the trip worthwhile. But in the susquicentennial of the American Civil War, you may want to do more. There is no cost for entering the park, touring the battlefield, or visiting the cemetery. Other things cost.

The Wills House. Since I was last in Gettysburg, the David Wills house has opened downtown as a museum that they say is devoted to the speech. I have not seen it to recommend or not, but will go this time. Admission is $6.50. Hours are 9 to 5. A shuttle is available from the Visitor's Center for $1 each way.

The Visitor's Center Museum is a relatively new and quite extensive museum on the Civil War. Hours are 9-5. Admission is $10.50 and includes a 20 minute film and admission to see the Cyclorama, a auditorium-size painting of Pickett's Charge that traveled extensively through the United States in the late 19th century. Is it worth the rather high price? My first time, I spent hours there. This was a mistake. You want to get out on the battlefield, not look at something that could be anywhere and just happens to be in Gettysburg. But if you know little about the Civil War, you won't after going through the museum. It is well done (but has hardly anything on the speech). Frankly, if my resources were limited, I would spend them to rent the film Gettysburg (see below) to find out about the battle. Food is available at the visitor's center without paying for museum entry (of course you pay for the food).

The Battlefield. If you leave yourself some time to visit the battlefield, reserve whatever time you want, but I recommend at least two hours. The park is large. From the Visitor's Center the area of Pickett's Charge is within walking distance. The sites of most of the other fighting require driving. There are five ways to manage this drive:

Have the feeling everyone has their hand in your pocket? A quarter century ago, private enterprise had commercialized the Gettysburg battlefield. The commercial ventures have been controlled, with the NPS and its non-profit partners now commercially exploiting the history of Gettysburg. Sigh! But I want to emphasize the really important basic things about Gettysburg are free. The costs are merely enhancements and sometimes, in fact, detract from the quality of your experience. Add what you can afford or want to add. But do the free basics as your priority.

Preparation for your visit

Reading Wills is the only required preparation for the day.

I believe that viewing the film "Gettysburg," produced by Ted Turner will enhance your experience of the battlefield. It is a long film (about 4 hrs). It should be available at your video store or through Netflix. Accept no substitutes. The film divides into two parts. The first part tells the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who was a Professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College and leader of the 20th Maine. It is an interesting account of the early battle. The 2nd part is the story of Pickett's charge, the most famous event during the battle. If you can only spare two hours, watch the first half of the film.

Dress warmly. You will probably be outside for a considerable time at Gettysburg, with a little time in the visitor's center.

Do you need to go with the group?

Most assuredly not! If you can go some other time do so. In fact, the big anniversary celebration of the speech is Friday and Saturday, November 19 and 20. There will be many activities at the cemetery on those days. You can do your November "Beyond the Classroom" Assignment based on any visit.

I have one suggestion if you go by yourself. Spend some time near the monument with the text of the speech in the cemetery. Just stand there and listen to parents explain to their children the meaning of the text. Is moral inheritance still alive?


We will not take the trip if the weather is threatening. Notice of cancellation will be posted on the website by 9:00 Saturday evening, November 20. So, if poor weather is threatened, please check before going to Gettysburg on Sunday.

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