Until summer in 1863 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was a sleepy crossroads town. Then Confederate General Robert E. Lee moved his Army of Northern Virginia across the Mason-Dixon Line into Union territory. Union soldiers on patrol encountered Confederate troops west of the town, and a skirmish ensued. Fighting quickly shifted to the town, and Union reinforcements occupied hills south and east of the town. The Battle of Gettysburg was destined to be the crucial combat of the Civil War and the most costly on American soil.
The principal battlegrounds are now a United States national park, serviced by Gettysburg city streets and park roads weaving through the areas of the most notorious fighting. In no particular order, here are some photos.
The visitor’s center, just off U.S. 15, is first rate—typical of National Parks centers.
An observation tower, windy and a bit chilly, provides a stunning overview of the battlefields and the town.
The fate of the Union was decided here in the climactic engagement of the battle. Lee gathered a large force facing Union troops holding the high ground on distant Little Round Top. The pieces of artillery, lined up along a park road, point in the direction of the battle.
The view from atop Little Round Top gives testimony to the challenge facing Lee’s troops. They were asked to storm the fortified lines here and dislodge the Union forces. To do so they had to traverse a mile of open ground under the guns (artillery and small arms) of the Union troops. It turned out to be an impossible task.
Period pieces of artillery atop Little Round Top point in the direction of Pickett’s Charge.
History turned among these rocks and within this wooded section as troops under the command of Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain repulsed a rebel attack, sealing the fate of the men under Pickett and the course of the Union for all time.
Monuments stand where men died over 153 years ago.