Monday, February 23, 2009

I Want to go Down to Gettysburg Town...

I am in a Gettysburg mood.
There, I said it.
It was this time last year that we were planning our April trip to that truly awesome and awe-inspiring place, where we actually walked the battlefields, slept in a historic home, roamed the streets where Yanks and Rebs were, saw the sun set at Little Round Top, and even took a ghost tour.
Unfortunately, this year we are not going there - or anywhere - for a vacation. Not this year. Lay offs are looming over our heads and we best keep closer to home and use our vacation money to pay off a couple of bills just in case.
There is always next year, although we may go somewhere else - Connor Prairie, perhaps.
But, 2010 will also be our 25 wedding anniversary, and my wife hinted at going back to Gettysburg alone (sorry kids! - wait...no I'm not!).
Well, one can hope. But, in the mean time, I am going to relive my trip from last year - won't you join me?
The following is what I wrote in my blog last year - - - - loads of pictures are included. I hope you enjoy it

VACATION at GETTYSBURG
We have been planning our trip to Gettysburg since January, and it came and went much too fast. To help keep those four days in that great historical town with me, as soon as we returned to our home in Michigan, I wrote a day-to-day journal of our experiences:

Wednesday April 23, 2008
As planned we were on the road by 4 a.m. and all went very well on the ride out. That is, until we got to East 30, which takes us into town. It is an extremely steep (ascending and descending) mountain pass that makes the engine smoke going up and the brakes smoke going down. It’s so bad in fact that they have gravel run offs for the truckers (and cars, I suppose) who lose their brakes. I was really worried about my 1997 Ford Econoline - can't afford to have anything happen to it.
We finally made it into Gettysburg by mid-afternoon and checked into the Quality Inn and, as soon as we got our suitcases in the room, we were off walking down Steinwehr Street, going in the shops. We ate a late lunch at the Dobbin House Tavern (built in 1776), a great atmosphere in which to dine, then it was off visiting the town and shopping once again. Late in the afternoon, Patty and I went off to the Corner Clothiers so I could pick up my new period correct sack coat. It’s AWESOME!!! Oh, Man!! I Love It! It's from an 1861 pattern. Kara does phenomenal work! http://www.cornerclothiers.com/instocknow.htm
By nightfall we were back at the hotel where everyone but me went swimming in the indoor pool (I chose not to swim but watched Patty and my two youngest), then watched TV. Very un-19th century but the kids loved it.
A warm and sunny day.

Thursday April 24, 2008
We woke up early and we all put on our period clothing (including me in my new awesome sack coat!), and remained in our period clothing for the next three days. After our free breakfast (courtesy of the Quality Inn), we checked out of the motel, and then took a ride up Taneytown Road. We drove nearly 5 miles to the exact location where my time-travel story that I have been writing takes place – it was so cool! The lay of the land is very close to the description in my story…and I’ve never been there before! I was even able to visit Mt. Joy Lutheran Church, which is also in my story! How cool is that?
After our Taneytown excursion we parked in the back of the Tillie Pierce House in the middle of town (since we were going to spend the night there) at the corner of Baltimore and Breckinridge streets

and went on a guided Civilian Tour to hear what the citizens of the burough experienced during the great battle. We had the same company and guide (http://www.gettysburgaddress.com/HTMLS/amerStory.html - ask for Pat) as we did back in ’05. We really enjoyed it tremendously. It really puts the whole battle into perspective. Many people do not realize just what went on in that town during the summer of 1863, and this tour will give you that understanding of what took place on the streets. It could be a movie unto itself

It was then back to shopping, this time on Chambersburg Street and around the “diamond” (town square).
From there it was to the Farnsworth Inn for lunch. It was built in 1810 with an addition in 1833.
Mid-afternoon we checked into the Tillie Pierce House Bed & Breakfast (under new ownership as of 2010). Initially we had some concerns: it was pretty warm, the room we had, although fairly large, was too small to accommodate all seven of us, and Rosalia had a fear of staying there (she told Ashley she could feel someone staring at her…someone who couldn’t be seen). Another concern was trying to keep the kids busy with no TV to watch. But the owners, Keith and Leslie, were extremely nice and, since there would be no other guests staying there that night, gave us – at a reduced rate – another room for the overflow. In fact, it was the actual bedroom of Tillie Pierce herself! They also gave us a couple of roll-away beds to use. Now, if that isn’t courtesy, I don’t know what is. Keith also promised to have the air-conditioning on for us when we returned from our day out (which he did). So, it was off to shop and walk around town once again and, upon returning, everything was set up for us perfectly and comfortably.

The landing on the 2nd floor has a small shrine to the namesake of the home. It's really kind of cool, in an eerie sort of way (see the above picture). The rooms, just so you know, are filled with antiques, including the beds we slept on. It was great – a dream come true! Dressed in period clothing and staying in an actual Civil War house in Gettysburg. It does not get any better! And it didn't matter that we didn't have a TV because everyone was so tired from the day's adventures that they all went right to sleep. No problem!
By the way, Keith and Leslie did an amazing restoration job on the house and I highly recommend staying there if you get a chance. Awesome!
As we hung around the house I got a phone call from JEB from the 21st Michigan (he, Bruce, and Ray also went to Gettysburg – separately from us, of course) inviting us to Little Round Top to watch the sunset. We accepted and drove out there in the early evening. That really set a great mood – how beautiful!! Patty said that was one of her favorite parts of the trip. I took loads of pictures – most of which turned out really good.
When we left there we went back to town and ate at a pizza place called “Tommy’s.” It was so-so – pretty greasy - but we were hungry.
Back to the Tillie Pierce House where, as I mentioned earlier, everyone but me went to bed. I decided to stay up and read for a bit. While in my period clothing, I went to the un-used darkened front bedrooms (all bedrooms were on the second floor) to look out to see Gettysburg at night. Below us and also across the street I could see there were ghost tours going on. Gettysburg is considered the most haunted town in America, in case you didn't know. So I decided to see if I could scare anyone by just standing there in my period clothing, maybe looking like a spirit from the past, but no one looked up at the window I was in. I even moved the curtains to try to get attention but, unfortunately, no one noticed, so I went back to the room. I found out the next day that Tommy did the same thing and got the same response that I got - nada. He would have been even cooler, being dressed as a Civil War soldier. That would have been a riot if we could have given a bit of a fright to a few folks on a ghost tour.
Later, while lying in bed, I heard a few creaks, a couple of raps, and slight footsteps up in the garret (attic). Tom said he heard the same thing. Could it be? Hmmm... Probably the oddest thing I heard was the ticking of the wind up clock (that was already in the room when we got there) became very loud for about a minute – yes, LOUD – then quieted back down. Was it a ghost? If it was a spirit of some sort, I think it liked us. Maybe because we were in period clothing - who knows? Whatever the reason, I felt very comfortable and slept great. Rosalia fell asleep very quickly, considering how afraid she was initially. They say kids can see and feel things better than adults. By the way, Keith told me that he heard groans the previous morning – I didn’t tell anyone else in the family.
Another day of beautiful weather.

Friday April 25, 2008
We had a wonderful omelet breakfast - cooked by Leslie - that we ate in that beautiful period dining room. A fine meal, that was!
What was neat was that we had the dining room to ourselves - kind of like it was ours'. Ahhh...one day maybe...

Unfortunately, because they were going to have a full house for the next couple of nights, we could not stay another night there (there was no way we could all fit into one room – even the large Elizabeth Thorn suite that Patty and I slept in), so, by mid-afternoon, it was back to the Quality Inn. But, I want to, once again, publicly thank Keith and Leslie for what I consider my favorite part of our vacation - staying in that historical house. What an honor. And also for their courtesy and kindness.

After leaving *sniff* the Tillie Pierce House, we met with JEB, Bruce, and Ray for a personal battlefield tour. If you want a detailed tour of the Gettysburg battlefields, it doesn't get any better than hitching up with these three guys.
We went to Spangler's Spring, Culp’s Hill, and the west end of Reynold’s Woods, at Willoughby Run. We also went to the Sachs covered bridge (off the beaten path – built in the 1850’s). JEB said that General Longstreet hung three deserters there and supposedly their spirits remain.
It was a beautiful bridge.
I got reservations to have us all eat lunch at the Cashtown Inn (built in 1797). Out of the way, but a historically beautiful place.
After lunch, we split from the the other 21st members and went to the area of Pickett’s Charge. Patty, Tom, and Rob walked the entire length (me, Ashley, Miles, and Rosalia stayed at the van and slept – I walked it two years ago - no need to do it again). While they were walking the length, there was a Boy Scout troop walking it also and when they saw Tommy they “shot” him with their toy guns. He, of course, “died,” which they thought was great. The scoutmaster came up and thanked Tommy for making their day.

Continuing on the street called Confederate Avenue, we passed by the Round Tops then stopped at the Weikert home where Tillie Pierce stayed during the battle – I took lots of pictures of it. It is located right near the foot of Little Round Top – imagine what they saw while staying in that house on July 2, 1863!
More walking around town took place until the late afternoon when we went to the Gibson Photography Studio to have our tintypes taken. It was so cool (yes, I know I’ve said that word quite a bit, but it’s true!). The guy uses an actual 1867 camera and posed us authentically. The tintype turned out excellent. http://www.civilwarphotography.com/gibson/index2.html
Rob Gibson is a well-known modern "period" photographer who has done covers for Civil War Historian magazine as well as taken tintypes of the actors from Gods & Generals and Cold Mountain.

Back to the motel for the evening.

Saturday April 26, 2008
Tommy, Robbie, Ashley, and I began our day by going to the Evergreen Cemetery to search out the local graves. I took photos of many of the grave stones, including citizen patriot John Burns and Jennie Wade, who was the only civilian killed during the battle. We also found many of the graves of the citizens mentioned on the Civilian Walking Tour from a couple days previous.

After a bit more of walking the town, I split off from the rest of my group and took a tour of the inside of the Farnsworth House (known as the Sweney House in 1863), including the garret where a Confederate sharpshooter was stationed and (as the story goes) shot Jennie Wade from the window. It was chilling to be in that actual spot knowing what happened. The feeling one gets when in an area like that is indescribable. Again, I took loads of photos.

While touring the house, I met up with a couple of guys from Richmond, Virginia, and began telling them some of the civilian stories that I heard (and read) about and took them to the Tillie Pierce House to introduce them to Keith. They hadn't realized all that happened in town during the battle - most folks don't seem to know that, unfortunately.
Back with my family and, for dinner, we ate at a greasy spoon – I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, but it was cheap and filling but not that great.
In the evening, Tommy, Robbie, Ashley, and I took a Ghost Tour of the town. If you have never done one of these my advice is to do it because it was another really good time. Unfortunately for us, rain poured the whole tour time but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying ourselves. I’m not complaining since it was the only time it rained like that during our whole time there. The stories told of the most haunted town in America were pretty cool. They kind of make you look over your shoulder a bit more, if you know what I mean. http://www.ghostsofgettysburg.com/

Sunday April 27, 2008
Up at 6:30 and on the road by 8, we had a very good (but lo-o-ong) ride home. We made it back by 5:15. I didn’t take East 30 (or, rather, West 30) back – I took the longer way around as I didn’t want to possibly have any problems with my van. Too scary - I don't need any damage done to my van. It has to last me a while yet.
Visiting Gettysburg is a fantastic experience that I never get tired of – even three times in four years! I always learn something new. And, what really helps the experience is wearing period clothing, which we did the entire time from Thursday morning through Saturday night, even when we went out to eat at fast-food joints. We were stopped so many times by folks so they could take our picture, and the residents certainly appreciated it as well.
I can’t say what my favorite part of this year’s vacation was, but I really enjoyed staying in the Tillie Pierce house – an actual house that was there during the battle that has been restored back to its original 1863 splendor. I also really liked watching the sun set from Little Round Top. The two tours we took (civilian and ghost) were both excellent. I guess I just liked it all, just being engulfed by all that history.
Unfortunately, this will be it for Gettysburg for two or three years. *sniff*

Here are a few more shots taken in April 2008 on our Gettysburg excursion:

This first shot is of the Dobbin House built in 1776. Great food, by the way.
This next pic is of Tom, Rob, and Ashley reading the many tombstones in Evergreen Cemetery

Tom and Rob at the Lincoln shrine in the National cemetery. This is the cemetery where President Lincoln gave his infamous Gettysburg Address.

Here is a photo of all of us at breakfast in the Tillie Pierce House. The food was awesome! Another shot of mia famiglia, this time in front of the Tillie Pierce House.
Here, Patty and I are on the porch of the Cashtown Hotel / Inn

This next pic is was taken at Willoughby Run, on the west end of Reynolds Woods. There's a lot that happened here in this stream - too much to write at this time. Look it up - fascinating stuff.
Spangler Spring supplied both the north and south with much needed fresh water. It's located at the foot of Culp's Hill. By the way, if you haven't noticed, we all seem to wear our 'Civil War Faces' when having our images taken while in period clothing. It's a habit. We all had a fantastic time. Really.
Here is the famous Farnsworth House - known in 1863 as the Sweney House - where a Reb sharpshooter reportedly shot Ginny Wade from the garret window. Notice the more than 100 bullet markings (in white) on the side.

One of my favorite pictures that I took: my wife (and son) during sunset at Little Round Top
I have tons of photos of Gettysburg. I will probably post more in a future blog.
I hope you like them.
I highly recommend a visit to Gettysburg when the opportunity allows. Truly an awesome historical place.


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2 comments:

Jennifer P. said...

What a wonderful way to experience Gettysburg! To think I was on a double decker tour bus. Your family's trip has inspired me! On a different note, my mother did a post-graduate year at the Merrill-Palmer Institute (now part of Wayne State) in the early 1960s and really took advantage of and appreciated the museums and galleries of the city--this from a woman from Louisiana. She would be fascinated with the E. Detroit Historical Society.
Thanks for your work!

Historical Ken said...

Thank you very much for your kind words.
Even after three times in four years, I'm ready to head back to Gettysburg!
Yes, the East Detroit Historical Society is small but we do quite a bit, although it has slowed a little since our society president is now our mayor.
With all the bad in and around Detroit, I must say we do have a strong appreciation for our museums - I wrote the following blog late last year describing many of lower Michigan's historical sites:
http://passionforthepast.blogspot.com/2008/11/if-you-seek-history-look-about-you.html
Again, I appreciate the kind words.
Ken