Today and the past three days have been damp, chilly and drizzly. It doesn’t look as though our one remaining day is going to be any better, in fact, we’ll probably be packing up in the rain Wednesday morning. However, the weather hasn’t kept us down. Much. We have foregone taking part in the ranger led battlefield walk and talks that we’d hoped to do but we are already planning a return trip for Autumn of 2016. That said, we did participate in one ranger led talk, the Soldier’s National Cemetery. We’re glad we did too as we feel we got more out of our visit than we would have had we ventured there on our own.
Soldier’s is one of the first national cemeteries. After the battle, approximately 7,000 soldiers were buried in and around town but the ensuing heavy rains exposed many of the hastily dug graves. This caused many individuals to suggest a soldiers cemetery be established. So, with the financial support of Northern states, local attorney David Wills purchased 17 acres on Cemetery Hill, adjacent to the town’s Evergreen Cemetery. A landscape architect was commissioned to design the plot and a semicircular plan with soldiers from each Northern state buried together in distinct sections was created.
Wills grappled with how to bring the thousands of bodies buried on the battlefield to the cemetery. He advertised for proposals to rebury the dead. The winning bid was $1.59 per body. By the end of the Civil War 3,555 Union soldiers were interred into the national cemetery, 1,664 of them are unknowns. The cemetery was completed in 1869. Later cemetery records show that at least seven Confederate soldiers accidentally were interred here.
The cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863. The key speaker at the dedication, Edward Everett, gave an oration that lasted two hours. This was followed by President Abraham Lincoln being asked to give a few appropriate remarks. I must note here that President Lincoln was not on the original list of invitees and was only invited to attend as an afterthought. The two minute speech that Lincoln delivered is what has become known as The Gettysburg Address.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate–we can not consecrate–we can not hallow–this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our own power to add or detract. The world will note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that the government of the people, by the people, shall not perish from the earth.
A number of post war burials of service men and women have taken place in the cemetery but all new interments ceased in 1968. The cemetery now holds veterans from every major war, including the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World wars I & II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Lee’s Headquarters, now a museum and free to the public, was built in 1834. At that time it was owned by the noted statesman Thaddeus Stevens. It was on July 1, 1863 that Lee established his headquarters here. It was considered an ideal location, center and rear of his battle lines.
At the time the house belonged to Mrs. Mary Thompson, a widow. She was not happy about her house being inhabited by a “Rebel”. Later when asked, she did state that while Lee was in attendance, he did conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner, although she couldn’t say the same for his attendants. She also refused to cook for them or serve them.
The house was later opened as a museum in 1922, it is one of Gettysburg’s oldest museums dedicated to the war. The museum has displays of artifacts found on the battlefield and a few from the time that ‘Ol Bobby Lee was encamped here.
FIRST SHOT MARKER
We decided to go in search for an obscure monument on the way to Cashtown. The one we sought is locally known as the First Shot Marker. You won’t find it on any tour route and it isn’t easy to locate. Situated three miles out of town on the Chambersburg Pike, about four feet in height, the conical shaped stone can be found in the yard of an old Civil war era house.
A few minutes after 7:00 AM, the advance picket post of the 8th Illinois spotted a dust cloud coming up Chambersburg Pike. The Confederates spied the Yankees at about the same moment and formed a skirmish line. After passing word back about the enemy’s approach, Lieutenant Marcellus Jones took matters into his own hands. He grabbed Sergeant Shafer’s carbine, rested it across a fence rail and fired a single shot at the commanding officer as the column of Rebel infantry came across the Marsh Creek Bridge, apparently missing. Thus the storied first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The monument was erected by three members of the 8th Illinois in 1886.
That evening the mist cleared and we were able to enjoy a campfire outside in the crisp Autumn air. With leaves floating down from the tree near us and listening to the crickets chirping, it just doesn’t get much better than that.
We also took advantage of the cold, rainy days to get our grocery shopping done, wash clothes and downloading the numerous battlefield photos from off our camera cards.
Today dawned warm, and sunny for awhile. The lull before the storm. Tomorrow we are expecting horrific weather according to the newscasts. A 100% chance of thunderstorms with possible tornadic activity. Well for some reason or another, I had it in my mind that our stay was up here at Drummer Boy campground, that tomorrow we would be on our way to Washington DC, I convinced Don that was the case as well. So Don began packing up our patio rug, chairs, grill and such this morning, not wanting to pack it wet tomorrow. With tomorrow’s weather lying heavy on his mind, he conferred with me about the possibility of us leaving a day early to avoid traveling in the wind and storm. I concurred, it was a good idea. While Don was outside packing up the remaining camp paraphernalia, I was getting the inside packed up. Almost finished, I spied our reservation form folded up next to my laptop, picking it up, I opened it and……discovered we weren’t due to leave here until Thursday. Talk about a brain fart! Bringing it to Don’s attention, we decided to wait out the storm parked right where we sit. We unpacked, but only a minimum amount of stuff to get us through the next two days. Since I like to think I’m never wrong, I wonder if Don will let me live this one down???
I must be forgiven. Don told me to change out of my blue jeans, he was taking me out to eat at the restaurant I had been wanting to go to. The Dobbin House Tavern. The Dobbin House dates back to 1776, it’s the oldest standing structure in Gettysburg and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built as a home and school by Reverend Alexander Dobbin, big enough to house his family and serve as a Classical School. Located just north of the Mason-Dixon Line, it was a first stop north on the Underground Railroad. It even served as a field hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg and is purported to be haunted. Today it is a popular colonial style restaurant. The atmosphere, food and service is representative of fine dining as it was two hundred years ago.
We highly recommend the French Onion Soup Au Gratin, the homemade peach bread, deep dish apple pie and the pecan pie but although Don’s filet mignon was cooked to perfection, mine wasn’t. My filet was more well than medium, making it tougher than I like, so for a $30 filet, I was disappointed. The atmosphere and our server Sarah more than made up for my meal’s shortcomings. Don however was fully sated.
Here’s lookin’ at you kid……………