Changes and New Views at Gettysburg

Yesterday on our trip up for Easter, we stopped for a few hours at Gettysburg.  I tend to get up that way at least once every few months, but in the time since my last visit there were a few changes to the park.

First off, Powers Hill is open so visitors can take in the “empowering” view.

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The park has placed a couple of authentic 3-inch rifles along with four replica guns to represent the Federal artillery that massed on this hill during the battle.

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The value gained by tromping this corner of the battlefield grew immensely after the park and its partners gained the ground directly in front of those guns.  The open field in the middle of the view above was once a private residence.  Visitors had to do their homework to understand why those monuments were placed on what seemed to be just a hill in the woods.  Once old sheds and buildings were removed, visitors can see why those batteries were placed there… more importantly, they can see exactly how those guns influenced the battle.

The other change is up on Cemetery Hill:

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After years of studies, debates, and legalities, the old cyclorama building is gone.  Others have detailed its demise, in video and photo.  So I won’t repeat that here.  As I have some personal links to that War Department monument in the background (Battery F, 5th US Artillery), I look forward to how the park restores and re-utilizes this portion of the park.

I know some have voiced displeasure of the changes to the park in recent decades.  They make some valid points.  But none that, in my opinion, would out weigh this outcome from the project:

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That’s the view from Devil’s Den overlooking the Confederate line of approach.  Priceless.  Yet, free for anyone who visits the park.   I call that tax dollars well spent.

The last change I noticed was the presence of several signs (and I should have stopped for a photo – Where’s Gettysburg Daily when we need them?).  These now delineate overflow parking.   Yes, we are just a few months away from THAT sesquicentennial.

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3 responses to “Changes and New Views at Gettysburg

  1. Good stuff Craig. I haven’t visited since I was wounded on LRT. I had to wait until the snow thawed, which was taking longer this year. I lament the demise of Gettysburg Daily.

  2. Clark B. Hall

    Craig, thanks for this good update. As you know, my dear Deb (Fitts) closely covered goings-on at Gettysburg (and other battlefields) for the Civil War News, and she once told me once a story about tree-clearing at Gettsyburg, which I’ll now repeat here..

    Dick Moe is the author of “The Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers,” an outstanding regimental history of a fine unit that suffered heavily (82% casualties) when they bravely charged down from Cemetery Ridge into a swale and smashed attacking Confederates on July 2 right after the 3rd Corp’s total collapse, to their left. (Hancock personally ordered the 1st Minnesota charge.)

    Over the intervening years, that same swale which witnessed such extraordinary casualties on both sides was covered with trees at about the time Dick Moe was finishing his book.

    Now it should be noted that at the time of his book’s release, Richard Moe was the President for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the nation’s largest, most distinguished preservation organization. As President of “the Trust,” Dick was extremely supportive of our APCWS (now Civil War Trust) preservation efforts at Brandy Station, and elsewhere.

    So, here we have the President of the National Trust and the author of a exceptional regimental history about to come out touring the 1st Minnesota’s lines at Gettysburg, while accompanied by the then-superintendent at Gettsyburg, a capable, action-oriented official.

    As it was reported to me, Dick Moe looked down at the offending trees in the swale that grew heavily where good men fought and died and he remarked to the superintendent that it might be a good thing if those trees came down. Then once down, the battlefield panorama that the 1st Minnesota and the 2nd Corps observed of the Southern attack would once more be arrayed for the visiting public, as it was on July 2, 1863.

    It is herein noted that those trees did in fact come down, and you can go there today and, without obstruction, you can plainly see (and walk) where Minnesotans and Alabamians fought to their death. Their field of battle is once more a wide-open field of battle–and not a grove of latter day trees.

    So, I’m solidly with those folks–who, although criticized by some–are committed to a), saving our battlefields; and b), doing everything possible to return vegetation-infested battlefields back to their original configuration..

    By the way–and I don’t know this, for sure–but the clearing of the trees in the 1st Minnesota swale might have been the first tree-clearing on the Gettysburg Battlefield.

  3. Bill Coughlin

    Craig, I just got back from a visit to Gettysburg and made it a point to climb Powers Hill and take in the new view. It certainly gives you a better appreciation of what the batteries were placed there for. Thanks for the suggestion.

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