Shock and Awe in Gettysburg

Monument to the 1st Minnesota Infantry at Gett...

Monument to the 1st Minnesota Infantry at Gettysburg

Our Nation’s Capitol   Part 2

I have loved Civil War History since I was a girl.  Every summer, as soon as school let out, I read Gone with the Wind.  Nerd you say?  Perhaps.  But, Scarlett and Rhett are the best and I will be the first in line should hoop skirts be brought back in fashion – just sayin’.  As an adult, I am awed by the terrible brutality of the Civil War and the way it shaped our nation.

I am particularly intrigued by the National Civil War Battlefields. Standing on the place where so many men fought and died is very humbling and it’s something I wanted my children to understand.  So, now that I’m in charge, I drag them through as many of these famous sites as I want. The kids roll their eyes as I mull over the museums, watch the films in the interpretive center and buy souvenirs.  They don’t put up much of a fight because I have the car keys.  Gettysburg was at the top of my list.

We arrived at the visitor center and decided to buy the guided auto tour CD.  As the desk volunteer scribbled a few arrows on a map, she explained how easy it was to follow and pointed us toward the door.  Nana and Grandpa said they would bring up the rear but got a late start out of the parking lot and we lost them on the first turn.  We circled back, came up behind him and tried to pass amid honks and glares from other auto tour patrons.  We got our vehicles back in line and made it to the first stop, which happened to be the only stop we followed in the order of the CD all day.

We were not the only vehicles having trouble navigating the tour.  On every street, cars driven by wide-eyed tourists were creeping along, driving on curbs, making abrupt stops and blocking traffic with three-point turns. People leaned and squinted out windows trying to read street signs. Most of Gettysburg’s homes had huge signs in their yards reading PRIVATE PROPERTY – NO TRESPASSING; definitely a wise move.

After listening to dramatized reenactments at the wrong sites, we eventually gave up on the CD and started pulling over wherever we saw groups of cars.  After questioning the other drivers about what they were looking at, we got back into our cars and listened to the corresponding audio track.  On a few stops we overheard tidbits from guided tours. That’s how we unintentionally found out that we were standing on the place where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address – kinda cool; the kids were impressed.

We happened upon an observation deck, about 2 stories tall. I thought maybe from up there, we could figure out our map.  Nana doesn’t like heights so she and Grandpa stayed in the car.  The kids and I clambered up the stairway and joined a group of onlookers. Surveying the land, I was swept up in my grand love of Civil War history and forgot that I was traveling with 4 teenagers and an eleven-year old.  At the rail, I started saying something profound about the pivotal importance of the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War, when I heard my 13-year old gearing up to hawk a loogy off the deck.   In one of those moments that seemed to move to slow-motion, I heard myself saying “Nooooo Peterrrrrr….”   Too late – he launched the monster of all loogies.  This thing was huge and had a life of its own.  We watched in horror as it sailed out, was caught by a stiff back wind and returned, undulating and twisting, in our direction.  His older brothers ducked as it sailed over their heads for a direct hit on the shirt of the guy behind them. A stunned silence settled over the observation deck.  A woman awkwardly fumbled in her purse for a tissue. I broke the spell by lunging for the ear of the offender as the other kids sneaked toward the stairs.  I dragged the culprit over to make a shame-faced apology.  To glares and shaking heads, I backed my way off the deck nudging the spitter behind me.  We joined the other kids in their full-out sprint to the car, signaling Grandpa to start ‘er up. For once in their lives, my family entered a vehicle without a fight and we squealed away. The Loogy Guy wasn’t at our next stop – our disordered touring method turned out to be our salvation.

After conducting Loogy Guy surveillance, we hit a few more stops.  It happened to be Living History Day and we were treated with a blast from a real cannon, along with some amazing stories about the bravery of the 1st Minnesota Infantry. We sat on the top of Little Big Top and gazed down at the the Devils Den, listening to a tour guide describe the horror of the battle.  The kids were properly awed and I slowly recovered a few shreds of dignity.  With no further Loogy Guy sightings, we wrapped up a great day and set off for Washington D.C.  He’s probably written a blog about how some lousy kid ruined his day at Gettysburg.

Next up – “It’s Cherry Blossom Festival???”

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2 thoughts on “Shock and Awe in Gettysburg

  1. Did this “just happen” as in this summer!! :o) Funny…believe me I could write a book about Life with Josh and his moments in public! Grace LOVES the civil war too. Great movies we own: Gods and Generals, Gettysburg, and we just saw The Conspirator directed by Robert Redford about the trial of the Lincoln assassins.

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