My earliest memories of Gettysburg were the weekend days my father would pack my sister, brother, and me into the van and head up to the battlefield to give my saintly mother a breather from us. Each trip was different, from going to Little Round Top and the rocks of Devil’s Den to climbing the Pennsylvania Monument along Cemetery Ridge. I guess I was meant to be a Civil War historian/buff/nerd—whichever descriptive term you want to use there. Our family time opened my curiosity to learn more about what all those monuments commemorated.
As I grew up, Gettysburg—along with Antietam—were places my father and I would go just to spend the day. First we’d drop the ladies off at the outlets (at first, I was upset that they’d been constructed so close to hallowed ground but realize now how wise that concept is). Then my father and I were off to hike part of the field. My dad and I would talk, analyze the battlefield, and just enjoy talking history. I am not sure how many times we walked the observation decks on Culp’s Hill or Seminary Ridge, imagining and strategizing what Confederate or Federal leaders were thinking.
One summer we took the walk across the Trimble-Pettigrew-Pickett Charge, with the temperature comparable to what it was on July 3, 1863. We were in shorts and t-shirts but worked up a great sweat, and it made us appreciative of the men who undertook that charge—and we did not have anyone shooting at us (but we did have to dodge a car or two on the Emmitsburg Pike!).
The battlefield also helped me get over kidney stones. A few days after getting the kidney stones blasted, I went to Gettysburg with the wife and some close friends. Just getting back out to the field, walking around, seemed to put my thoughts into perspective (and make the pain go away, for the most part). The experience made me think how silly it was to still complain about the little pain and discomfiture I had. Even my wife, who got up in the morning to run the Union lines along Cemetery Ridge, talked on her return about “something different” in a good way.
As what transpired there 150 years ago passes further into history, I will have these memories to last until the next anniversary. Thanks Dad, Mom, Adrienne, Patrick, and my wife, Adel, for the memories, the walks, and the chats, and for listening to me quote the movie Gettysburg on the car ride to that small Pennsylvania town.