So I absolutely hate to say that I'm a little disappointed.
Disappointed? How can anyone be disappointed with what has been done to preserve the memory of this battle and the men who fought there? It is all magnificent. The monuments and statues alone - which are indescribably beautiful - are worth a fortune. The work that has gone into developing the route which outlines the battle almost moment by moment over the three days it was fought has been painstaking. The collected stories would fill a complete volume.
I think I was disappointed because it was all a little too slick. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Arriving at Gettysburg requires about a half hour trip off the main roads. I like that. You have to want to go. And the morning we went there were a lot of people wanting to go. The place was packed. Busloads of senior citizens and other busloads of high school and junior high schoolers were everywhere.
At the visitors center we discovered that there are a number of ways to tour Gettysburg. You can just drive through following a car route and stop to read every marker and monument - there are several thousand of them. You can buy an audio CD that will guide you through the tour - we were offered a choice of three: the bare bones version that is a simplified version for someone that doesn't have a lot of time, a good version that uses the script taught to the official tourguides, and one with a hollywood actor giving a dramatic spin to the story of the battle with sound effects and music. You can take a bus tour that will stop at all the important stops. Or, you can hire a tour guide to take your group through the tour.
Being enamored with all things hollywood, hating bus fumes, and cheap as they come I chose the dramatic CD. Big mistake. The production quality and storytelling was superb - I heard about brave dogs and cowardly generals, stories of tragedy and stories of bravery, and no less than three key moments that could have turned the outcome of the battle. The three CDs are well worth the money.
But this place does not need them. It deserves a quiet respectful viewing.
Pamela wanted to start with the graveyard, but that's not the way the tour starts so we followed the tour route. Big mistake.
If I had it to do over again I'd take Pam's advise and start with the graveyard. Get in touch with the solemnity of the place, then I'd visit the observation towers to get a lay of the land to see how the terrain managed the battle, and I'd close with a prayer that this type of destruction will not visit us again.