Wednesday, June 18, 2008

GNMP: 2008 Anniversary Battle Walks

One of the joys of visiting Gettysburg Battlefield during the Anniversary Days of the Battle is the fantastic Battle Walks conducted by the historians who work in the Park: Interpretive Rangers, and Licensed Battlefield Guides. Visitors should plan to go along on these walks, which are free. Enjoy as many as possible, with the recommendations added after the schedule. These are not to be missed. Here is this year's schedule:

National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
Gettysburg National Military Park
1195 Baltimore Pike, Suite 100
Gettysburg, PA 17325
717/334-1124 phone
717/ 334-1891 fax

2008 Anniversary Battle Walks
July 1, 2, 3, 2008

Join Park Rangers at Gettysburg National Military Park and Licensed Battlefield Guides for a series of free guided walks that discuss the three days of the battle of Gettysburg and its impact. Each program is approximately three hours in length and involves up to two miles of walking. Some of the terrain is moderately difficult. Water, headgear, sun protection and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.

July 1 10:00 a.m.

“The splendid lines of the veterans of the army of Northern Virginia swept down upon us”
Last Stand of the Union 1st Corps on Seminary Ridge.

By the afternoon of July 1, 1863 the Battle of Gettysburg had been raging for over eight hours, as an accidental meeting of the two armies had turned into a full scale engagement. Although elements of the Union army had repulsed the initial Confederate thrust that morning, by 2:00 p.m. the Army of Northern Virginia renewed its assault. After hard fighting along McPherson’s Ridge, the Union 1st Corps fell back to Seminary Ridge where they prepared to make a final stand. The Confederates sent forward fresh troops to sweep away this last vestige of organized resistance west of Gettysburg. Meet Historian D. Scott Hartwig at Auto Tour Stop 1, Reynolds Woods, to learn of this desperate Union stand. Park along the ridge side of Reynolds Avenue. Parking is also available at West End Guide Station and along the right side of Stone Avenue. (Please keep all of the vehicle’s wheels on the pavement.)

July 1 2:30 p.m.

“We sleep here in obedience to law; when duty called we came, when Country called we died.”
Brig. Gen. George Doles Brigade on July 1st
As the battle escalated west of town, it also grew in size to the north with the arrival of Maj. Gen. Robert Rodes’ Confederate division on Oak Hill. The first of Rodes’ men to go into action were a brigade of Georgia soldiers lead by Brig. Gen. George Doles, who advanced across “the plain”…north of Gettysburg against the Union 11th Corps. Join Ranger Matt Atkinson as he follows in the footsteps of Dole’s men during the fighting that followed. Meet at the James Gettys Elementary School parking lot, State Route 34 North. Part of this program takes place on school property. Smoking is prohibited on any school property, including in the parking lot and on the grounds.

July 1 6:00 p.m.

The Damned Dutchmen Are Running Again!
Conventional wisdom through the years has held that the 11th Corps units deployed north of town on July 1st retreated in disorder when attacked by Confederate forces. But is this what happened? Was the 11th Corps routed? Or, did the large number of foreign born soldiers in the corps offer a scapegoat for defeat? Meet Licensed Battlefield Guide Wayne Wachsmith at Barlow’s Knoll to explore this story and learn what really happened to the 11th Corps that day. Park along the right side of East Howard Avenue. (Please keep all of the vehicle’s wheels on the pavement.)

July 2 10:00 a.m.

“The enemy was…attacking our whole front at different points.”
In the Footsteps of Maj. Gen. Winfield Hancock
Nicknamed “Hancock the Superb” for his leadership in 1862, Gettysburg was Maj. Gen. Scott Winfield Hancock’s first test as a corps commander. By the battle’s end it proved to be his supreme performance of the war, confirming that he deserved his famous sobriquet. No more was this true than on July 2, 1863. Join Park Ranger Eric Campbell as he traces the movements of Gen. Hancock along the Union line that day, and recounts his actions, which were critical in staving off possible disaster for the Army of the Potomac. Meet at 2nd Corps Headquarters marker, just beyond the High Water Mark Area, Auto Tour Stop 15. Parking available at the National Cemetery parking lot.

July 2 10:00 a.m.

“War Had Done Its Work”
The Story of 3 Farms Before, During and After the Battle: A Family Program
This walk is recommended for children ages, 8-14, accompanied by an adult or guardian. Before this now sacred ground was the site of one of the most famous battles in world history, this rolling pastoral landscape was owned by individual hard-working farming families who made their living from the soil. Join Ranger Barb Sanders as she examines not only the tremendous sacrifices made by three families (the Weikerts, Trostles and Klingels) to operate their farms but also how the fighting of July 2, 1863 swept across their properties and impacted their lives. These included not only the direct battle damage suffered by each, but also the military uses of the farmsteads as headquarters and hospitals. This program begins at Father Corby statue on Hancock Avenue. Park along the right side of Hancock Avenue. (Please keep all of the vehicle’s wheels on the pavement.)

July 2 2:30 p.m.

“This force advanced against my line.” - David Gregg.
The Struggle for Brinkerhoff’s Ridge

During the late afternoon of July 2, 1863, Brigadier General David M. Gregg ordered the 10th New York Cavalry to dismount and advance against the 2nd Virginia Infantry of the famous Stonewall Brigade. Other units were deployed to support and a spirited fight unfolded on Brinkerhoff’s ridge east of Gettysburg. The true significance was much greater though, as the fight became the measure for where the famous July 3 cavalry battle occurred at East Cavalry field. More significantly, the placement of two Union cavalry divisions between the Hanover and Heidlerburg roads, froze three Confederate infantry brigades from attacking Cemetery and Culp’s hills at the decisive moment of the three day battle. Meet Ranger Troy Harman to trace a hidden gem of a story that occurred 145 years ago to the hour. Directions and meeting place available at the information desk.

July 2 6:00 p.m.

Lt. Gen. James Longstreet: Culprit or Scapegoat?
This program will examine Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s role in the fighting on July 2 including his approach march and his actions during the fighting that followed. The program will also examine the actions of other officers and how they impacted Longstreet’s performance that day. Meet Ranger Karlton Smith at the Longstreet Statue at the Amphitheater on West Confederate Avenue.

July 3 10:00 a.m.

“...a view to pass around the hill occupied by the enemy on his left.”
Longstreet’s July 3 Flank Attack Examined

One of the biggest “what ifs” of the Battle of Gettysburg involves whether General Robert E. Lee should have followed General James Longstreet’s resolve on July 3, to extend the Confederate right beyond the Round Tops. Longstreet authorized an after-dark scouting party to search for ways “by which we might strike the enemy’s left” and actually began to implement a tactical turning maneuver early on July 3 before Lee cancelled it. If historians are obligated to investigate “the road not taken” to understand the one that is, then Longstreet’s partial attempt falls somewhere in between. Join Ranger Troy Harman for a hike around Big Round Top and a full investigation of this story. Walk begins on South Confederate at the Texas Monument and ends along Howe Avenue behind the Round Tops. Car-pooling is recommended.

July 3 1:00 p.m.

“It is Not a Little Surprising That General Lee Should Have Reckoned So Largely Upon the Result.”
A Critical Assessment of the Confederate Intentions and Capabilities Behind the Confederate Bombardment on July 3rd
This program examines the intentions end the overall effectiveness of the Confederate cannonade of July 3rd. What was Lee precisely attempting to accomplish with his artillery? Was it possible for the Confederates to have achieved more than they did? Meet Park Ranger Bert Barnett at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory (Battery B, 108th FA) Building on West Confederate for answers and insights to this phase of the battle. Park in the Armory parking Lot.

July 3 3:00 p.m.

The Attack and Repulse of Longstreet’s Assault (“Pickett’s Charge”)
Walk in the footsteps of the Confederate soldiers during their ill-fated assault on the Union center, or stand with the Union defenders on Cemetery Ridge. A team of rangers will follow the route of Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s Division from Seminary Ridge to Cemetery Ridge, and another ranger will focus on the Union defense that repulsed the attack. To walk the route of Pickett’s Charge, meet at the Virginia Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 5. The Union defense program begins “Ranger Program” sign at the National Cemetery parking lot.

July 3 6:00 p.m.

The “Other” Round Top
Little Round Top is one of the most recognizable terrain features associated with the American Civil War. But just to the south and looming 120 feet above is the hill for which Little Round Top was named—Big Round Top. Although rarely visited today, Big Round Top has its own fascinating story to tell. Standing in the path of the Southern Infantry on July 2nd and converted into a Union fortress on July 3rd, the hill played a key role in the fighting. Following the war visitors enjoyed the view from its summit and like many other areas of the field veterans placed monuments along it slopes. Join Licensed Battlefield Guides Timothy H. Smith and Garry Adelman as we explore the “Other” Round Top’s trails, folklore, fortifications, historic photos, unique rock formations, monuments, observation towers long gone and the truth about the cavalry fight near the “D-Shaped Field.”. This walk will include rough terrain and some strenuous activity. Meet at the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves monument on South Confederate Avenue. Park at the Big Round Top parking lot, or along the right side of South Confederate Avenue. (Please keep all of the vehicle’s wheels on the pavement).

Wow! What a lineup of great tours presented by quality historians.

Here are some tips to make your walks a bit better.
  • Make sure you keep an eye on the weather before the walk and dress accordingly.
  • Take protection from the sun. A wide brimmed hat is recommended. Sun block is in order.
  • Wear long pants and comfortable walking shoes. Sandals can get you in trouble. Some of the walks go through underbrush which may contain brambles and thorns.
  • Take along some bottled drinking water.
  • Don’t over eat before the walk.
  • If you have a walking stick, take it along. It can help you on slopes, over walls and over rough ground.
  • Stick to the trail your guide sets for you. Venturing afield could put you in an encounter with bees, or other wildlife.
  • Prepare for insects! Use something like Off.
  • Don’t load yourself down with too much camera equipment. Travel light.
Most of all, enjoy your walks, there are new bits of history introduced every year during these walks. And if you miss something, make sure you tune in to the Pennsylvania Cable Network [PCN] starting on July 1 for videos of some of the walks. It’s not as good as being there, but the camera and microphone do catch all of the talk from your guide. Often, PCN will broadcast the current year’s walks starting in the late afternoon or evening of the 1st.

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