I’m curious to know how I got good grades in history. I know I atleast got B’s. I do remember feeling like all these dates and places and battles were swirling around in my head and didn’t really make sense. I think I compartamentalized each chapter we needed to learn about for the test. I like to see the big picture and I don’t think that ever happened for me with history.
So this trip has been great. Although still a little hard to keep straight since we’re still learning/visiting/seeing the sites of so many wars and battles. American Revolution, Civil War, War of 1812, Yorktown, WWI, WWII. There has even been stuff about the Vietnam and Korean Wars. Whew. In some cases it’s still felt a little text book and a little intellectual, but there have been rangers, volunteers, movies, and exhibits that have really personalized the war or battle, the person, and their struggles.
At the top of Little Round Top one volunteer did just that as he explained/personalized what Battalion/Brigade/etc really was. He told us to think of Longmont and our friends and family there. That was who was in our regiment. We were fighting alongside our brother, uncle, father, friends. And when a battle wiped out a bunch of people, it could easily have wiped out a whole family or whole town of men.
He also let the kids put a shell into a cannon. It only went part way in, so that it could easily come back out. But it was neat for them to feel how heavy the shell was and to imagine doing that during a battle and the effect it had on the opposite side. He said one of those could take out 23 people in it’s path. Then he gave them a lead bullet (in a plastic bag) and told them that it was cast from a real bullet found on the battlefield in front of us. You see 4,000 people had died in this one fairly small field in front of us. He said you could imagine a red rainbow that day. And at night it was an unwritten rule that you didn’t shoot when you saw a field full of flickering lights. Men were looking for their brother, father, uncle among the injured and dead. Very sobering, but his imagery was very real and helped us really grasp all that we had been reading at the museum, and in the Junior Ranger books and on the map. And it helped us grasp the sacrifices of all the families throughout our nation’s history.
There is still so much left to explore here. We thought we would make a quick trip into the train station and I wanted to take the kids into the Presidents and First Ladies Hall as I thought that would really bring the Presidents to life. But as with all things, if the description says allow 2 hours, it will probably take us 4. There are several fun touristy things we could have visited including the Elephant Museum. It seemed cheesy, but might have been really great! We didn’t have time to just stroll in the historic downtown and it was so incredibly charming and inviting!
The Gettysburg Museum was very well put together and laid out so well. Even so, we felt like we had to rush through it. We needed one more day in this area in order to not rush through things. The museum also has a movie and cyclorama that we paid to see. Again, both were well done. The down side to the cyclorama – they rush you through it. We wanted more time to look at it, but they had another group coming through.
We visited the Eisenhower House which was very cool. Ike was an amazing guy! 5 Star General, first Commander of NATO, POTUS. The kids were able to become Jr. Secret Service Agents and got a cool metal star badge to prove it! The tour guide was good at pointing out the challenges the SS had out at the farm. One such challenge was an observation tower along the Civil War auto tour that allows people to view the battlefields. It also gave a great bird’s eye view of Ikes house and farm. We wound up climbing the tower the next day. It was neat to have that perspective as we looked out from the top of the tower. I can see why it concerned the SS Agents.
I have enjoyed learning more about past USA Presidents. Even if you don’t agree with all of their decisions, there are many of our Presidents that have done amazing things in their lives. They were amazing people and accomplished a lot – some at very young ages! Inventors, writers, revolutionaries, rebels, war generals, the writers of our Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. They had some amazing tenacity and courage. It does seem like our more contemporary Presidents don’t have quite the depth that previous generations had, but maybe as I research them more I’ll change my mind.
Looking for clues
Ike's back yard
Calling the cows
From Seminary Ridge
Cemetery ridge in background
View from the top
Lecture on cannons
Little Round Top pano
Loading the cannon
Little Round Top
High Water Mark
Kids' favorite wrapper