The Battle of Gettysburg
Gettysburg National Military Park, New Visitor Center

When Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election of 1860, it was doubtful that he knew much about the small Pennsylvania farm town only a short train ride away from Washington, D.C.  Even when the cannons roared their shot into Fort Sumter in April of 1861, the thought that Confederate states, now calling for secession, would invade a northern town in an attempt to win recognition from European allies and break the back and will of the Yankee citizenry was beyond him.  But it would be so.

For three days from the 1st to the 3rd of July 1863, with the emancipation proclamation in force, 163,000 soldiers of both armies would cross the fields and hills of Gettysburg in a battle that the United States had never seen, and would never see since.  One third of the men who fought in the battle of Gettysburg would be lost to the ranks of the wounded, or dead, or missing.  One army would stand its ground at the High Water Mark of the Confederacy and turn back the tide, while the other would retreat across the fields of Pickett's Charge, never to engage in a battle of significant proportion again on Northern soil.  It would be two more years before anyone knew what the importance of Gettysburg would be.  It would be two more long years of Civil War.  But there is no doubt that throughout the fields and rocks, and now cemeteries of the small Pennsylvania town, the history of the United States had been written in the blood of courageous men on both sides, that which would eventually bind that split nation together, forever.

As much as any historic site in the United States today, Gettysburg reflects the honor and tenacity of its past.  Gettysburg National Military Park encompasses nearly 24 square miles, surrounding the town itself in a fishhook arc, which approximates the battle lines of the North and South on Cemetery Ridge and Seminary Ridge.  The park is filled with monuments that pay homage to each regiment that fought there and contains a reverence that you can feel with each tingle of your soul as you walk the many trails, either accompanied by park rangers, paid guides, on horseback, or by yourself, or ride around the park roads in private automobile or bus tours.  The town also contains a bustling amount of Civil War attractions, from museums, historic homes, taverns, bed and breakfasts, to a town walk, whether ghost or otherwise.  Very little about Gettysburg does not center around its Civil War history, although a myriad of other attractions have popped up, both historic (Eisenhower National Historic Site sits alongside the park and can be visited by shuttle bus from the main Gettysburg Military Park Visitor's Center) and otherwise.

There's always an argument amongst historians about whether Gettysburg was the most important event of the Civil War, but as one park historian has said in the past, no matter what they may think, the men of the Civil War thought so, erecting more monuments in this town, on this battlefield, than at any other.  In fact, there are more statues in Gettysburg than any other location on earth, outside Paris and, I think, Kansas City.  This is a place to visit, to bring your children, to learn and remember.  And it will be a vacation you will recall as well, even if history is not the most imperative focus of most of your days.  And if it is, or is not, you'll still be amazed at the sights, the stories, and the sacrifice here.

Cemetery Gate - Gettysburg 1863

Watch the wondeful videos here
put together by the No Casino Gettysburg and Civil War Preservation Trust coaltion about the effort to preserve Gettysburg and get more info on the 10 mile buffer zone measure that would permantly bar a casino from coming to Gettysburg.  It includes well known peope who are against the casino idea, including Sam Waterston, Matthew Broderick, Ken Burns, and others.  A second video by the same actors, all reciting the Gettysburg Address is also included.

The Novel of the Wild West's 
Most Unlikely Hero & the son of Confederate Jesse James

Things You Should Not Miss

1. Take time to wander the battlefield with a park ranger.  During the summer months, the park provides over 15 different guided walks for free, over different parts of the battlefield.  Some are available in the off-season.  These folks know the topic of Gettysburg with amazing clarity and can give you a feel for what the men and women of the era had to endure, as well as where and when and why it was important.
2. The Cyclorama.  Not only a fantastic painting over one hundred yards in length by Paul Philippoteaux that explains, in light and sound the horror of Pickett's Charge, but it is an example, in historic terms, of a media that preceded motion pictures.  This was how folks viewed their history before television, and the painting with this Cyclorama is nearly 150 years old.  Its location here in Gettysburg comes after a career in centers around the country during the late 1800s, including a very popular attraction at world's fairs.  Did you ever wonder how and why the Disney parks came about?  Elias Disney, Walt's father, worked for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and likely viewed the Cyclorama of Gettysburg.  Imagine the stories told about that dinner table. The Cyclorama is now fully restored with a spectacular sound and light show, now showing in the rotunda of the new Visitor Center and Museum.
3. Take a walk by yourself at dusk over any section of the battlefield and listen to the silence.  Then imagine the scene from July 1 to July 3, 1863, one that would have included many calls and cries for help.  You'll get chills.
4. Like to visit neglected, but important parts of National Parks.  Drive over to East Cavalry Field, three miles east of the main park.  This secluded area, which in the summer can be visited with a ranger guided tour once per week, was the site of the main cavalry battle at Gettysburg.  It occurred during the cannonade prior to Pickett's Charge and prevented Stuart from either attacking the Union supply trains and diverting attention from Pickett's Charge or even meeting the rear of Pickett's Charge to cut the Union line in two and changing the outcome from Union to Confederate victory.  This point is debated in Civil War circles, but beginning to get more light shined on it.  New research on the subject show roads which Stuart intended to take to circumvent the rear of Union lines and a new documentary, "The Horses of Gettysburg," will add to the debate.  The preservation fight surrounding Gettysburg, which now includes 8,000 to 20,000 new homes in the area east and north of Gettysburg, would impact the East Cavalry Field more than any other section.  Go there today, then come back and join the fight to protect this important battlefield.

5. Take time to visit Gettysburg during the Remembrance Weekend and Dedication Day around the weekend and day of November 19, the date of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

What is There Now

The Gettysburg Visitor Center & Museum, including the new film,  A New Birth of Freedom, Exhibits, and Visitor Orientation.

Ranger guided walks around the entire battlefield (free of charge), the schedule of walks from mid-June to mid-August is long and varied, with fewer during the off peak season.

Double decker bus tours, licensed battlefield guides that will take you on a private tour inside your own car, and horseback rides around the battlefield.

Outside the Park: Ghost tours, town walks, Civil War theatre, a variety of museums from the American Civil War Museum to the Lincoln Train Museum, plus an IMAX experience.

Then and Now

The picture below gives you an indication of just how the terrain looked in 1863 near the unfinished railroad on the west side of Gettysburg.

Peach Orchard 1863

Gettysburg News and Information

Summer 2014
Coming soon to a town near you, or at least Gettysburg, is the refurbished and renewed Electric Map.  A staple of the old visitor center for decades, the map has been saved and will be displayed on Carlisle Street in Hanover in a conference/heritage center and tell the story of the battle in those flashing lights and narration that millions have enjoyed.  Okay, it's 14 miles away, but Hanover has its Civil War heritage in the battle that was waged there several days before between Gregg, Custer, and JEB Stuart.  So go visit the town next door to learn about its heritage, get a preview to the Gettysburg battle, and thank the man who saved the Electric Map.

Spring 2013

The George Spangler farm has been restored and is now available to tour through a free shuttle bus from the Visitor Center.  Tours occur once, and sometimes more, per week, and have limited tickets.  They are available on a first come, first serve basis.

March 2012

The Gettysburg Trolley, taking visitors between the downtown area and attractions and the new visitor center in now Free to Ride, sponsored by the Gettysburg Foundation.  It's a wonderful way to park your car in one location and see the sites along the town streets.

March 2011

Last year at this time, we were wondering what the fate of the land of the Gettysburg Countryclub, located within park boundaries and site of Iron Brigade fighting on July 1, would be.  Preservation or development with the potential for 420 homes.  One year later and it's now part of the park.  Thanks go to the Civil War Trust and other organizations who led this effort.  For more on preserving Gettysburg, go to Preserve Gettysburg.

June 2009, Trolley Finally Operational

On June 29, 2009, the Gettysburg Trolley, including the Lincoln line that runs between the downtown historic sites, the Steinwehr Avenue museums, and the new Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center, is up and running.  For the cost of $1 per ride, $3 per day, it's a good way to get from here to there without finding a place to park.

February 2009, Restored Wills House Now Open

After several years of restoration work to restore the Wills House, located in the downtown square, to its look when Abraham Lincoln finished the Gettysburg Address during his stay there in November of 1863, the house opened for visitors this February.  Now part of the Gettysburg National Military Park, it will focus on Lincoln's address and the role the town played in the battle.

September 2008, Grand Opening of Museum and Cyclorama
On Friday, September 26, 2008, the grand opening of the Visitor Center, Museum, and Cyclorama will occur. The ribbon cutting ceremony is to be held at 11:00 a.m. and various activities will be held throughout the weekend. The grand opening coincides with the unveiling of the restored Cyclorama painting, which had not been ready for the actual opening of the museum in April, but is now complete and ready to be viewed. In fact, several visitors have already had a sneak peek at the painting, including President and First Lady George and Laura Bush. Pricing for the new combination ticket of the film and Cyclorama has been reduced to $7.50. There are plans ongoing to study the need to include the museum in the new fee structure.

April 2008, New Era for Gettysburg Begins
On April 14, 2008, an new era for Gettysburg National Military Park began with the opening of the 139,000 square foot Museum and Visitor Center.  Sited 2/3 of a mile southeast of the old visitor center, the center includes expanded displays, a new film about the battle, the Cyclorama, as well as food and gift shops and a start off point for bus, guide, and self guided tours.  The restoration of the Ziegler's Grove area, site of the former visitor center and Cyclorama building will occur over the next two years.  Click here for a review of the new visitor center and museum.

Lodging and Camping

Although Gettysburg is a relatively small town, it is geared toward providing a great experience to Civil War tourists, perhaps more than any other site.  There are bed and breakfasts, motels, hotels, and campgrounds that should suit everybody's needs. If you want the motel experience, we're partial to the area around the old visitor center location on Steinwehr Avenue.  This location is within walking distance of Pickett's Charge, the High Water Mark, the National Cemetery, and the myriad of private museums from the Battle Theatre to the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies.  With the new trolley service, you'll be able to travel down to the new visitor center and museum, plus downtown from this location.

Gettysburg Links

Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau
Eisenhower National Historic Site
Gettysburg Foundation (Friends of the National Park at Gettysburg)
Gettysburg Discussion Group
Gettysburg Battlefield Guides
Gettysburg for Kids
Gettysburg Diorama
More Gettysburg Resources

Nearby Attractions

Pennsylvania Civil War Discovery Trail

Gettysburg Then and Now

Little Round Top 1863

Gettysburg Then

Little Round Top
Defensive earthworks along the top and sides of the hill (picture above) reflect the desperate attempt by the forces of Vincent and Chamberlain to fortify the location in the midst of enemy fire.  These hasty attempts, combined with the arduous climb by the Confederate forces to take the hill, provided the necessary cover for victory.  Victory was certainly not easy, however, as the casualties in the Valley of Death indicate.  Some disagreement surrounds the notion of who was the actual hero here, or even who the first man who noticed the vacant position was, but there is no doubt to the fact that Warren, Vincent, Chamberlain, as well as later reinforcements by Colonel McCandless and the Pennsylvania Bucktails, allowed the position to remain in Federal hands through the remainder of the battle.

Citizen Burns
Inside this house (picture below), elderly John Burns lived, a veteran of the War of 1812 and seventy years old in 1863.  When the battle of Gettysburg began on July 1 and the shots could be heard cascading west and north of town, John Burns grabbed his musket and joined the fight.  He was the only citizen to actively participate in the battle.  Before the battle was over, John Burns had taken up arms with the forces of the 150th Pennsylvania Reserves and 2nd Wisconsin along McPherson Ridge.

House of John Burns 1863

Peach Orchard
Two hours of cannonade had raked the Union lines on the land to the south of town.  Unfortunately for the Confederate generals who would have to lead this charge, it had been less than effective, with many of its shot landing past the intended target and in the cemetery ground along Taneytown Road.  So the Union army, commanded by General George Meade, had most of its line intact when the waves of Southern soldiers, 12,000 in total, attempted the fateful walk.  They would face only 7,000 Union soldiers on the other side and breach the line at one point, but the lack of success of the cannon, plus the lack of support from Stuart's cavalry after their repulse at the East Cavalry Field by General Gregg and Custer, would doom the effort to failure and cause the High Water Mark of the Confederacy to quickly lose ground on Cemetery Ridge as well as the battle of Gettysburg.


Gettysburg Now

Warren statue on Little Round Top

Little Round Top
Made famous again by the movie "Gettysburg", Little Round Top has become one of the most visited locations on the battlefield.  The struggle to maintain control of the large rocky hill during the second day of the battle, after Sickel's failure to remain there, allowed the North to remain entrenched on the defensive position of Cemetery Ridge during the third, decisive day of Pickett's charge.  Many scholars view this perch (pictured above, the General Warren statue) as the most important of the battle, because if it had been captured by Southern troops, they would have had the high ground location to position artillery and roll up the Union line to the north of Little Round Top.

Citizen Burns
This statue (below), along Stone Avenue, stands testiment to the tenacity of John Burns, citizen of Gettysburg, who undertook the battle against the Confederate usurpers without fail.  This statue is only one of over one thousand monuments that stand on the field as solid reminders of the fateful outcome that saved a nation from splinter, but cost 51,000 casualties (over 10,000 dead) over three days of fighting.  John Burns was injured during the fight, but lived to tell his tale, a national hero even to President Lincoln, who wished to meet this old resident when he arrived that next November day to give the Gettysburg Address.

John Burns statue on McPherson Ridge

Pickett's Charge
Over a mile of terrain, slightly uphill, under the fire of cannon and muskets, was a daunting task that General Lee had ordered the commanders Pickett and Pettigrew to follow.  Today you can still see the famous land of rolling farmfields, predominantly as it was in 1863, particularly from the viewpoint of Pickett's command (below).  In the distance, the Copse of Trees that became the landmark for Confederate soldiers as they trudged into the face of fire, still stands, and the monuments that grace both the Federal and Confederate side, tell many a story of the fierce fighting that occurred that fateful afternoon.

Picketts Charge from Confederate Perspective

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Visitor Statistics

Gettysburg National
Military Park

#58 Most Visited Historic Site
1,213,349 Visitors

Eisenhower National Historic Park, the Eisenhower home in Gettysburg

Eisenhower National
Historic Site

#258 Most Visited Historic Site, 59,179 Visitors

Park Size

Gettysburg National Military Park

Federal - 4,778 acres. 
Total - 5,990 acres.

Eisenhower National Historic Site

690 acres

Source: NPS, 2013 Visitor Statistics; Visitor Rank among 369 units.

Gettysburg National Military Park Entrance Fees

There is no fee to visit Gettysburg National Military Park, the Visitor Center, or a Ranger Guided Walk.  Special fees for additional items, including the new Visitor Center film, A New Birth of Freedom, the Cyclorama, the Museum, the David Wills House, and Bus Tours do apply.

A New Birth of Freedom Film, Cyclorama, and Museum
Adult - $12.50
Senior/Military/AAA - $11.50
Youth (6-18) - $8.50

David Wills House
Adult - $6.50
Senior - $5.50
Youth (6-12) - $4.00

Eisenhower Bus Tour
Adult - $7.50
Youth (6-12) - $5.00

Other Bus Tours are available from concessionaires, including a Battlefield tour with guide, in car tours with licensed guides, and the new Trolley Service to downtown sites and museums, the cemetery, and the High Water Mark area, which are now FREE to ride.

Fees subject to change without notice.

Gettysburg Museum, Visitor Center, and Cyclorama Now Open

Read the America's Best History Review of the New Visitor Center and Restored Cyclorama Here!

Many exciting new things happened in Gettysburg over the last year, and more are coming!

New Visitor Center and Museum, Trolley Service between Visitor Center, National Cemetery, Downtown, and Museums, plus
the restored Wills House.

Other Recent Additions to the Museums in Gettysburg

Beyond the park visitor center, there are almost a dozen private museums in Gettysburg, many along the Steinwehr Avenue corridor.  These include the fine Gettysburg History Center, including the Diorama of the entire battle in miniature and its light and sound show.  For more info, go to the Gettysburg Diorama.

Another small addition to the landscape of Gettysburg museums is the privately run Gettysburg Museum of History.  It's compact, it's free, and wonderful.

There's changes at what used to be the Gettysburg Wax Museum now rebranded the Gettysburg Heritage Center.  Check out our Gettysburg Next 150 article on this and a couple of changes, including the ongoing changes to the Ziegler's Grove area of the Gettysburg landscape.

Wandering downtown Gettysburg and want a great place to search for that history book and more, then check out Pages of the Past, just two doors south of the square on Baltimore Street. You've just got to visit this place and buy something from the proprietor.


Get the word out!
Developers want to ruin
the Gettysburg area.

Casinos are trying to take place on the doorstep to the park

There's More Work To Do

Preserve Gettysburg

Our work is not yet done.  Although a casino in Gettysburg has been denied a license twice by teh Pennsylvania Casino Control Board, efforts to prevent a third proposal are essential since a third such license will be awarded in 2017.  The PA legislature is currently considering a bill that would prevent a casino being built within 10 miles of a National Military Park.  Please contact your PA
state legislator and ask them to vote for this bill and prevent any future applications.

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