May 27, 2011 – Happy 5th anniversary to us! (NO, not Honest Abe.)
This morning we toured the Gettysburg battlefield. The first stop was the visitor center. It was before 8am and the center was closed, but maps of the park were available outside. There’s also a statue of Lincoln seated on a bench. People were using it as a family photo op; this amused the mothers, but the 8 year old boy population wasn’t quite as gung ho about the experience. Of course, this type of fun isn’t limited to just the kids.
From the visitor center we took the trail over to the High Water Mark of the Confederacy. We passed through woods, walked by General Meade’s headquarters, and then meandered up a small ridge. The panoramic view from the top took in Bloody Angle, named because of the hand-to-hand fighting that took place where two stone fences met under a now-old tree, and the Corps of Trees, where some Confederate generals and their men succeeded in pushing into the Federal lines only to be killed or repulsed back across the ¾ – 1 mile of field they had previously fought to cover.
After walking along the ridge with Union canon, we walked back to our car via the cemetery where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address. There’s a giant monument there, surrounded by Union headstones; over half are still unknown.
Once back at the car we headed off on a driving tour around the park. First we had to make it through the construction in downtown Gettysburg, including following two detours where they closed off the main roads. Gettysburg always seems to have some road work going on, so this wasn’t too much of a surprise. Once back inside the park we saw some Confederate canons, and an eternal peace flame.
The tour then reversed direction and headed over to where Pickett’s Charge (i.e. Longstreet’s Assault) began. Tony enjoyed looking at all the canons. The driving tour continued on past and around both Big Round Top and Little Round Top. We stopped at Little Round Top and walked out onto the rock face so we could look out over the “Valley of Death.” We took a moment in the shade to split an orange before continuing the drive down into the now-peaceful valley.
Gettysburg has hundreds (if not thousands) of statues, memorials and monuments. A few of our favorites were the statues of Lee and Longstreet. Beyond Longstreet’s Assault, areas of fierce fighting, including the Wheatfield, Peach Orchard and Devil’s Den, were driven through. It’s amazing that now they’re peacefully forested and flowered. A hawk and blue jay were posing in an area where an ill-fated Federal cavalry charge was ordered by an incompetent general; the intelligent officer and his 300 men queried whether the general was serious, saying “General, my men are too good to kill…”. However, being the good soldiers they obeyed and, well, we all know where that led. More proof as to why it took a full two years after Gettysburg to actually defeat the South. Louisa also enjoyed all the old buildings, including a barn that had a cannon ball lodged in the side.
After our quick tour of the park we headed back to downtown Gettysburg for lunch at Hunt’s Battlefield fries. We had great cheese steaks – fresh chopped steak seasoned with a bit of pepper, sautéed onions, melted white American cheese and slightly toasted doughy rolls. A medium fresh cut fry was also split; Louisa spritzed (a la from a squirt bottle) her portion with vinegar, and then added the salt. These were among the best cheese steaks we’ve had; if you’re looking for a little mom and pop shop (she waits tables, he cooks), check them out. One suggestion, though, is to park on one of the residential side streets and walk a few blocks to get to the store. They don’t have parking, and the main street is very congested.
Driving through Harrisburg provided views of the PA capitol, as well as the worst traffic of the day. We eventually made it through and continued on through NJ, NY, CN and finally to MA. Dinner was at Stanziato’s Wood Fired Pizza in Danbury, CT. Tony really enjoyed his mozzarella and sweet Italian sausage pizza, and Louisa had a shitake mushroom/goat cheese/yellow sundried tomato pesto/fennel/garlic pizza that she said was great as well. The crusts were thin, with a slightly thicker, chewy outer rim that Louisa preferred. Each pizza was cooked solely in a wood-fired oven; the oven’s heated to around 750, and cooks the pizzas in about 4 minutes. They were delicious and definitely worth a visit.