Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg Battlefield

The Gettysburg Battlefield was the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1 to July 3, 1863, in and around the borough of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the county seat of Adams County, which had approximately 2,400 residents at the time. It is now the site of two historic landmarks: Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

Battlefield in 1863

The town was the center of a road network that connected ten nearby Pennsylvania and Maryland towns, including well-maintained turnpikes to Chambersburg, York, and Baltimore, so was a natural concentration point for the large armies that descended upon it.

To the northwest, a series of low, parallel ridges lead to the towns of Cashtown and Chambersburg. Seminary Ridge, closest to Gettysburg, is named for the Lutheran Theological Seminary on its crest. Farther out are McPherson's Ridge, Herr's Ridge, and eventually South Mountain. Oak Ridge, a northward extension of Seminary Ridge, is capped by Oak Hill, a site for artillery that commanded a good area north of the town.

Directly south of the town is Cemetery Hill, at 503 feet (153 m) above sea level, a gentle 80 foot (24 m) slope above downtown. The hill is named for the Evergreen (civilian) cemetery on its crest; the famous military cemetery dedicated by Abraham Lincoln now shares the hill. Adjacent, due east, is Culp's Hill, of similar height, divided by a slight saddle into two recognizable hills, heavily wooded, and more rugged. Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill were subjected to assaults throughout the battle by Richard S. Ewell's Second Corps.

Extending south from Cemetery Hill is a slight elevation known as Cemetery Ridge, although the term "ridge" is rather extravagant; it is generally only about 40 feet (12 m) above the surrounding terrain and tapers off before Little Round Top into low, wooded ground. At the northern end of Cemetery Ridge is a copse of trees and a low stone wall that makes two 90-degree turns; the latter has been nicknamed "The Angle" and "The High Water Mark." This area, and the nearby Codori Farm on Emmitsburg Road, were prominent features in the progress of Pickett's Charge during the third day of battle, as well as General Richard H. Anderson's division assault on the second.

Dominating the landscape are the Round Tops to the south. Little Round Top is a hill with a rugged, steep slope of 130 feet above nearby Plum Run (the peak is 550 feet (168 m) above sea level), strewn with large boulders; to its southwest, the area with the most significant boulders, some the size of living rooms, is known as Devil's Den. [Big Round Top| [Big] Round Top] , known also to locals of the time as Sugar Loaf, is 116 feet higher than its Little companion. Its steep slopes are heavily wooded, which made it unsuitable for siting artillery without a large effort to climb the heights with horse-drawn guns and clear lines of fire; Little Round Top was unwooded, but its steep and rocky form made it difficult to deploy artillery in mass. However, Cemetery Hill was an excellent site for artillery, commanding all of the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge and the approaches to them. Little Round Top and Devil's Den were key locations for General John Bell Hood's division in Longstreet's assault during the second day of battle, July 2, 1863. The valley formed by Plum Run between the Round Tops and Devil's Den earned the name "Valley of Death" on that day.

Northwest from the Round Tops, towards Emmitsburg Road, are the Wheatfield, Rose Woods, and the Peach Orchard. As noted by General Daniel E. Sickles in the second day of battle, this area is about 40 feet higher in elevation than the lowlands at the south end of Cemetery Ridge. These all figured prominently in General Lafayette McLaws's division assault during the second day of battle.

Preserving the battlefield

After the battle, the Army of the Potomac and the citizens of Gettysburg were left with appalling burdens. The battlefield was strewn with over 7,000 dead men and the houses, farms, churches, and public buildings were struggling to deal with 30,000 wounded men. The stench from the dead soldiers and from the thousands of animal carcasses was overwhelming. To the east of town, a massive tent city was erected to attempt medical care for the soldiers, which was named Camp Letterman after Jonathan Letterman, chief surgeon of the Army of the Potomac. Contracts were let with entrepreneurs to bury men and animals and the majority were buried near where they fell.

Two individuals immediately began to work to help the town recover and to preserve the memory of those who had fallen: David Wills and David McConaughy, both attorneys living in Gettysburg. A week after the battle, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin visited Gettysburg and expressed the state's interest in finding its veterans and giving them a proper burial. Wills immediately arranged for the purchase of 17 acres (69,000 m²) next to the Evergreen Cemetery, but the priority of burying Pennsylvania veterans soon changed to honoring all of the Union dead.

McConaughy was responsible for purchasing 600 acres (2.4 km²) of privately held land to preserve as a monument. His first priorities for preservation were Culp's Hill, East Cemetery Hill, and Little Round Top. On April 30, 1864, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association was formed to mark "the great deeds of valor ... and the signal events which render these battlegrounds illustrious", and it began adding to McConaughy's holdings. In 1880, the Grand Army of the Republic took control of the Memorial Association and its lands.

On November 19, 1863, the Soldiers' National Cemetery was dedicated in a ceremony highlighted by Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The night before, Lincoln slept in Wills's house on the main square in Gettysburg, which is now a landmark administered by the National Park Service. The cemetery was completed in March 1864 with the last of 3,512 Union dead reburied. It became a National Cemetery on May 1, 1872, when control was transferred to the U.S. War Department.

The removal of Confederate dead from the field burial plots was not undertaken until seven years after the battle. From 1870 to 1873, upon the initiative of the Ladies Memorial Associations of Richmond, Raleigh, Savannah, and Charleston, 3,320 bodies were disinterred and sent to cemeteries in those cities for reburial, 2,935 being interred in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond. Seventy-three bodies were reburied in home cemeteries.

Tourism and commercial development

Since the battle, Gettysburg has been a prominent attraction for visitors. Immediately after the battle, thousands of relatives arrived in search of their dead and wounded. After the war, due to its proximity to major eastern cities, Gettysburg was one of the most popular tourist destinations of all the battlefields. Commercial development followed this influx.

In 1884, the Gettysburg and Harrisburg Railroad completed construction of a spur that ran from the town, over the field of Pickett's Charge, and to the eastern side of Little Round Top. The railroad purchased 13 acres (53,000 m²) of land at the terminus and established Round Top Park. The park hosted a pavilion, two wells with pumps, a full kitchen, a photography studio, and several other buildings. It was a popular tourist destination, but soon fell prey to problems that included alcohol abuse, prostitution, and gambling. In 1896, the railroad sold its property to the Gettysburg National Military Park Commission, but Round Top Park was not removed immediately. In 1913, a casino was added. During this period, its popularity increased with the number of visitors able to reach the battlefield by automobile. The train tracks were finally removed in 1939 and the pavilions and the dance hall were torn down.

Another blight on the battlefield was the Gettysburg Electric Railway Company, owned by William H. Tipton. From 1894 until the government purchased back his property in 1917, his trolley cars left the town of Gettysburg, rode down Emmitsburg Road across the field of Pickett's Charge, through the Peach Orchard and the bloody Wheatfield, and terminated south of Little Round Top, near the area of Plum Run known since July 2, 1863, as the "Slaughter Pen". Here the visitor found Tipton Park, another popular attraction. Both the trolley line and the railroad spur were located on private property, but right at the edge of sacred battlefield lands.

Yet another blight came in more modern times. The Gettysburg National Tower, soaring 393 feet (120 m) above private land on the edge of the battlefield, was erected in 1974 to the dismay of preservationists. Eventually the National Park Service obtained a court order to seize the tower under eminent domain, compensating the owners $3 million, and in a great public ceremony, the tower was demolished on July 3, 2000.

Prominent generals

Two Union generals who fought at Gettysburg played a prominent role in preservation. Samuel W. Crawford, who led the Pennsylvania Reserve Division in the V Corps had a great desire to promote his contributions to the battle. He purchased a 47 acre (190,000 m²) tract of land that included Devil's Den and the Valley of Death, and this area became known as Crawford Park. He promoted a scheme to build a prominent Memorial Hall on the top of Little Round Top, a building over 120 feet (37 m) long that would contain monuments and memorabilia of all of the individual Pennsylvania units that fought in that area. He angered battlefield preservationists by selling the right-of-way for the trolley line to Tipton for one dollar.

The second general was Daniel E. Sickles, critically wounded on July 2 commanding the III Corps. Sickles was a U.S. Congressman after the war and took a prominent role in establishing government control and funding of the battlefield as a National Military Park. At the 50th anniversary celebration in 1913, Sickles, the only still-surviving corps commander, was asked why there were no monuments in his honor on the battlefield. He replied, "Why Hell, the whole battlefield is my monument."

History and monuments

The first efforts to chronicle the details of the battle were by historian John B. Bachelder of New Hampshire. He arrived on the field before many of the dead were buried and escorted convalescing officers around to pinpoint and sketch locations of important events. During the winter of 1863–64, he interviewed officers in every Union regiment and battery. Immediately after the war he invited over a thousand officers, including 49 generals, to revisit the field with him.

Wade Hampton, a Confederate cavalry general at Gettysburg, a governor of South Carolina, and then a U.S. Senator, was instrumental in authorizing $50,000 in government funds in 1880 to hire Bachelder to produce an official survey of the battlefield, accompanied by detailed maps that showed troop locations in each of the major phases of the battle. These maps were important, although ultimately not fully definitive, in recommending the placement of monuments on the field.

Bachelder's lengthy manuscript on the battle was not published at the time. Since he was reluctant to adjudicate conflicting claims from the veterans he interviewed, critics claimed that the manuscript was full of inconsistencies and redundancies. Since the "Official Records" were being published by the War Department at about the same time, Bachelder's work was filed away at the Park. In the 1990s, major editorial surgery was performed on the stored document and it was finally published.

On June 7, 1894, the U.S. Congress passed a law championed by Dan Sickles that gave the War Department the power to condemn land at Gettysburg so that it could be preserved. While all of the commercial development was going on, numerous veterans organizations were mounting volunteer efforts to preserve and memorialize the actions of their units on the battlefield. The first monument to be placed on the battlefield was in the National Cemetery in 1867, a marble urn dedicated to the 1st Minnesota Infantry, the gallant regiment that was virtually annihilated on Cemetery Ridge, July 2. [Hawthorne, p. 81.] The first monument to be erected outside of the cemetery was on Little Round Top on August 1, 1878, when the Strong Vincent GAR Post of Erie, Pennsylvania, memorialized their namesake with a marble tablet on the spot where he was mortally wounded. [Unrau, p. 46.]

As the 25th anniversary of the battle approached, veterans groups stepped up the pace of erecting monuments and many of the state governments got into the act as well. By the 1890s, Gettysburg had one of the largest outdoor collections of bronze and granite statues anywhere in the world. For the Union side, virtually every regiment, battery, brigade, division, and corps has a monument, generally placed in the portion of the battlefield where that unit made the greatest contribution (as judged by the veterans themselves). Most regiments also have boundary markers placed to show their positions in defensive lines or in the starting lines for their assaults. The placements are not always definitive, due to sometimes faulty memories of the veterans or to the problems resulting from attempts to represent multiple days of battle fought on the same ground, most notably Cemetery Ridge.

The Confederates have few monuments on the battlefield, in comparison with those of the Union. There are several reasons why this is the case. First, the initial emphasis was to preserve the land on which the Union army fought, not the land held by the Confederates. Second, the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans' association, strongly resisted such monuments. The Confederates had their own reservations. If they placed monuments on the field where the Union Army defeated them, would they be glorifying the Union victory? The Southerners who wanted to place monuments to the Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg did not have adequate money, due to Reconstruction and the effects of the war, to erect a monument for each regiment, as the Union veterans had done. Instead, the former Confederates erected state monuments. There are only two Confederate monuments inside the areas of battle held by the Union. The first is a plaque near the Angle commemorating Lewis A. Armistead's farthest advance on July 3. The second is a monument to the 2nd Maryland Infantry on Culp's Hill, renamed from its original designation of 1st Maryland because there was already a Union regiment by that name. This small number is partly due to Bachelder's strict requirement that monuments were only to be erected along lines of battle, only allowing small advance markers off the line.

For both sides, the War Department erected numerous informative bronze plaques that describe the units, their leaders, and their contributions. There are over 1,600 monuments and markers on the field. Several of the monuments were created by noted sculptors and artists, including Caspar Buberl, James E. Kelly, Lee Lawrie, Randolph Rogers, Cyrus Dallin, Edward Potter, John Quincy Adams Ward, and Gutzon Borglum.

Park establishment

On February 11, 1895, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation sponsored by Dan Sickles that directed the War Department to establish Gettysburg National Military Park. It accepted from the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association a deed conveying ownership to over 800 acres (3.2 km²) and 300 monuments in the Park. In 1933, control passed to the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior, where it remains today.


Although veterans returned many times over the years, there were two great reunions at the battlefield. For the 50th anniversary, in 1913, all honorably discharged veterans in the Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans were invited. More than 50,000 accepted the invitation.cite web |url= |title=The Great Reunion of 1913 |accessdate=2008-08-15 |date=1998-09 |author=Heiser, John |publisher=National Park Service |quote=The response was overwhelming and despite efforts to limit the numbers attending, over 50,000 veterans came to Gettysburg and settled into the great camp situated on the battlefield.] The highlight of the event on July 3, 1913, was a reenactment of Pickett's Charge that reached the high water mark at "the Angle" only to be met across the wall by the outstretched hands of friendship from the Union survivors.

For the 75th anniversary, in 1938, there were only 8,000 known living veterans of the war. Of these, 1,845 veterans were able to attend—1,359 from the North and 486 from the South—although only 65 of them had been at the battle. Their average age was 94 and special arrangements had to be made to care for these elderly men. The highlight of this reunion was the lighting of the eternal flame and dedication of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on Oak Hill by President Franklin D. Roosevelt the evening of July 3.

Battlefield today

Infobox Protected area
name = Gettysburg National Military Park
iucn_category = V

caption =
locator_x=241 |locator_y=70
location = Adams County, Pennsylvania, United States
nearest_city = Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
lat_degrees=39 |lat_minutes=48 |lat_seconds=31 |lat_direction=N
long_degrees=77 |long_minutes=14 |long_seconds=12 |long_direction=W
area = 5,990 acres (24.24 km²)
established = February 11, 1895
visitation_num = 1,666,365
visitation_year = 2006
governing_body = National Park Service

The battlefield is currently administered by the National Park Service as the Gettysburg National Military Park. In addition to maintaining the 6,000 acres (24.3 km²) of park lands, 30 miles (50 km) of roads, and over 1,400 monuments and markers, and welcoming 2 million visitors annually, the NPS runs a Visitor Center and an attraction known as the Gettysburg Cyclorama, an enormous 360° painting of the battle completed in 1884 by French artist Paul Philippoteaux. These two buildings sit on the area known as Ziegler's Grove, covering a prime Union defensive position on Cemetery Hill, just to the west of the National Cemetery. However, a new visitor's center and building for the cyclorama have been built on land west of the Baltimore Pike at Hunt Avenue. The old buildings are to be demolished, and the land will be restored to its 1863 appearance. There will be a grand opening in September 2008 when the newly conserved Cyclorama painting will be completed. [ [ New Visitor Center Transforms Key Gettysburg Site] ] The NPS also administers the Eisenhower National Historic Site, adjacent to the National Military Park.

Visitors to Gettysburg today will find that there is more wooded land than in 1863. The National Park Service has an ongoing program to restore portions of the battlefield to their historical non-wooded conditions, as well as to replant historic orchards and woodlots that are now missing. There are also considerably more roads and facilities for the benefit of tourists visiting the battlefield park.

The Gettysburg Foundation, an official partner of the Gettysburg National Military Park, and its thousands of Friends of Gettysburg help the National Park Service preserve this hallowed ground. The Foundation is a nonprofit organization working in partnership with the National Park Service to enhance the preservation and understanding of the heritage and lasting significance of Gettysburg. The new Museum and Visitor Center, operated by the Foundation in cooperation with the National Park Service, opened in April 2008. [ [ Gettysburg Foundation] ] The Civil War Preservation Trust also has worked on battlefield preservation.

Some large sections of the 1863 battlefield are not part of the Gettysburg National Military Park (predominantly Confederate positions), and many of these have been lost to modern development, including much of the area surrounding Cemetery Hill. Within the boundaries of the park itself, there are small pockets still in private hands. Scenic easements occasionally are negotiated with land owners, trading tax reductions for preservation.


* Adelman, Garry E., and Smith, Timothy H., "Devil's Den: A History and Guide", Thomas Publications, 1997, ISBN 1-57747-017-6.
* Eicher, David J., "Gettysburg Battlefield: The Definitive Illustrated History", Chronicle Books, 2003, ISBN 0-8118-2868-9.
* Grimsley, Mark, and Simpson, Brooks D., "Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide", University of Nebraska Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8032-7077-1.
* Hawthorne, Frederick W., "Gettysburg: Stories of Men and Monuments", Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides, 1988, ISBN 0-9657444-0-X.
* McPherson, James M., "Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg", Crown Publishers, 2003, ISBN 0-609-61023-6.
* Unrau, Harlan D., [ "Administrative History of Gettysburg National Military Park"] , National Park Service, 1991.
* [ History of Gettysburg NMP]


External links

* [ National Park Service: Gettysburg]
*Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center []
* [ Administrative history of GNMP] (large PDF file)
* [ Gettysburg]
* [ National Tower]
* [ Photograph of 1878 Strong Vincent tablet]
* [ "Washington Post" article on the new Visitor Center] , April 14, 2008.

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