pennsylvania · Uncategorized

Taking on Gettysburg

Originally published on 17 August 2014.

And we’re off again! This time it’s with my newly-engaged friend, Lydia! We decided we needed a little girlfriend getaway, and after weighing some options, we decided on Gettysburg. Reasons: 1. We’ve never been before; 2. It’s only 80 miles away, much shorter than we thought!

First stop: checking into the Historic Fairfield Inn, operating continuously since 1757! It is beautiful and adorable, and its charm simply radiates! They let us check in early (a benefit of traveling during the week!), and we put our things in the Patrick Henry Room. Again, beautiful and charming! There was a claw-foot tub in the huge bathroom, and plenty of living space. Patrick Henry stayed there in the late 1700s, and as a matter of fact, his aunt was one of the proprietors!

And we’re off to the battlefield! Since neither of us had ever been before, we didn’t know the vast area, nor that there are literally hundreds of monuments there. I knew it was the biggest battle as far as number of people, but this wasn’t a battle fought in someone’s field… this was fought in EVERYONE’s field and back yard. The town was surrounded by Confederates, then occupied by them. Many people chose to flee the small town, but several families stayed. Soldiers told the civilians to stay in their basements, and as one woman said, it was a credit to both sides that only one civilian died during the conflict, and that was by accident, not with malicious intent.

Moving on along… We were not really impressed with the huge Visitor Center/museum/cylorama (which, I found out, is a 360-degree painting), and honestly I felt like it was exploiting the battle and those who died more than honoring it. So, we decided to head over to Eisenhower’s home, which, we learned, is adjacent to the battlefield(s).

So, why there? Because he was a military man, and military men like military history! He actually worked at a military base there during WWI, and after his successes in WWII, he and Mamie decided they wanted to retire in the country, and Gettysburg held positive memories for the 5-Star General. He wanted a house that had seen the battle. They found one they thought had been built in the 1850s, so it fit the bill, but come to find out, it had actually been built in 1745! So it also likely saw some Revolutionary action as well! A lot of the original house had to go, however, but they used the boards from the original wooden structure for ceilings and floors elsewhere! They also made some additions. You can see the difference in the bricks in this picture: See where the drain pipe is? Look at the bricks to the left, then the ones to the right. Very different!

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Anyway, the inside was the same type of 50s and 60s style (clutter) that you might expect. But the clutter is actually pretty cool! There’s a mantle from the 1860s White House (there when Lincoln–Ike’s favorite president–was in the White House. Ike loved this place, and while he was president, he would bring visiting officials and dignitaries there and take them on tours of the battlefield. He wanted people to come to a home because it would make them feel, well, at home.

Back to the battlefield grounds we go! We decided that since there was a 100% chance of rain for the following day, we’d try to do as much outside stuff as we could, saving the indoor things for the next day. We walked to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, where a very rude volunteer, after asking where we were from, to which I answered Tennessee, let us know that no Confederates were buried there because the Union won the battle. Nice. Thanks for the condescending tone and reminder.

Anyway, that’s where the Gettysburg Address was given, and we walked around a bit to see what was there, and off we went to see the downtown area. We walked around, found where our ghost tour was to start, and found a place for supper!

Farnsworth Tavern it is! And what a meal we had…

Mr. Peabody Pembroke helped me enjoy the game pye and sweet potato pudding , and Lydia and I split the Shoofly Pie!

Next up: Ghost Tour! Hooray for cannons! This one is haunted.

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Meet our tour guide: Sean of the Dead. He was great! Funny, entertaining, and from all I know, factual as well. I was fascinated by his story about the smells of the area.

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They have these “phantom smells” that come up every now and then in Gettysburg. You see, when the bodies from the battle died, the townspeople had to bury them. Well, being inexperienced and overwhelmed with the number of bodies, they dug shallow trenches and put the bodies in them, covering them over with dirt. A big rain storm came up a couple of days later, and guess what washed back up. Decaying, bloated, gassy dead bodies. And they smelled. They smelled so bad and for so long, people in Harrisburg, 30 miles away, could smell it! Can you imagine living in it? Especially if bodies had died and started rotting in your house? Oh my! People walked around with lavender- or mint-scented hankies over their noses, but who knows how well that worked! So now, there are bad phantom smells, and there are lavender and mint phantom smells. Oh my!

And we’re walking… We also saw where dead horses from the battle were burned (phantom smoke smell), as well as a house that was built in 1776. The Dobbins House. Now it’s an inn and restaurant, but previously it was home to Irish Reverend Alexander Dobbin. And his wife. And their 10 children. And after the first wife dies, it was home to him, his second wife and their 9 children! The room they use as a banquet hall now was then used as one huge room for all the kids (I’m sure not all at the same time, however, since some of them would be of age to be on their own by the time some of the others were born!). So what’s the ghost part? It’s haunted! The home was used as a field hospital (like pretty much all the other buildings) during the battle, so many soldiers lost their lives here.

Pop quiz! What was the most common surgery during the war?

…….

Amputation! As a matter of fact, at one point there were so many limbs stacked up outside this house, they almost reached the second story window. Now the fireplaces light on their own. Just for some ghostly fun! Here’s the house:

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The rain had started just before the tour, but it mostly held off until after. But by the time we got to the car and started back to the B&B, it was really coming down! We got ourselves cleaned up and basically collapsed into bed. =) Whew!

More to come! Next time we’ll explore the statues and monuments of the battlefield, learn about the civilians who lived through it, and have a fine meal at the Dobbins Inn!

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