I haven’t had much time to do any travel this year, between starting a new job, being in a friend’s wedding, and really busy weekends– it was hard enough taking away a couple of days to even get to the cabin in Somerset.
I did manage to get one weekend to explore a different place, and that was Gettysburg. We’d visited this small Pennsylvania town in 2012, and were completely blown away by the amount of history to absorb– and all the different ways to do it. Because this was the only Civil War battle to take place above the Mason-Dixon line, it is a pretty popular place among Civil War buffs and regular tourists alike. It is also considered to be the “high water mark” or turning point in the war. Some historians debate this, stating that it was really the first major victory for the Union in two years of fighting (not much of a turning point since the war was largely one sided)– not to mention there were still some pretty decisive battles to rage yet– ahem General Grant.
As a kid, my family was big on going to places we could drive to, and because my dad was a history teacher, that meant a lot of historical sites were on our list. I am ever so grateful as an adult that I had the chance to experience these places at all, as some never get to. I always wanted to visit Gettysburg, (the Civil War is a major interest of mine) and since it’s only about 3.5 hours away, seemed like it was very doable. There are plenty of other Civil War battle sites I’d still like to visit or re-visit, but those trips are just a bit further from home — in Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, etc.– and would require a little more time off (which is in short supply this year!)
Anyway, last time we stayed in a traditional B&B, The Brickhouse Inn, and it was such a lovely experience. The hosts were wonderful and we got to stay in a building that endured the fighting that took place in the city proper– with bullet holes to show for it. The window in our room bore witness– as did the large tree outside– to President Abraham Lincoln’s carriage ride on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address. On that trip we also got to experience the exceptional food and hospitality of the Dobbin House Tavern, which is a historic inn that dates back to 1776. It has such an interesting history– including being a major stop on the Underground Railroad– with the tiny room and trap door to prove it.
The above pictures are the inside of the Dobbin House’s small room where slaves were hid on their way north, including part of the original 18th century stone wall. That’s me with a life-size statue of Honest Abe, because, why not. The other person is supposed to represent the modern day visitor. The statue is called “Return Visit.”
This time around we opted to stay in an Airbnb, and have an apartment to ourselves. This was a wonderful idea and we found a perfect little spot that was close to everything we needed. Since we’d been here before, we wanted to do something a little more than just tour the museums and visitor’s center, or take a bus tour. This time we signed up to do a horseback riding tour of the battlefield– and see how this battle unfolded the way the soldiers and officers would have experienced it. Thanks to Confederate Trails of Gettysburg, we were able to do just that. From start to finish I was overwhelmed by how different it is to see these places up close and personal. A lot of the ride took place on bridle paths that the officers used to deliver messages to superiors and get to important battlefield observation points. We were allowed to see the scope of how large this battle was, and how much time it really took to move men, horses, and artillery. It kind of took my breath away, to be honest. Our licensed guide was fantastic and gave us a first hand perspective I’d never experienced before. I also learned that there are still about 1,000 Confederate dead still buried among the trees there– never reclaimed for a proper burial, but moved out of the way of the farmers’ plows. I’m still letting that sink in and can’t help but think of how young they were, how scared, and how far away from home.
Whether you’re looking to take a walking tour, horse tour, car tour, or bus tour, you can do any and all of these in Gettysburg. They also have popular ghost tours (a personal favorite of mine) that I really enjoyed. Gettysburg is well known for being a paranormal hot spot– with all those lives cut short so brutally, not to mention three days of soldiers suffering from wounds, how could it not? Some of that heavy energy definitely still remains. While I’ve never captured a picture of something paranormal, I did have an odd experience at the Dobbin House this time around. I used the restroom on our way out (we were the last guests to leave, and literally closed down the place!) and as I was in one of the stalls, I heard a woman’s voice talking to someone else, not me. I had thought no one else was in the ladies’ room with me but thought nothing of it. As I washed my hands I noticed that there were no feet in the other stall. I asked my husband when I left if a woman had come in and left and he said no, he’d been standing outside waiting the whole time.
So if you get the opportunity, I highly recommend visiting this small Pennsylvania town. There’s a lot to do and see, so sometimes one visit just isn’t enough.