There are many things to explore in Gettysburg and there is more history to this area the than just the three days in 1863! enjoy a country drive through the largest fruit belt in Pennsylvania, explore the eighteenth century with one of the many county driving tours and when you've had enough of history, enjoy fun things like ski the slopes, quench your thirst at a local brewery or winery, play a game of golf at one of the area's 12 professional and miniature golf courses, shop and enjoy a nice meal at one of the many restaurants in the town.
The best time to see Gettysburg in truth is all year round. There is something to do for everyone. The spring brings the Apple Blossoms to the area's orchards and is fantastic for the golf enthusiast with over a dozen courses nearby. Summer is sunny and hot. The fall brings Apple Harvests and beautiful changing of the leaves, while winter boasts sweeping vistas and great skiing and snowboarding in Fairfield, PA, only 8 miles west of Gettysburg.
History of Gettysburg
In 1761, one of these early settlers, Samuel Gettys, established a tavern in the area. Just twenty-five years later, his son James had laid out a town of 210 lots with a central town square on the land surrounding the tavern. The town today is Gettysburg. At this time, Gettysburg was part of York County. But by 1790, the growing population of the area decided to separate from York County.
A new county was approved by the state legislature in 1800 and was named after the President at the time, John Adams. Gettysburg was chosen as the county seat.
By 1860, the town of Gettysburg had grown to 2,400 citizens. Ten roads lead into the town, creating a few small but thriving industries. Approximately 450 buildings housed carriage manufacturing, shoemakers, and tanneries as well as the usual merchants, banks and taverns. There were also several educational institutions. These roads and industries would lead two armies into the county in 1863.
By the summer of 1863, the Confederate Army, led by General Robert E. Lee, had achieved many victories, and was ready to invade the North, moving both armies from the war torn Northern Virginia. By invading the north, and by chance securing a victory, it could cause disenchanted northerners to pressure the Lincoln Administration to seek a settlement toward peace, thus ending the war. This decision would lead the two armies to the small, rural town of South Central Pennsylvania, Gettysburg.
General Lees Army of Northern Virginia, with 75,000 men strong, was travelling north to central Pennsylvania. On June 30, Lee learned that the 95,000 men of the Union Army of the Potomac, led by Major General George G. Meade, were pursuing them. By July 1, both armies would converge on Gettysburg.
Lee ordered several brigades to travel east to scout location and forage for supplies for the southern troops. Northwest of Gettysburg, these brigades were met by their northern counterparts. A skirmish ensued and as the battle heated, word was sent back to both commanders that the enemy was found and reinforcements were needed. Over the next two days, Lee’s army would be drawn to Gettysburg from the west and north, while Meades would arrive from the south and southeast. Thus, a battle, not planned, would become by chance.
As southern forces continued a relentless attack against the entrenched Union troops, the additional arriving Confederate forces launched an all-out-offensive driving the Union forces through the streets of Gettysburg to a defensive line south of town on Cemetery Ridge. By the end of July 1, the 5-mile Confederate line travelled from Seminary Ridge on the west side of Gettysburg, through town and eastward toward the area called Culps Hill. As additional Northern reinforcement arrived on the field, they occupied a two-mile defensive position commonly referred to as a fishhook formation along Cemetery Ridge and Culps Hill.
July 2, battle was initiated by a series of uncoordinated and fragmented Confederate attacks on the Union defensive position south of the town. While simultaneous attacks were supposed to have occurred on Culps Hill and Cemetery Ridge, the attacks took place six hours apart and were unsuccessful. Though Union forces held onto Culps Hill, the Confederate forces did drive back the Union in areas referred to as the Peach Orchard, Wheatfield, Valley of Death and Devils Den with a staggering amount of casualties. The Confederate advance of the right flank had initially succeeded but was stopped by heroic efforts of Union forces in an area known as Little Round Top.
Believing his army was invincible and undefeatable; General Lee decided his troops would attack what he thought to be the Union Lines weakest position on the following day. At the same time, General Meade held council with his Corp Commanders and decided to remain in a defensive position for the battle anticipated the next day. Thus the decision made by both commanders would lead to one of the most famous days of the American Civil War.
Several months later, as the citizens of the small town moved through the aftermath of the three-day battle, David Wills, a prominent Gettysburg attorney, was appointed as the state agent to oversee the establishment and construction of the Soldiers National Cemetery, a final resting place for the Union dead at Gettysburg. David Wills was also responsible for the dedication ceremony, inviting President Lincoln to provide a few appropriate remarks. On November 18, 1863, President Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg. Staying with Wills, Lincoln is believed to have completed his final draft of the immortal Gettysburg Address in Gettysburg. On November 19, Mr. Edward Everett served as the main speaker of the dedication, with Lincoln delivering his very short, but lasting remarks.
Purely Pennsylvania’s top things to do in Gettysburg:
Throughout the year, thousands of re-enactors, portraying both Union and Confederate, turn the clock back to July, 1863 for the visitors who come to Gettysburg Priding themselves on authenticity, these dedicated living-history historians recreate Civil War life as closely as possible to the real thing. Having spent hundreds of hours on training and thousands of dollars on period clothing and weaponry, they love to share their extensive knowledge of the daily routine of a Civil War Soldier to the visiting public.
Re-enactments are a thrill to experience. With flags waving, horses hooves thundering, cannons roaring and rifles cracking forth thick black powder smoke, re-enactments of infantry, cavalry and artillery units provide battle scenarios that are reminiscent of Napoleonic war tactics, the popular fighting style of the day.
In an encampment, the time-traveller hobbyists bring to life the sights, sounds and smells of a Civil War camp. Here visitors experience this era of American history first-hand as they closely inspect a Civil War soldier to see how he is dressed, feel where he is sleeping, smell what he is eating and laugh at how he relaxes when off duty. Interpretive and interactive drill demonstrations are programs for both children and adults evoke the military and the human elements of a soldier's life.
Camp life offers serenades by period musicians - Regimental bands, fife and drum corps and lonely soldiers singing of home with some of the best patriotic-rousing and heart-wrenching songs America has ever produced. Also present at various encampments are religious clergy, signal corps, black soldiers and the popular medical corps who sometimes "demonstrate" an amputation.
And women are active re-enactors too! They portray the many valuable deeds ladies pursued in the camps. Besides cooking they made clothes, rolled bandages, tended to the wounded, assisted in the operating room and wrote letters for the soldiers to loved ones back home. Many wives were left to do the farm or other work alone. There are a few-lady re-enactor fighting soldiers just as their counterparts had done during the war.
In a Sutler Camp (19th century travelling salesman) you can buy a large array of authentic and reproduction merchandise. If you are in luck, you might even witness a real Civil War wedding.
Visitors to Gettysburg should not be surprised to see Civil War era clothing being worn anywhere in the area. In fact, during the Remembrance Day celebration in November, it is possible to see more people in period clothing than in modern attire on the streets of Gettysburg.
Performing animals take the stage daily for guaranteed laughs! Get up close and personal with their famous namesake miniature horses and their farm animal friends. Races, Displays, and Special Events are sure to delight the kids and “kids at heart”.
Hall of Presidents and First Ladies-Listen to the story of America by our Presidents and enjoy the fashions of different eras through the “authentic” reproductions of our First Ladies’ inaugural gowns.
Run by the Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit partner of the National Park Service at Gettysburg. The new Visitor Centre houses the museum collection as well as special exhibits from across the country and the fully restored Gettysburg Cyclorama, a must-see for any visit. You can also hire a Licensed Battlefield Guide here. These folks have forgotten more about the battle and battlefield than we will ever know. You can also purchase tour tickets for the Eisenhower Farm.
As seen on the Real World on MTV! Get a family photograph in period dress!
Adams County Winery has been making wine for over thirty years. During that time, the business has grown from a mom-and-pop business to a nationally recognized producer of award-winning wines. The Winery offers a fun, inviting, and relaxed atmosphere where anyone – locals and tourists alike – can feel at home. Join us every Saturday in July and August for our FREE summer concert series! Free wine tastings.
The American Civil War Museum presents the entire story of the Civil War era and the Battle of Gettysburg with remarkable realism. Learn the causes, effects and significant personalities that shaped the Civil War and as a result, ultimately, American history. Throughout five hallways of scenes, the American Civil War Museum recreates history with life-sized dioramas of the Civil War. Visitors complete a self-guided museum tour that begins with the economical, social, and political causes of the war and ends with the untimely assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Following the self-guided tour, visitors enter into the internationally acclaimed, digitally enhanced Battle room Auditorium. Amidst the sounds of thunderous battle cries and bullets, visitors will witness a life-sized recreation of the Battle of Gettysburg. Discover how a small town in rural Pennsylvania became known for one of the bloodiest battles in American history. An animated Abraham Lincoln delivering the immortal Gettysburg Address follows the battle recreation.
Award winning Gettysburg museum, dedicated to the civilian experience during the Battle of Gettysburg, is situated in the heart of Gettysburg's historic district. The home of George and Hettie Shriver appears much the same way it did when it was first built in 1860. Today, guides in period dress recount the harrowing story of the Shriver family's experiences. The thirty minute tour includes all four floors including the Confederate sharpshooters nest in the attic.
Lincoln’s Lost Treasure is a LIVE two and a half hour adventure across the streets of historic Downtown Gettysburg. Almost like stepping into your own action movie, groups of up to 6 or 8 people are sent on a thrilling and entertaining quest to uncover a lost secret sparked by President Lincoln’s final breath. Aided by a few historical artefacts, you are sent off to piece together hidden clues that can unravel the location to treasury gold that has been lost for over a century. Encountering eccentric and engaging cast members, decoding cryptic clues, and dodging FBI agents out to foil your mission, You and friends traverse the city’s famous streets, hidden shops and historical landmarks discovering that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address holds the key to a national treasure.
Restaurants abound throughout the town, from nationally known chains to local Mom & Pop diners.
Here are a few of our favourites:
The Dobbin House, which is one of the most famous restaurants in Gettysburg, was once home to Reverend Alexander Dobbin in 1776. The restaurant has since been authentically restored and provides an ambiance that was once present during the historic days of Gettysburg. The Dobbin House is lit by candles while the wait staff serves authentic foods from two centuries ago dressed in Civil War attire. Other historical attractions are the hotels and bed and breakfasts around the borough. The Gettysburg Hotel is a popular destination for tourists because of all the history that the hotel holds.
Meals recreated from recipes that was served to the Retreating Confederates on July 4, 1863, or try some of the other delicious dishes such as Roasted Prime Rib of Beef, Confederate Crab Cakes, Rack of Lamb, Fresh Seafood in the mansion like building. Also hosts a pub.
Located on Seminary Ridge, across the road from the Lutheran Seminary and directly next door to General Robert E. Lee's HQ, this is a brew-pub with history. Outstanding Cheeseburgers and personal pizza's accentuate the wonderful selection of micro-brews.
One of Gettysburg's finest dining destinations serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Specialties on the menu represent the freshest seasonal offerings
A casual fine dining restaurant located along Baltimore Street at Old Gettysburg Village. Open 7 days a week for lunch & dinner.
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