Gettysburg July 2019, Day I

Gettysburg July 2019, Day I

A great little diner, across the street from the Gettysburg train station. Our first and last meals in town were eaten here.

We were supposed to have gone to Gettysburg last September on our way home from my family reunion in Kentucky. But Ben, who’d been fighting a cold since we left Massachusetts, developed an ear infection in the Smoky Mountains and was in serious pain so we cut short out road trip and drove straight home, skipping Gettysburg altogether.

But the idea of visiting Gettysburg had been planted and we still wanted very much to go back and see what we’d missed. Our first choice of summer vacation having fallen through, we decided to head back to Pennsylvania and to do Gettysburg properly this time.

Our plan was to camp for five days, drive down on Monday and come home on Saturday. It’s only a longish day’s drive from Massachusetts and totally doable. But we hadn’t counted on a heat wave. The week before we left I started to feel quite nervous as I looked at the forecasts and wondered if July was really the best time to go camping and wandering around on battlefields. But the reservations had been made and we’d already lost September’s deposit. We were loathe to lose a second one. Fools rush in and all that. I’ve now vowed never to camp in July again unless it’s in the mountains or in Maine. But for all that we did have a very good time.


We left early in the morning and drove all day. On the way we mostly listened to Winter Holiday, one of the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome. Swallows and Amazons are our current audiobook pick for anytime we are in the car with Daddy. I read the books to the kids a couple years ago and everyone loved them. But of course Daddy was unfamiliar with the stories and the kids really wanted to share them with him. He’s enjoying them quite as much as the rest of us and we often have delightful, extensive conversations about the novels. They also quite eat up the miles.

Lucy’s lunch looks like that of a dieting lady: grilled chicken on salad, no dressing, cheese, croutons. But… eating lots of fries donated by siblings. The life of a kid with multiple allergies. She loves burgers but only eats them at home on special wheat-free buns.

We arrived in Gettysburg in late afternoon and checked into our campground and set up camp before anything else. The children were most amused that the campground speed limit was 6 1/2 miles per hour, which seemed like an oddly specific number. But I guess it worked because we did remember what the speed limit was. The campground wasn’t very full and what was there was mostly RVs. The tent area where we were had only a couple other tents.

The kids were fascinated by this giant burl which went most of the way around the tree.

We were right next to a creek and this proved to be a highlight of the whole trip. Almost immediately we discovered a great blue heron fishing in the creek. And all the week we were to see that heron many times. Also a green heron and what looked to be a smaller white egret. There was also about half dozen mallard ducks, all female, many seemed smaller, perhaps juvenile. We also saw a variety of songbirds and crows. And at night we heard owls on several occasions, once two owls, one on either side of the tent, hooting back and forth at each other. hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo-hoooo.

Boys watching herons in the creek at the campground.
Creek with great blue heron.
Girls and ducks under the willow tree.

After we set up camp we decided it was too late to go shopping and cook dinner. And we were hot and tired as well. We ate at the Lincoln Diner, half the kids having pancakes for breakfast. I had a gyro plate, which was impressively good, reminding me very much of gyros I had in Greece. A pleasant surprise. We drove around and looked at the town and went to the grocery store to get stuff for breakfast and lunch the next day.

We had a campfire and smores and called it a day. Though the day had been warm the night cooled off and by midnight I was wrapping my sleeping bag around me and shivering a bit.

The Lincoln Diner.
Historic Gettysburg train station.
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  • I love Gettysburg so much! Partly that’s because my grandpa grew up on a dairy farm that’s now part of the Eisenhower property and my cousins still live in town, so there are many family vacation memories from there, but it’s just a neat place to visit. The reenactments are lots of fun if you go during the anniversary of the battle, but it’s definitely more crowded then.
    There’s just nothing like standing there on the battlefields, imagining what it must have been like for the men leaving the safety of the woods to charge across those empty fields straight at the cannons they took at the high-water mark…
    Did you get to Hanover for the light map? So low-tech, but I remember it well from when I was a kid; it just presented the whole battle layout really well.
    Anyway, so glad you got to go! You’re right, it would behoove everyone in the nation right now to learn how to reconcile from the people who lived that war and then set aside those fields as a memorial for *everyone’s* dead.

    • We didn’t know about the light map and didn’t get there. I definitely think Gettysburg is a place we’d like to revisit, though. How fun to have that family connection and those memories. I think the reenactments sound like fun, but I tend to avoid crowds. We’ve not even made it to our local reenactment of Lexington and Concord– albeit those are both early in the morning and far away so not super little-kid friendly.

      • Some reenactors at Gettysburg show up early and camp there for a couple days, so even if you don’t want to deal with crowds, you can miss the actual anniversary by a bit and still hang around the different camps and talk to the soldiers. Reenactors are fascinating to chat with because they know everything, but they are… more dedicated than most people you meet.

        I actually don’t know how much more crowded the town is for a typical anniversary; we have only been to the actual reenactments once, and that was for the 150th so that was a big draw. More typically we’ve missed it by a day or two (the Theology of the Body Institute often scheduled classes around that time and we killed two birds with one travel stone and visited relatives on one side or the other of the class), so it might not be too bad, though places to stay might be harder to come by.

        • I love talking to reenactors. One of my grad school roommates is a Rev war reenactor and I’ve learned so much from her. I would love to learn from the Civil War guys too. Though I’m wary of another July camping trip…