Memorial Day Type Place: Gettysburg

If you live anywhere near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania perhaps you were one of those kids I saw on a field trip when I was on my own fifth grade outing. Here, on what now is pristine rolling hills and wooded countryside, 50,000 people died in three days during the American Civil War. A friend of mine, a Civil War buff, considers Gettysburg his most favorite place on the planet. He swears the place has some sort of vibe he can feel.

It’s been awhile since I was in the 5th grade but I still have the blurry photos I took and clearly remember the Electric Map (at the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitors Center), the wax museum, and the site where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. The Electric Map, still part of the visitors’ center, shows the movements of the northern and southern armies with colored lights that represent each side.

The wax museum, now called American Civil War Museum doesn’t seem like it’s changed much from its Web site description. I remember one exhibit scene had a wax soldier whose chest moved in and out with his breathing. Another scene I remember, Jennie Wade baking bread in her sister’s kitchen where she was shot and died, is also there. I forgot about her until I read the Web site for the museum.

Hovering somewhere between history and kitch, Gettysburg knows what people like to see. In a world where many places don’t stay the same from one year to the next, it’s comforting to know that in some corners things are like we remember. Here’s a read from The Washington Post about traveling to Gettysburg with some well-put commentaries.