Gettysburg: It’s Not Just A Battlefield


This National Military Park Offers History, Beauty, and a Little Bit of Magic…
By Jessica James


Gettysburg is a small town of less than 8,000 residents that attracts more than a million visitors who come to explore the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Located in southcentral Pennsylvania, the small farming community became famous as the result of a three-day battle in 1863—but you don’t have to be a student of history to enjoy its rich history and small-town ambiance.

As a local resident, I meet people all the time who are surprised by how much this battlefield town has to offer. Whether they plan a visit because they love history—or they’re married to someone who loves history—they find Gettysburg to be much more than what they expected.

The Gettysburg Battlefield
For a little background, the Battle of Gettysburg took place from July 1 to July 3, 1863, and resulted in more than 50,000 casualties.

Since 2023 marks the 160th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, it’s a great time to visit and learn about this important turning point in the country’s history. Of course, most people visit Gettysburg to see the battlefield, but this picturesque and poignant place offers more than just a history lesson.

The Gettysburg National Military Park is comprised of winding roads that meander through more than 6,000 acres of scenic countryside.  Monuments dot the landscape, telling tales of valor and sacrifice and paying homage to the brave soldiers who once fought in the fields. Reading the inscriptions, you can’t help but reflect on the pivotal events that unfolded during the Civil War’s most significant battle. But even with just a slow drive through, you’ll be moved by the sheer size and complexity of the three-day battle.

Battlefield Works Of Art
Many of the monuments on the Gettysburg Battlefield aren’t just memorials to fallen soldiers. They are works of art that tell a story.

Although one of the largest and most iconic memorials is the Virginia Monument, some lesser-known monuments are also located on Confederate Avenue. Some of my favorites are the North Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana monuments.

The details of these stone, bronze, and marble memorials are remarkable. From the detail in the soldiers’ arms to the intensity of the look in their eyes, the artistry has to be seen to be believed. These monuments are gripping and have a way of telling the story of the courage, dedication, and sacrifice that took place on the battlefield, even without words.

The Civilian Angle
When you think of the Battle of Gettysburg, you might think of soldiers and cannons, but the battle affected the citizens of the town too. The residents of Gettysburg were living a normal small-town life when tens of thousands of soldiers suddenly arrived and clashed in the streets and in the fields and farmlands around them.

One young woman, Jennie Wade, lost her life when she was hit by a stray bullet while baking bread inside a house behind two solid wooden doors. The Jennie Wade House Museum tells her story in the actual house where she was killed.

Visitors to Gettysburg can get a sense of the magnitude of the fight when they see bullet-scarred bricks and artillery shells still lodged in some of the houses

Downtown Gettysburg
Brick sidewalks lined with pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops, offer a way to relax after touring the battlefield or exploring its many museums.

For those who are looking for something to do at night, there are ghost tours—and even ghost investigations—that visit the battlefield and the many documented haunted buildings in town.

Gettysburg also has no shortage of wineries, breweries, and distilleries, some of which are located in historic buildings. Visitors can even choose to stay in a Bed and Breakfast that was once used as a Civil War hospital if they want to get a truly immersive experience.

Hidden Gems
I love pointing out the “secret” gems in Gettysburg, many of which are hidden in plain sight. For instance, there are a number of artillery shells still lodged in downtown buildings, including one in the ice cream shop on the first block of York Street.

There is also part of a cannon from the War of 1812, named Penelope, lodged in the sidewalk on Baltimore Street. (Very few locals even know about this).

The Sachs Covered Bridge is another iconic place to visit that was used by both armies during the Battle of Gettysburg. It is considered one of the most haunted bridges in America and is frequented by ghost hunters.

Special Events
The National Park Service offers lectures, living history encampments, and lots of other programs throughout the year.

The anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is always commemorated with at least one Reenactment. Since 2023 marks the 160th anniversary, this year there were two large-scale events to mark the July battle.

The anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is another major affair, that is always commemorated in Gettysburg on the weekend closest to November 19. Called Remembrance Day, this weekend features a large parade with hundreds of Civil War reenactors, and many other special events, including Civil War balls, music, and lectures. The 160th Anniversary Remembrance Day Parade will take place on November 18, 2023.

Gettysburg Wrap-Up
The Gettysburg National Military Park not only preserves the memories of the past but also serves as a place to learn and reflect on the nation’s past.

Gettysburg’s magic lies not only in its historical significance, but also in its ability to weave the past and present together in a way that offers a rich tapestry of experiences for every visitor.

Plan Your Gettysburg Visit:

Jessica James is an award-winning novelist who combines her passions for history and travel by exploring the back roads of America. Her blog Past Lane Travels has been named the #1 history and travel blog in the USA, and features places of historical interest as well as hidden gems she discovers during her travels. Follow Jessica’s travels and writing at




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Date Park Established February 11, 1895
About the Author:

Jessica James is an award-winning novelist who combines her passions for history and travel by exploring the back roads of America.

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