Pearl of the Post: Healing the Divide
Our family trip this summer was to the historic town of Gettysburg, PA.
It was my moms idea for my dad to take my son. My dad is like, Mr. Captain General Major Father Sir, and my son is like his lil prodigy.
Somehow we all got roped into going. I was rolling my eyes and held low expectations of the trip. But I got to tell you, it was a great trip. Albeit in a dorky cool kind of way.
You drive into Gettysburg and you are immediately transported back in time. The buildings and the towns folk are all dressed up for you in colonial charm. I much prefer French Fashion to the drab American Civil War Era style but that's besides the point.
July 4th reenactment weekend in Gettysburg is no joke, they are patriotic AF.
My dad, Mr. Captain Major General Father Sir, was all in his glory. My son was lock step in go mode.
Thousands of volunteers come in from all over the country to take part in fun making it all the more of an authentic experience. They train hard for the reenactment battles, bring their own horses and stay in their respective white tent camps on the their side of the battlefield site.
There's the Union and Confederate camps and troops.
Through the entrance is a tented colonial shopping marketplace and village. Ya know, if ya need a hoop skirt, saddle bag, musket or some lemonade and chicken fingers. If I ever relocate to Gettysburg it'll be a MomTime Marquet, LOL!
It's wild and they're really really into it. Which makes you toss aside your misgivings and throw yourself into the fun. The more into you are, the more fun it is.
We had bleacher seat passes to the reenactment site. The battles build over each day following the true history. There are large tents on the site where lectures, talks and mini plays are giving throughout the days on different parts of the war (see the schedule).
Off and around the site, there's much to do.
There are Museums, Historical Buildings and Ghost Tours. We took a bus tour via the National Military Park through the State Park and other battle ground sites. This really gives you insights into the landscape, military positions, strategies, size, scale and scope.
Its amazing how the terrain lends itself to the strategic story of the Civil War.
When you are in an immersive environment like the reenactment site you learn so much just by being present. There's something about walking in the spaces of history vs. reading about it that makes it all ceremoniously real.
History comes alive, kind of like being Ben Stiller in the Night of the Museum movies.
I felt like a CNN War Reporter on assignment (see my photo gallery!). Open fields, cannon fire, smoke in the eyes, screams, cries, bodies dropping and confusion.
You learn about the military and the respective Armies strategies and objectives. It's not just about winning the war, it's about advancing your Brigade, protecting your men at all costs and inching forward battle by battle. The Brigades in the armies are organized by States. The New York, DC, West Virginia, Georgia, Florida Brigade and so forth.
They talk sense into the seeming insanity about toe to toe battlefield combat. There's actually a rationale. They needed to be close to see their enemies through the blinding smoke and hear their commanders orders and bugles (which also signaled instructions) through the deafening shots and screams.
Messengers rode on horse back between the brigades to keep each other informed.
They say one of the greatest honors in the battles is to carry your flag. It makes you the leader of your brigade and a great bullseye for your enemy. The childhood game "capture the flag" is based upon capturing your enemy banner man's flags in the army. It's a great victory for the capturee and a great shame for the captured.
Behind the battles you feel the real battle. The great cultural and idyllic divide in our country.
I'm hoping a lot sunk into my kids brains.
Like, how the North and South armies weren't even supposed to meet up, they kind of just ran into each other at Gettysburg en route to their other strategic positions. And yet, there on that field over 3-4 days, the tied of the war was turned towards the North's favor.
Or, like how Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was originally completely panned for being only 2-3 minutes long (the guy who gave a speech before him went on for over an hour) yet wound up being amongst the most popular and profound speeches given in American History, proving less is always more.
With just 272 words, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address reinstated purpose to the Union's cause.
Hearing those words orated by an Abe actor, brings you hope and you begin seeing forward and the North's victory.
Nearing the end is when you begin tallying the number of lives lost. You realize the gravity and true costs of the Civil War. We were on hollowed ground. A sacred space where not just the future of America was at stake but future generations of American families were lost on that field.
Apparently, the Confederate Army Leader General Robert E. Lee got a little cocky with his invasion into the North. He had just come off a big win and wanted to further encroach and prove his might.
Seeing the wheat field of Pickett's (failed) Charge that left thousands of bodies amidst the amber waves of grain. You feel the somber sadness of mourning the loss of thousands of young American men and the devastating set back of the Confederate Army.
Civil War pitted American vs. American. State against State. Brother against brother.
One of the announcers shared how he had family who served in both the Northern and Southern Armies. So imagine today your family in Florida facing off against your New York family.
Makes ya want to hold your brothers and sisters tight and heal the great idyllic divide that still separates our country.
And all that fighting made us hungry!!!! I was amazed by the food in Gettysburg!
Maybe it was cuz it was my first meals post Whole 30, but seriously everything was yummy.
We hit The Pub & Restaraunt which had just about the best Buffalo Wings I've ever had - super big crispy wings. 3 orders lasted about 3 seconds at my family's table.
We loved the old school uncomplicated fare at the Farnsworth Inn House, which is best known for housing Confederate Sharp Shooters, still having bullets in its walls and for its insanely delicious pumpkin fritters which I'm seriously craving.
Another delicious and quaint candle lit meal was served at the Dobbin House Tavern. Fun facts here, Mr Dobbin had 19 children (shoot me now) and turned his home into a local school for other teachers. His home was also a "station" in the Underground RailRoad.
A soul striking reminder of what was at stake during the Civil War.
There were lanterns and other such symbols indicating which buildings were safe houses (aka "stations") for slaves (aka "passengers") making their way North to freedom. Inside the Dobbin House, he built a hideaway floor in between the stories of the home. You can peep a view. He later built an extension onto his house so he can accommodate more run away slaves.
How incredible is that?!?!?
19 kids on his own and then opening up to more. Harboring "fugitive slaves" was a punishable crime. Would you risk it? I'd like to think I would be so honorably bold to risk it all for complete strangers.
I felt immense pride for being a damn Yankee.
Then you really start to wonder if you lived in the South, on a plantation and your livelihood depended on what you reaped from the land and it's common practice for generations to own slaves, not just hire and pay a wage to workers, but actually own a person like you would property or cattle, would your view and cause be aligned with the South?
I see what the Southerners were fighting for. I saw it closer when my husband and I took a plantation tour while in New Orleans and you see the vast fields and slaves quarters and shackles. The resonance is there.
I really truly wonder. Is anyone ever on the "right" side of history?
You begin to understand the inner conflict of our country. You feel the racial divide. I felt immense shame and pride all at once.
You sink to the root of our divide and start to pour light onto it in the hopes its current continues healing through our country's history and well into the future. That's something to root for.
America the beautiful.
(c) 2018 Cynthia R. Litman, Esq., PLLC. All Rights Reserved.
History of Gettysburg
Gettysburg Reenactment Schedule & Registration
Other Yummy Gettysburg Restaurants Worthy of Your Biz
Food 101 - the salmon ratatouille was insane!
Gettysburg Baking Co - croissant, iced coffee, cookies & conversation
Mr. G's Ice Cream - homemade ice cream worth the wait! play the ring game