When we boarded, I thought it might be nice to sit on the side opposite of the one that I took on the last trip. As soon as we got on the road I realized the folly of that choice: I was on the sunny side of the bus! I ended up sliding over to the empty seat beside me to avoid getting sunburned.
We were a bit delayed in our departure due to a police situation. Apparently, someone in the station was armed - I'm not sure if that individual was threatening someone or simply not complying with the rules of the company. At any rate, the incident caused me to stop and realize how blessed I was to have made it this far on my journey.
In Baltimore, we picked up two youngsters who sat in the seat behind me chomping on fried chicken and chips. That didn't really sit well in my stomach, and so I patiently endured until they finished eating. I was so grateful when they were finished...until the loud sibling chatter began. I wondered if I would get any rest on that trip! I looked back to see the poor traveler who had been awake and traveling for the past 24+ hours due to a lack of seats on yesterday's bus from Charleston, SC. He was wide awake, looking about, impatient to get home.
In York, I began to grow very anxious about my transfer in Harrisburg. The driver had told me earlier that he wasn't sure whether we would arrive in time. Thankfully, the other buses in Harrisburg were waiting when we pulled in, so I made my transfer with a few minutes to spare (while waiting for the crew from Pittsburgh). A kind foreigner helped me to get my luggage down and off the bus. The next bus was much less crowded and our driver was much more personable than the driver that we had from Washington. It was a nice ride home along the old Susquehanna River. By 7 pm, my impatient enthusiasm had cooled to pleasant peacefulness. I was on my way home and could finally rest and enjoy the ride. The skies by then had clouded over about the horizon with light white puffs and the sun was setting as we crossed the river to make a quick stop at Sunbury. It was evening by the time we pulled in at Lewisburg. I was very happy to finally step off the bus into the warm embrace of my parents. We celebrated with a bite for dinner, teaberry ice cream, raspberry pudding (similar to cake, but denser and not as sweet), and nice conversation. I slept wonderfully that night.
The following day, my dad and I took off for Gettysburg.
It was a cool morning, but the day grew warm quickly as the sun shone amidst a clear sky. We found the reenactment quite easily, since those roads are ones that we take fairly regularly when we're in town. After passing by a clump of trees, we saw a fleet of tents behind the fence on the left and a lot of parked cars on the right - we knew we were in the right place. We arrived at about 10 am, found a parking spot, finished applying sunscreen, grabbed our water bottle tote and tickets, and made our way to the entrance.
As I waited for Dad to send a quick text message to Mom informing her of our safe arrival, I watched a couple of ladies in beautiful gowns and hats enter the grounds. Turning a bit, I saw a General in a feathery hat ride up to the other side of the bridge and chat with some folks there. I broke out in a grin. "I think I see General Stuart!" I was already loving the Gettysburg Reenactment and I hadn't even stepped foot inside the gate yet.
To my disappointment, the General had already left by the time we crossed the bridge, but a pair of ladies met us. They handed us each a tract - reproductions of 19th century tracts that were written and distributed at the time of the Civil War. Neat! Later we stopped by the Chaplain's tent and found a whole shelf full of different tracts. I scanned the titles for familiar names - Aha! "Do you recognize this name?" I asked Dad excitedly, pointing to the name J.C. Ryle. He was the author of Holiness, one of the books that I recently finished reading.
Upon entering the grounds, we were curious to get an idea of what all was there, so we started walking about through the tents. The first row of tents were sutlers. That was a dangerous thing for me! I was proud of myself, though, because the only item that I came home with was a tin mug. It is a very cute thing that I've already begun to utilize (drinking water out of it as I type). The sutler tents sold clothing and reenactment supplies, snacks, books, toys, games, musical instruments, artwork, canteens, and all the typical items that one would see in town along Steinwehr Ave. One tent was selling dulcimers and mandolins. I was very tempted...
Continuing our walk, we found ourselves passing the Union and Confederate Generals' tents. Not very many people were around at that particular time, but we did have the pleasure of meeting General Lee and Col. Alexander. They kindly welcomed us to the event and invited us to ask any questions that we might have. Dad and I were mostly interested in listening, not having any particular questions in mind. Later that day we had the treat of being able to sit in General Lee's tent listening to two of the Generals and a school teacher discuss American history topics that ranged from the time of the Revolution though Reconstruction. It was fascinating to listen to the discussion, sitting comfortably on a wooden crate under the cool canvas cover. General Ewell stopped by and sat next to me for a minute or two, but then he was off again.
We continued our walk through the camp area until 11 am when the Confederate Generals gathered for an event in Tent 1. The two large activity tents were shaded and filled with rows of hay bales which served as seating. We took a seat near the front. General Lee introduced all the Generals and then opened up the rest of the time to questions. General Ewell was asked why he didn't take that hill. The female officer (a nurse) was asked why she was not in uniform. General Pickett was asked about the charge on the third day. Later on, General Lee turned to the others and asked of the whereabouts of General Stuart. About that time, Gen. Stuart came running up to the front and said, "General, I tried to call you," and pulling out a tiny wooden antique tele-phone, "but I couldn't get any reception outside Harrisburg!" We all just laughed. Of course, General Stuart was asked why he wasn't around at the commencement of the battle. It was a really interesting talk and we enjoyed it thoroughly.
After it ended, we needed to stretch, so we took a walk and bought a root beer and goobers (peanuts) along the way. On this walk, we stopped by General Longstreet's tent to chat a bit and he told us about a book that he is working on. It sounds like it will be a fascinating read. Personally, I'm quite excited to see what primary sources will be drawn upon for the book. Now that I'm working a bit more with primary resources, I've become much more interested in learning what resources exist out there in archives and personal collections. At any rate, after chatting some with General, it was about 1 pm and time for a presentation and Q&A regarding General Longstreet. It was another very interesting talk and one that I was glad to have attended. Dad and I "smoked" gum cigars and munched on cow tails caramels as we listened.
Later that afternoon, we attended the Union Generals' event at the tent on the far side of the site. We met General Hancock, Gen. Reynolds, and others. Each one introduced themselves and talked for a little while about their story. There was a lot of variety among their backgrounds - two were Irish (one had been a prisoner in Tasmania), one was Polish with a British accent, some had been soldiers out west, and others had never been in the military before. Clara Barton was present, also, and I really enjoyed hearing her story. I knew that the Union Army was quite diverse, but I still learned a lot from the talks given in this presentation. After it was over, the Generals were shuttled back to the other side of camp, so I didn't get a chance to speak to General Hancock.
We also attended a Civil War wedding and listened to different musicians playing brass and strings. As I expected, the Civil War period wedding dress was not white, but made of a simple patterned fabric. A woman's wedding dress was simply one of her outfits - the only element that made it "a wedding dress" was the fact that she selected it to be the one worn on her wedding day. (Could something similar to this be said about Christians? That the Christian is, at heart, no different from anybody else; the only factor that differentiates them as "Christian" is that they are chosen by God in Christ for goodness. Ephesians 2:10)
Other random notes about the day: there was a lonely telegraph key sitting on a box near General Armistead's tent. I couldn't help but send in International code: CQ CQ DE KB3RGW. I also learned that the horses traveled in pairs. When one of the horses was taken for the reenactment activity, that horse's partner neighed sadly and loudly for quite a long time. I felt rather sorry for the lonely horse!
We did stick around to watch some of the reenactment, but not the entire battle. It was really neat to see the Battle of the Brickyard unfold out on the field before us, and we had a fairly good view, even from behind all the bleachers and crowd. But by 7 pm, we were tired and hopped in the car to catch dinner at the Lincoln Diner. I ordered a double-burger, thinking that it would be something to the effect of a double quarter-pounder, but the waitress returned with a plate of two separate and completely accessorized hamburgers and a large helping of fries. I managed to consume one and a half of the hamburgers along with the fries, but I signaled defeat and requested a box for the last half. Dad and I also split a slice of strawberry cheesecake. It was a delicious meal and a great way to end the day! Thanks to all those who helped put together this day: from the planners and parking attendants to the living historians.
On the way out of town, we stopped at McPherson's Ridge to see if we could find any monuments marking the battleground of Pettigrew's brigade on the first day of the fighting. We did find one, and taking the advice of some others observing the monument, we walked down the dusty path to Willoughby Run. The woods were still and quiet. The green bushes rustled gently in the wind. It's amazing how these hidden places speak of such violent, dramatic events without monuments or voices. Someday I hope to return, sit on the rocks of the creek, and give more time to these thoughts.