I made this trip this past weekend when about 16 of us from the Davidson County Civil War Round Table, starting on different days and in different cars, and some of us from as far away as Wilmington and Blowing Rock, converged on the battlefield on Friday in a manner similar to Robert E. Lee's army 150 years ago.
I've attended 23 Civil War Institutes (the CWI being an annual week-long collection of field trips, lectures and seminars), so that takes care of 23 visits right there. My wife and I once made a winter excursion with another couple. Plus, I was on the field 41 years ago with a friend during a cross-country trip, and at least once before that when I was child.
Throw in a few trips I've made with my wife when we used Gettysburg as a stopover on some of our New England vacations and, well, there you have it — at least 35 visits to Gettysburg.
I should have the battle figured out by now, right?
|Looking north from the cupola of the Lutheran Theological Seminary.|
It's wonderful. It's illuminating.
One of the few things I hadn't done in all those years visiting Gettysburg was to climb the cupola on the Lutheran Theological Seminary. (See here for museum slide show and other information). For the longest time, you simply couldn't get to the cupola unless it was through special invitation. Later, there was a restrictive $150 to $200 fee. Now, in its current manifestation, you can climb the cupola for about $30. Done. No-brainer.
|A view of Herbst Woods from the Lutheran Theological Seminary cupola|
So despite the fact that the April weather was unseasonably cold, wet and blustery, our club trooped to the top and was treated to a spectacular view of the first day of the battle. It was, perhaps, as close to a time machine as you can get.
The day wasn't over. Another highlight was a two-hour afternoon tour of the battlefield — and specifically, by request, the Sickles-Meade controversy —by Licensed Battlefield Guide Charlie Fennell.
I've talked about Charlie before. He's an exceptional guide, as guides go, and there was no letdown this time around, either. He peppered us with tidbits of minutiae, humor and cold, hard history. We came away, I think, more than satisfied.
I feel myself slowing down as I get older. The seven-hour trip from Lexington to Gettysburg can be taxing, at times, and I wonder how long I want to keep doing this.
Right now, at least, I'm still up for the next call for a road trip.