Well, we set off on another road trip just in time to be at Gettysburg National Military Park for the 153rd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. We originally planned to leave one day later (so the kids wouldn’t have to miss an extra day of school), but then we would have missed this very interesting day. Our road plan was to head off to Gettysburg and spend two days there, then on to Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, MD, then to Washington D.C. I added an extra day to the end of our trip to visit the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, MD.

All packed up and ready to go!

About 10 hours of driving got us from the Western ‘burbs of Chicago to Gettysburg. It wasn’t too bad. The kids had their movies and electronics to occupy them.

I just wish America had some better road food. My husband must be sick of hearing this on every road trip, but I always mention the rest stops in Italy that have fresh fruit and vegetables, and made-to-order paninis. A far cry from the Cheez-Its and popcorn, pizza and french fries that we find on the interstates here.

It warms my heart to know that there are so many history geeks out there!

Anyway, our first stop on the way into the battlefield was McPherson Ridge. As soon as we saw McPherson’s farm, my son grew very excited and declared, “But I thought it was destroyed!” Wow, I don’t know how much he has stored away in that little brain of his, but it seems to be a lot.

McPherson Ridge - where the Battle of Gettysburg began.
McPherson Ridge, where the first shot was fired in the Battle of Gettysburg

I love how the kids are so into photographing these historic sites.

153rd Anniversary Program

The Dedication Day Program was an interesting experience for us all, with period music being played by the local high school brass band and reenactors milling about. There was quite a large crowd. It warms my heart to know that there are so many history geeks out there!

The highlight of the program, for us, was that LeVar Burton (Reading Rainbow, Roots, Star Trek: TNG) gave the keynote speech. It was inspirational, timely, and beautifully commemorative of Lincoln’s famous speech.

Additionally, a Lincoln-portrayer spoke the words of the Gettysburg Address. How very resonant to hear him say “We are met on a great battlefield of that war…” when, in fact, we actually were met on that very same battlefield. It gave me chills!

LeVar Burton, after giving an inspiring keynote speech.
Lincoln-portrayer (George Buss) delivering the Gettysburg Address.

How very resonant to hear him say “We are met on a great battlefield of that war…” when, in fact, we actually were met on that very same battlefield. It gave me chills!

Just hanging’ by the cannons.

We were also privileged to witness a Naturalization Ceremony, people taking the oath to become U.S. citizens. It did make me wonder, however, how many of our great leaders had to go through the education process that these fine people did in order to become citizens of this country. In any event, a recording was played of President Barack Obama offering his congratulations on becoming U.S. citizens. At this, my daughter jumped up and asked to be picked up because she wanted to see Barack Obama. How disappointed she was when I told her it was only a recording.

Exploring the cemetery.

We hung out in the cemetery for a while. The children were very interested in just exploring and taking pictures.

We were planning on going to the parade in town at that time, but hungry bellies started calling to the children. And, as we all know when traveling with kids, it’s a good idea to get those hungry bellies fed. Unfortunately, we missed the parade. But the day did not end there. Check out part 2 of our first day at Gettysburg here.

Janette DeFelice, MD, MA is a writer currently focusing on how the changing environment affects our health. Her essay collection Resistance Essays from the Heartland and her new novel Delia Rising: A Ballet in Three Acts are both available now. She has also published at Be The Change Mom, ChicagoNow, and Medium.com. She holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Chicago Medical School and a Master’s degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago, where her major essay was Hegel and Ibsen: The Evolution of Consciousness in Ibsen’s Prose Play Cycle. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Indiana University. A former professional dancer, former adjunct Humanities professor, and former lecturer in Medical Clinical Skills, as well as a mom of 9-year-old twins, she currently finds herself at a career/life crossroads at which she is trying to figure out how to use all aspects of herself (her art, her medical and scientific knowledge, her philosophical explorations, her interest in popular culture as a teaching tool, and her unique perspective) for the good of humanity.

2 comments on “Epic Gettysburg – Day 1, Part 1

  1. Wonderful blog! I’m so impressed that you and your husband take trips like this with your children. What amazing experiences for them! And your blogs may inspire other families to do something similar. So glad that we had the opportunity to meet in Gettysburg!


    • Thanks Patricia! We really feel there is no better path to understanding something that experiencing it yourself. I want to give my kids every opportunity to understand where we have come from in order to carve out a better future. So glad to meet you!


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