After lunch, we headed back to the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center to get our bearings and figure out how to make the most of our time there. It was really important to us that we see the historic sites that were so important in this battle–a great turning point in the Civil War.

The National Park Service offers a map for a self-guided auto tour of the battlefield. We figured this would be our best option because we would want to spend more time at some sites and less time at others. There were a few specific sites that my son wanted to see, as well. These included Little Round Top, the location of Pickett’s Charge, and the Wheatfield.

With the Patricia Bauer and David Geister, author and illustrator of “B is for Battle Cry”

While we were at the visitor center, we saw that there were some authors present for a Civil War book signing. And we noticed that one of the books that was represented was a favorite Civil War book of ours called “B is for Battle Cry,” written by Patricia Bauer and illustrated by David Geister. (We offered this book on our list of resources for a Civil War road trip in a previous post.)

The view from the point of view of an artillery soldier
From the point of view of an artillery soldier.

Well, we could not pass up the opportunity to meet the creators of this very special book. We had a lovely conversation and even got a quick lesson in drawing. Not to mention that we were gifted an original sketch by the very talented illustrator. You never know who you are going to meet on a road trip!

After our brush with literary fame, we climbed into the car and began the 24-mile auto tour. The tour lasted a couple of hours and took us all around the battlefield. The scope was absolutely amazing. You really don’t realize how epic this battle must have been without seeing the battlefield for yourself.

Interacting with the landscape and imagining what it must have been like for those involved in Pickett’s Charge
Little Round Top. My son is fascinated with the audacity of Daniel Sickles to break the Union Fishhook. (My son is totally into this element of this particular battle. I had no idea what he was talking about until he explained it to me.)

It’s just amazing to see my kids access the past by being fully immersed in the present. By standing in the same spot that these soldiers stood we all got to feel a little more connected to history and, though it sounds grand to say it, a little more connected to humanity.

By standing in the same spot that these soldiers stood we all got to feel a little more connected to history and, though it sounds grand to say it, a little more connected to humanity.

Socrates said that art is a conversation through time. So, in my opinion, is the study of history. And, as you can’t fully participate in a conversation about a work of art without seeing and experiencing that work of art, neither can you fully participate in that historical conversation through time without experiencing some aspect of it. You only know if you go. And you don’t know what you’re missing until you do.

Day one was filled with excitement and interest, meeting new people, seeing new perspectives on history. Day two would give us all that and more.

Check out day 2 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 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.

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