Friday, August 29, 2014

Where the North and South Collide

As usual, the road to our next destination is never in just a straight line.  We often find some highway marker indicating a bit of a detour as we move along down the road.  This time it was in Elmira NY.  Elmira is a college town and very pretty with many beautiful old houses to see as we drove to the Samuel "Mark Twain" Clemmons gravesite.   Since we love checking out old cemeteries, it was an easy and successful detour.

Back on the road and no sooner do we start down the road then we see another sign that catches our eyes, Corning Glass Museum in  Corning NY.   So with a name like corning, we expected to see how they make corning ware.  Well what a surprise, the museum has displays of glass from antiquity to current glass art, not a corning dish is sight. The amount of items from many different time periods and parts of the world is overwhelming.  In addition there is a section of exhibits on glass in industrial uses. People do seem to find out about this museum, as we did, so it got crowded during the afternoon.  Don't let the crowd discourage you if you happen by this area.

city scape

all glass

beautiful fruit

Egypt 1150 BC

glass with carrying case belonged to daughter of Marie Antoinette

Baccarat crystal 1889

Corning Museum of Glass

Finally, we arrive in Gettysburg. The battle of Gettysburg took place over three days, July 1-3 and resulted in over 50,000 casualties.  In the end this was a major Union victory, but as we all know, did not end the war.  The town of Gettysburg was part of the battlefield, with the Union holding it in the morning, then the Confederates taking hold of  it in the afternoon one day. Fighting was along the streets and alleys of Gettysburg.  Once the battle was over many houses and churches became hospitals, however the number of casualties out numbered the facilities and many hospitals were out in the open.
 A big draw at the Visitor center is the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama. It was been painted in the late 1880s, by the French painter Paul Philippoteaux.  He took pictures of the battlefield, talked with survivors and read about the battle in an effort  to be as authentic as possible when the work began.  Phiippoteaux and 30 assistants worked for a year on this painting that is longer than a football field and over 4 stories high.

Gettysburg Cyclorama

The Visitor center also houses the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War.  Plan on a few hours here since it is an extensive museum full of artifacts, pictures and stories about the military involvement and the civilian issues during the 3 days of battles.
We love to attend Park Ranger talks when possible, so we chose the one about medical care of soldiers.  Well, basically there weren't many options since medical knowledge was still pretty limited during this time. There was very little information about germs during the Civil War, so if you managed to survive a wound, infection and then death were common. Mostly doctors amputated, end of discussion.
You have two ways of actually seeing the battlefield, you can do a self-guided auto tour  or you can take a guided bus tour.  Since it is such an extensive battlefield, we chose to take a guided bus tour.  Our guide was not only able to give us battlefield information, but was also entertaining.  " What kind of camera should you bring to Gettysburg?......a Canon"  Hey, I didn't make it up, just reporting what we heard.  Ha Ha!

We did take some time to just stroll around town, which is quite pleasant.  Walking in town we passed many houses that had plaques by their front doors indicating they were Civil War homes.  We visited the Shriver house, a private museum, where we learned the family story of survival during the battle and once it was over.  Bricks in their attic wall had been pushed out to allow Confederate sharp shooters to shoot at Union soldiers on a nearby hill.  The story came from family letters and a first person account written by one of the Shriver daughters.  The visit to the Shriver house really added a personal view to the Gettysburg battle.

seen in Shriver house gift shop

Shriver House

Next on our need to see was the Gettysburg Diorama, the largest military diorama in the states.  Lots and lots of tiny blue and grey soldiers on the enormous 800 sq feet of battlefield depiction. The lights go out and the battle starts, with flashing of guns and smoke as the narrator tells us about the 3 day battle.  We actually thought that it was pretty well done, so you might want to add this to your list of things to see.


Gettysburg Diorama

The following is a simple version of honoring the dead after the battle. It was decided that a Soldiers' National Cemetery should be established. A local attorney, David Wills, was asked to make all the necessary arrangements.  He had been active in keeping the site sacred and not letting the country forget what happened at Gettysburg.  Wills contacted Edward Everett the leading orator of the time and Abraham Lincoln to come to the dedication on Nov 19, 1863. Everett was the keynote speaker and gave a 2 hour oration.  Lincoln was asked to make just a few comments.  This is when he gave his now famous 10 sentence Gettysburg Address, "Four score....". Sad to say but Lincoln's speech was not very well received by most people at that time.  Amazing how time can change things.

bed Lincoln used when in Gettysburg, with original quilt

David Wills

It was time to take a break from the Civil War, so off we went to visit the Dwight Eisenhower farm, which is right next to the Gettysburg battlefield.  Dwight and Mamie had bought this, the only home they ever owned, in 1950.  Eisenhower had been assigned here during WWI to train troops and so he and Mamie had learned to like the area.   At the end of  his second Presidential term they retired here.  Eisenhower spent his time here raising Black Angus cattle,  being a "gentleman farmer", painting and playing golf.  His goal with farming was to restore and use the land in what we now call an "environmentally friendly" way.  There was definitely a lot more to Eisenhower than we ever knew.  Don't miss stopping here if you come to Gettysburg.

Eisenhower farm front

check out foot stool on left

back yard

Eisenhower art work

Eisenhower farm Gettysburg

Well it was time to hit the road again.  We plan to head to Shenandoah and do the Skyline Ridge Drive.  We press on....
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!