I would like to introduce you to Bruce Kottke. Born and raised in the state of Minnesota, Bruce always had a passion for the Civil War, in particular Gettysburg. Researching the Battle for over 40 years, Bruce moved here over a decade ago simply to live in the town so full of the history he has become a master study of. It was 2 years ago that Bruce and I together started the company called Historical Journeys. Originally planning to be just a simple tour company, we have grown into being your welcome party when you arrive in Gettysburg. We have dedicated the growth of Historical Journeys to customize hands-on experiences for visitors of all ages. Planning out entire day long field trips, in town and on the Battlefield. We offer a group camping location on historic property, and we are here to help you plan your visit to Gettysburg and go home with an experience! We have compiled some unique opportunities to share with you while you’re here: such as first person encounters where you can meet a civilian who survived the Battle and ask them questions after hearing their story. For those who like history just a little on the creepy side, we have compiled the Historical Hauntings program that gets you up close and personal with the supernatural and learn where the “ghosts of Gettysburg” came from and how they were believed in and given reverence starting in 1863! As you read through this blog chapter, we hope to inspire you to come visit our small town that is packed with incredible history. Gettysburg is beautiful a small-town America, filled with privately owned shops and restaurants, museums, and the splendor of the Battlefield. When you visit next, please let us help you experience all of Gettysburg’s hand-on history!

 

WHY GETTYSBURG???

When you arrive in Gettysburg, you’ll feel like you took a step back into time. Even though this town is so heavily populated by tourist, it feels like a small hometown nestled away, inside the heart of America. You’ll enjoy walking the sidewalks, where all around you are buildings that survived the Battle and are clearly marked with their bronze plaque proudly showing their age and beauty. Close to Mr. G’s Ice Cream you’ll see a very large tree. This is one of two, known as the twin sycamores, Gettysburg takes pride in these two trees. They were standing here along South Baltimore Street as the Battle raged around them. President Lincoln walked past these trees on his way to the dedication ceremony at Soldier’s National Cemetery. When you visit Gettysburg remember the streets you walk on are a part of history, and the buildings you pass have a story to tell, these trees are waiting to greet you upon your arrival to our small town. You can immerse yourself into history here, it surrounds you everywhere you go if you know how to look, history is waiting for you to reach out and touch it!

Gettysburg’s Historic Courthouse

Battle damaged building in town

monument in town

Battle damaged building

one of the twin sycamores

Many of the shops you’ll visit in Gettysburg are built into a historic building that once was a family home. Other locations, such as Unity Park, sit over ground that during the Battle was a residence where civilians sat in their cellar sheltering wounded and praying for strength to survive what unexpectedly was happening around them on the ground above. By the end of the day July 1st, the Union Troops had settled on Cemetery Hill at the south end of town, while Confederate Troops held the northern end of town. Cannons were in place where Baltimore Street meets High Street, and their aim were the Union Batteries on Cemetery Hill. Artillery shells flew over rooftops in Gettysburg for two whole days. Meanwhile Confederate sharpshooters moved into houses, not knowing there were families sheltered in fear in cellars below ground. These sharpshooters went into attics of homes, and drilled holes into rooftops, picking off shots at the Federal Troops near the Gatehouse of Evergreen Cemetery. For the civilians who lived in the valley between these two hills, High Street and Cemetery, it became known as No Man’s Land or the Valley of Death. The sharpshooters took aim at anything that moved in this low laying area. Today there are several buildings next door to one another. Back then, buildings were spaced out with large yards, and even a corn field. Rupp, Winebrenner, McCreary, Welty, are the names of just a few families who lived in No Man’s Land at the time of the Battle. Their accounts are incredible and will connect you to history on an emotional level. If you take a tour of No Man’s Land, you’ll realize how terrifying it was to be in the cellar listening to the Battle raging on the ground above. Imagine what it was like, do you think you could survive such horror with bravery as these families and others did? Gettysburg’s residents certainly did not ask to be the host of a major part of the Civil War, but faced it head on with bravery and courage. Men who were excused from military service, and were home when gun fire started, picked up their hunting rifles and stood in line with Buford’s soldiers to defend the town against Heth’s division of Confederates. John Burns, to his neighbors known for being a grouchy old man, was one of these hometown heroes. Women, like Jennie Wade will forever be known to history for her ultimate bravery and womanhood. In the midst of gunfire, doing their best to prepare food for the troops outside and being caught by a bullet, now laid to rest, a civilian casualty.

Trostle Farm after the Battle photo from Library of Congress

Culp’s Hill Battle damaged trees photo from Library of Congress

John Burns photo from Library of Congress

Jennie Wade photo from Library of Congress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you visit Gettysburg, enjoy the beauty and the serenity of the Battlefield. It’s peaceful today, and a wonderful place for a family outing. But do not forget the tragedy that once lay across this beautiful place. Before the Battle happened, there were farms all across these 7,000 acres where families lived their lives and worked their fields. After three days of fighting these same fields soon were blanketed by thousands of wounded and dead soldiers. Across the fields today, you can still capture the beauty of the surviving homes and barns. Sitting in tranquility next door to foundations of homes that were destroyed during the Battle and never rebuilt again, for the families moved on after that very traumatic summer. Explore the trees as you tour the Battlefield. Ones that have been proven to have survived the Battle are marked with a small dog tag nailed into their bark. Let yourself pause for a moment and think of how the Battle affected the nature of Gettysburg. Trees ripped to shreds by bullets or blown apart by artillery shells. Their sisters stand today still paying homage to the memory of what happened here, along with a mass of new growth across these fields. Young trees and shrubs are home to a new birth of wildlife on Gettysburg’s Battlefield. As you go hiking you are not only surrounded by history, but also the simple beauty of nature. The Battlefield of Gettysburg is an astounding example of how there can be life after death. We are proud of our town and its Battlefield, as it stands today to tell the world that here in the United States of America all men are created equal. Our country is not the only one to fight a civil war, but we are the ONLY ones to remain a whole nation in the end. As American citizens we have so much we can be proud of in our history. Our Civil War is known in world history, and other countries citizens travel here to Gettysburg to see the Battlefield and pay homage to the men who sacrificed so much for a cause. And we who work here, strive every day to bring this history to life for our guests when they visit. It is our way of living the President’s words that awe struck the Nation, “that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain.

In closing, a reference to our headline title, Heartfelt Historical Journey. We the staff of Historical Journeys wish to welcome you to Gettysburg upon your next visit. Please allow us to help you experience the history here hands-on. As you walk through our small town, be sure to check out its many local shop owners who are waiting to greet you. One of the newest here is the Heartfelt History Gettysburg Gift Shop. This unique gift shop opened because its owners have a passion not only for the Civil War but American History. They wish to keep history alive and carry a specialty of items in their store that have a heart of a patriot, items you’ll only find here! On your next visit please stop by and say hello. We wish to welcome you to Gettysburg and hear your story too, as we share this town’s story with you.