When you are a professional adventurer like I am, you know that it takes careful planning to maximize the constant thrills that are your life. That is why, having learned nothing from our previous adventure, we decided to follow up what really was a whole weekend of adventure already, with another adventure. Yes, on our drive back home from Maryland, after attending the wedding of Bleric Ack and Bat Moanin’, we decided to visit Gettysburg!
So there we were, tired and mildly grumpy, ready to experience one of the most uplifting places in the world. Just kidding. It is not uplifting. It is sobering. It is somber. It is powerful. And to a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old who have been partying all weekend, it is exhausting. We could tell the moment we arrived, when Edward refused to get out of the car, that we had made a good decision. We dragged him, literally kicking and screaming, out of the car and over to the museum, where he made it very clear that he was not going to do anything he was told for the remainder of the visit. Good thing we were on a battlefield.
Ruby was somewhat interested in what was going on, and they both recognized Abraham Lincoln (good parenting right there), who was all over the place. That was nice. But when Edward escaped and ran away from the building, we knew that we could not stay. The trip was over. Everything was a bust. We got in the car, hoping to at least drive around and see something while we were there. I mean, the place is huge. The “short” tour, the short driving tour, was almost 3 hours long. Forget about walking. And if you wanted to see the whole place, you were looking at an entire day of driving and hiking. So we drove to the first place on the map, or rather we tried to but I took a wrong turn, got lost, and we wound up back at the visitor’s center, which improved everyone’s mood greatly. And so it was in the defeated style of Gen. Robert E. Lee that we finally arrived at one of the stops on the map. We exited the vehicle, and were prepared for the worst. And then things changed.
Nothing against the people who built the museum. It looked very nice from the outside. It seemed a fine building. But when we stepped outside onto the actual battlefield itself, you could literally feel the energy change. This was a place of enormous consequence. This was a place where thousands of people died. We were standing on holy ground, where tens of thousands of casualties had seen their war come to an end. I don’t know how much my children knew about the battle when we stepped out of the car, but I could tell that they could sense it too. Edward left the car in a tantrum, but as we walked across the parking lot the fuss began to subside, and by the time we got to the grass of the field itself, he was calm and ready to go. He seemed even excited. Maybe it was the cannons.
The adults, being myself, my wife, and my mother, were very interested in reading the plaques and learning the names and the histories of the soldiers. The children were very interested in pretending to blow each other up with the heavy artillery. They loved the statues. They even loved the condensed version of the history as summarized to them by the adults. And then, an even more exciting thing happened. We stumbled onto the Vermont memorial field.
At Gettysburg, there are different monuments and memorials for the soldiers from the various states who fought and died there. It was with great surprise that we looked up and found that we were sitting right underneath a large Vermont monument! And next to it, a smaller one but still Vermont. In fact, there were several Vermont-themed items, and the kids were thrilled to see the name of their home state so well-represented. Edward ran around calling out the letter “V” and Ruby would run from one to the next, excited to show us all what she had found.
The trail of monuments led us down the field to the largest one of all, unsurprisingly from Pennsylvania. It makes sense that they would have the most casualties and the largest memorial. It was so big that we could climb it and look out over the battlefield, which really gave you the a sense for how massive the place was, and how terrible the battle must have been.
We were also able to look and see that we were only 32 miles from Frederick, which was sad because we had left our hotel in Frederick hours earlier. It was going to be a long drive home.
We made it a lot longer than I expected, and I couldn’t believe, after such a rough start, how much the kids enjoyed being there. It turned out to be a successful adventure after all. Plus, running around a field for a while meant that the kids were much more subdued for the long drive back north. If you haven’t taken your kids to Gettysburg, or wonder if they are going to get much out of it, just do it. Get out there. It’s an important piece of our nation’s history, and its power transcends age and attitude. I’m so glad we stopped by.