Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Touring Gettysburg / S.S. Institute Part # 5

PA Advanced Alliance Geography Institute
Journey Through Hallowed Ground
Summer 2009

Remaining Town Battle Damage
In this Issue of Camp Martin we rolled up the Advanced Geography Institute on Abraham Lincoln with a tour of the town of Gettysburg and the battlefield. First, we took a walking tour of the town where every building that stood in 1863, when the battle took place, is now enhanced with a plaque designating it as an official Civil War building. Some of the buildings still show the scars of battle as a badge of honor. The Farnsworth House's side brick wall bears over 150 bullet holes and the Female Academy school building has a Confederate shell still lodged in the outside wall. Good thing it didn't go through the window! Several such shells exist around town. I am told the shells were removed and defused and then re-cemented back in place because you have to admit... its pretty cool to have a cannonball adorning your house!

The Dobbin House Inn
We stopped for lunch at the famous Dobbin House that was home to an abolitionist minister who conducted a school here for young men. Rev. Alexander Dobbin was also active on the Underground Railroad and after you eat a nice lunch, you can tour the old kitchen of the house and see the home's secret hiding place. It is located between the first and second floors where slaves waited out the hot days in a small cramped space before proceeding through the night toward the next safe house. Many fugitive slaves were not safe in Gettysburg as they were only a few miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The further north they could get, the less chance they would be apprehended by slave-catchers and bounty-hunters. The house also served as a make-shift hospital following the battle.

The Railroad Cut Trench
Following lunch, we continued onward like good soldiers with a tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield. One point of interest is the railroad cut shown above, which was not here during the battle. This is the continuation of the rail line that was constructed beyond the Gettysburg Station, following Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. For some unknown reason, the railroad cut is one area of the battlefield where the remains of soldiers are still sometimes found today. The park service, local groups, and private contributors have invested a lot of funds within the last five years to help preserve the battlefield. Below, an original barn that once served as a field hospital is getting a new, period correct, wooden shingle roof.

Original Barn Restoration
I have been on a lot of Gettysburg Battlefield tours but this one was unique. Our presenter, Dr. Benjamin Dixon, did a study of how the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park evolved and changed over time. Gettysburg is one of the few places in America that is actually aging backwards, looking more and more like it did in 1863 every year. Since it became a national park, the battlefield has slowly been purchased in 400 individual pieces of real estate to date. Many individual monuments and even two large rocks have their own deeds. One key farm during the battle was purchased in 23 individual sections over a 92-year time span and one acre is still privately owned within the original property.

Little Round Top View
The battlefield had gone through an amazing transformation over the years from the original landscape to a carnival of commerce and is now reverting back to 1863 again. At first, small businesses sprung up around the edge of the battlefield to offer food, lodging, and souvenirs to tourists. They were tolerated because they were locally owned and did attract tourists but they continued to pop up and were getting larger and more intrusive as they were now appearing within the battlefield itself. The history of Gettysburg was taking a back seat and commercialism was becoming the new enemy invading the sacred space.

 Early Battlefield Tours
Hard to believe, but at one time a large two story motel sat at the base of Little Round Top. A small airport and trolley ran right through the middle of the battlefield where people could get a sightseeing tour from air or ground of where the action took place. In 1927 the Flying Circus Air Show came to the Gettysburg Airport with wing daredevils and parachute jumps above the battlefield. There were also two large car dealerships, a Texaco gas station, a Freeze and Frizz ice cream parlor, four different themed restaurants, the Peace Light Motel, Home Sweet Home Motel, Battlefield Motel, Carlana Motel, Sergeant’s Rental Cabins, multiple souvenir stands, and here is the kicker... Dead center within the sacred battlefield was Fantasyland and Storybook Park! It was becoming a carnival!

View of PA Monument
Historical minded people came together and decided something must be done to stop the spread of business and even reverse the trend. Various groups were formed and funding was generated to turn back the clock to 1863! All 21 privatly owned businesses have since been purchased slowly over time by different historical groups and been removed with the landscape returned to as close to its natural state as possible. All that remains of the Gettysburg Airport is a small concrete slab were the ticket booth once stood. So history has been preserved but your days of eating a raspberry & vanilla twist cone, while hearing about Picket's Charge, while walking through the visual representation of the favorite story book from your childhood are long gone! Apparently, the Three Little Pigs and 53,000 causalities just don't peanut butter and jelly together anymore! I guess, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

 View from the Stone Wall
There are still 1,000 acres that are privately owned within the battlefield that remain unprotected and vulnerable to development. The old visitor's center has been replaced with a grand new building off the battlefield site. The old structure was recently demolished and the Cyclorama Building is soon to follow. Roadways not original to 1863 are no exception as 22 avenues have been removed. Acres of new trees that had grown tall over areas that were previously barren during the battle have been removed sparking some criticism from residents who liked the trees. However, history must be preserved, rail fence rows have been rebuilt, stone walls shaped up, and power lines buried along the Emmitsburg Road. The two biggest eyesores that remain are the McDonalds and KFC on Steinwehr Avenue. Will war be waged against Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders? Time will tell...

Confederate Field Gun


Journey Through Hallowed Ground Series
Part # 1 / John Brown’s Raid / Chambersburg

Journey Through Hallowed Ground Series
Part # 2 / John Brown’s Raid / Harper’s Ferry

Journey Through Hallowed Ground Series
Part # 3 / Lincoln’s Cottage at The Soldier’s Home

Journey Through Hallowed Ground Series
Part # 4 / Lincoln in Gettysburg / The Gettysburg Address

Journey Through Hallowed Ground Series
Part # 5 / Gettysburg Town and National Battlefield Park


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