We stood on Seminary Ridge and looked out at the fields that came towards us. The guide’s voice echoed in our ears; he described the attack by Confederate forces on this open area. They made a desperate attempt to conquer this ridge. This hill became valuable property during the battle. In my mind’s eye I saw the thrown together southern troops in the heat of the July battle, fighting musket fire and carbine. The crack of cannon fire was never far away. Gettysburg.
My husband and I had talked many times about coming to Pennsylvania to visit one of the most famous and revered battlefields of the Civil War. This fall we finally took the plunge with two granddaughters in tow. Lily, 12, was on the fall break from school in Huntington, Indiana. Kinsey, 10, was allowed to come because we had the opportunity to visit so many historical sites. We strongly believe that not all learning takes place in the classroom.
Here in Gettysburg was Cemetery Hill where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous address on November 19, 1863, just 138 days after the Battle of Gettysburg. His speech was given at the inauguration of the national cemetery there. In just 275 words, he summed up the importance of the sacrifices made there for the battle, the war and ultimately for our nation.
This was actually our fourth stop on the historic trail we traveled. From Ohio to Uniontown, PA, south of Pittsburgh, we drove to our first stop, Friendship Hill NHS, the former home of early American statesman and scholar Albert Gallatin. Gallatin, a Swiss émigré, served as Treasury Secretary under President Thomas Jefferson from 1803 to 1814 and was heavily involved in negotiations to end the War of 1812 in Allegheny Mountains.
The second on our history tour was Fort Necessity, where 22-year-old George Washington “necessarily” built a fortress to defend his troops from the French in the area and their Indian allies. The shots fired here marked the beginning of the French and Indian War that we read about in our history class. After searching and listening here for a long time, I realized that people of a certain age (mine) and generation (including mine) need to take a closer look at what really happened on this battlefield.
Next it was through the rolling mountains of western Pennsylvania to the open fields and the National Memorial to Flight 93 in Shanksville. With this monument in such open terrain, it’s hard to imagine finding your destination here. But that was the point, wasn’t it? The accomplished courage and deeds of the brave passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 will be remembered now and forever in this solemn, isolated field.
Gettysburg was next. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is a great historical site. I strongly recommend experiencing it for yourself.
After several days immersed in the history of our beloved country, we decided to next dip our toes in the decadent experience called … CHOCOLATE!
As we stepped out of our vehicle in the parking lot at Hershey Park, we could smell the delicacy that made Hershey, PA famous. We went in and spent quite a while in the retail part of the building. They offered us and we took a free ride through a simulated tour of the Hershey chocolate factory process. Then we had lunch in the “Chocolatier”, a restaurant whose seating is reminiscent of old rides in Hershey Park. We sat in a tilting booth and enjoyed delicious good quality starters.
In the high season, Hershey Park has a full-blown amusement park with 15 roller coasters and a concert hall that offers first-class entertainment. The 2021 summer concert season included Luke Bryan, The Zac Brown Band, Lauren Daigle, Green Day and Fallout Boy, among others.
From Hershey we again traveled up and down and around and through the mountains of Pennsylvania, heading west to Punxatawney. For those of you who watch the weather, you know that Phil is the furry forecaster who reveals every other February whether we will have early spring or six more weeks of winter. The people in Punxatawney and at Gobbler’s Knob, which is celebrated every year in February, couldn’t have been nicer and more accommodating. The lady at the visitor center, Marcie, gave us each a commemorative coin and offered short cuts for our trip to Pittsburgh.
Then we made our way home. This was a wonderful excursion to western Pennsylvania and a brief step back into our country’s past. It got even more memorable by seeing things a little differently – through the eyes of a 10- and 12-year-old. We hope this will encourage them to explore history and our country and develop a love for travel.
This trip was undertaken by Darrell and Jan Campbell from October 9th to 15th, 2021.
Statue of Robert E. Lee overlooking the Gettysburg battlefield
Darrell and Jan Campbell at the Friendship Hill NHS
Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA
Hershey Kiss Belltower in Hershey Park
Kinsey and Lily at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxatawney, PA