Visiting battlefields and military museums has never been on my list of things to do on vacation. So it was purely a spur-of-the-moment decision to drive to Gettysburg (www.nps.gov/gett) while visiting my in-laws in suburban Baltimore some years back.
I was oblivious to the controversy that surrounded the Gettysburg National Battlefield Tower, which stood more than 300 feet high on private property next to the field of Pickett's Charge.
My late father-in-law, a Southerner (born in South Carolina), and I, a Yankee (a Californian with ancestral roots in Pennsylvania), rode the elevator to the top, then looked out across the rolling terrain and ridges. We had a better view of the battlefield than the generals or their scouts had had as they plotted their battles more than a century earlier.
(Several years after our visit, after lengthy legal and bureaucratic battles, the National Park Service took possession of the tower and brought it down with explosives.)
We drove through the battlefield, stopping to admire some of the many monuments. The Pennsylvania State Monument is the largest in the park. At its base are tablets inscribed with the names of its own soldiers who had fought there. I knew from my own family history that I had had ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War. If I had planned for this visit, I would have found out their names and looked for them on the state monuments. But that will have to wait for another trip.
This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states.