Thursday afternoon, Oct. 17, GWCS juniors watched the 4-hour loooooong, exciting (and sometimes boring) “Gettysburg” movie, starring many well-known actors plus hundreds of Civil War re-enactors. Early Friday morning the juniors (including Christian who flew in from Belgium to join us!), Mr. Connelly and Mr. Lindner climbed in the school van for the 90-minute drive to the Gettysburg Battlefield National Historic Park in Pennsylvania.
We started at the Visitors Center, where we watched an introductory film narrated by Morgan Freeman and then viewed the famous Cyclorama Painting. This 42-foot high and 377 feet in circumference canvas, painted by French artist Paul Philippoteaux and a team of assistants, toured the nation in the late 1880s giving citizens a 360-degree depiction of Pickett’s Charge during the third and final day of the battle on July 3, 1863. A program of sound and light helped us get a taste of the excitement, confusion and terror of the battle.
After piling back into the van we spent three hours touring important sites of the battlefield while listening to a recorded description from a tour guide supplemented by information supplied by the teachers. We saw first-hand the important geographical features of the battlefield that significantly affected the battle, including Seminary Ridge, Devil’s Den, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard and the Bloody Angle, stopping to climb across the same rocks the soldiers shielded behind on Little Round Top and Devil’s Den. We learned about the importance of technological advances in weaponry and real challenge of moving almost 150,000 troops to, around and through a small town of 2,400 inhabitants.
We then enjoyed a great buffet lunch at Li’s (no relation to General Lee) Buffet to prepare for our own GWCS Charge. Mr. Connelly lead our stalwart juniors on a ¾-mile charge walk across the same field that 12,500 Confederate soldier charged across under withering cannon and eventually musket fire while Mr. Lindner waited with the van at the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy” where the charge ended in failure. During that less-than-an-hour charge the Confederates lost 1,123 killed, 4,019 wounded and 3,750 captured. Union losses were only 1,500 killed and wounded.
After imagining that fateful hour, we visited the Military Cemetery where hundreds of soldier, know and unknown, are buried and where President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous “Gettyburg Address”. Observing the many graves and reading the names of many of the fallen, we contemplated the courage of those who sacrificed their lives, the foolishness of the leaders who prompted the conflict, and the joy of the millions of previously-enslaved people who gained their freedom through this war.
A final visit to the museum, which could have filled our entire trip’s available time, and its gift shop, we crawled into the van for the ride back to school, listening to a final description of the results of the battle that were presented to the 2,400 citizens of Gettysburg which reminded us of the horror and folly of war.
The students were great, courteous and interested, and the trip was a huge success. A return visit lies in the future plans of many of those who took the trip.
GW Community School
Juniors Journey to Gettysburg
Mr. Lindner, Teacher
October 18, 2019