Column: Whirlwind trip to Gettysburg well worth it

Jonathan Young
Jonathan Young

My trip to Gettysburg for the battle’s 150th anniversary July 1-3 was a whirlwind. But it was worth it.

I traveled by bus with approximately 40 people, part of a group of about 90 who formed the official Minnesota delegation commemorating the role of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the battle. The Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force and the Minnesota Historical Society organized the trip.

Here’s a quick recap:

• Sunday, June 30 – We boarded the charter bus in the late afternoon and rode through the night.

• Monday, July 1 – It was the anniversary of the first day of the battle. The 1st Minnesota didn’t see any action that day, and neither did our party. We spent most of it traveling.

When we arrived at the hotel, we had a couple hours to check in, shower and brush our teeth before heading to a private dinner at The Pub & Restaurant in the heart of town.

• Tuesday, July 2 – This was the big day. The bus left the hotel around 7:30 a.m. and didn’t return until after 10 p.m.

Our first stop was the brand new Seminary Ridge Museum, which opened that week. I enjoyed surveying the battlefield from the cupola, a gazebo-like structure atop the building, from which Union Gen. John Buford surveyed the battlefield July 1.

Next we stopped at the visitor center and saw the Gettysburg Cyclorama – a huge circular painting of the battle that literally surrounds you – before taking a battlefield tour. Our tour proved somewhat a battle in itself, as we fought the crowds. But I guess that’s expected when an estimated half million people converge on a small town in one week.

In the evening we rededicated the monument to the 1st Minnesota at Plum Run, where the regiment made its famous charge, and we walked the ground where that charge took place.

Our day ended with another private dinner at The Pub & Restaurant.

• Wednesday, July 3 – We rededicated the two remaining 1st Minnesota monuments. In the afternoon, we watched a commemorative walk re-creating Pickett’s Charge. Thousands of people swarmed across the battlefield, giving us some idea what Minnesota soldiers would have faced as the helped repulse the attack. The bus pulled out shortly before 4 p.m. and drove through the night.

• Thursday, July 4 – Early in the afternoon we made it back to the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, where many family activities commemorating the battle of Gettysburg and Vicksburg were taking place.

This was my first trip to Gettysburg. Although the trip went smoothly, I could’ve seen a lot more of the battlefield and other sights if I’d gone on a private trip at some other time. But I’m glad I went when I did.

There was something powerful about being there on the 150th anniversary and thinking about what happened on the ground where I stood exactly 150 years earlier.

It was inspiring to think of the courage of those who fought and sobering to consider the consequences of the human imperfections that lead to such wars.

Our tour guide, John Cox of Columbia Heights, pointed out that the anniversaries of the  Battle of Gettysburg are a significant part of its history. I was fortunate to become part of that history.

Want to read more about my trip and see more photos? Visit my blog at ECMgettysburg150.wordpress.com.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]