Friday, January 26, 2007

Hallowed Ground

The landscape here is intentionally meant to look as it did over 140 years ago, in 1863. The Civil War and military buffs out there can probably guess by now that I am at Gettysburg National Battlefield. The Park Service,after combing contemporary photographs and written accounts, has replanted acres of historical orchards, removed trees from many areas, replaced them in others, and installed miles of historically accurate fencing. Their purpose is to present a landscape as close to that of July 1863 as possible. Then the public can see physical obstacles that soldiers faced (distance, streams, fencelines, woodlands) and why certain points on the ground took on strategic importance (like Little Round Top vs. Big Round Top).

I've been to Gettysburg several times before. The difference this time is that, at least on one day, I saw it on foot. Justin and I followed a route that took us four hours and allowed us to cover nearly nine miles. We walked to almost all of the well-known portions of the battlefield south of the town. The pace meant that numerous details that would be missed in a car, like the weathered shutters on the Trostle House, made themselves obvious on foot.

The Park Services's current attempt to restore the historical landscape does not reach to the many monuments on the field. Most are historical objects themselves, erected in the first few decades after the battle. At no time in Gettysburg can you forget that you are walking on hallowed ground.


Some monuments at Gettysburg dominate their surroundings. The Pennsylvania monument is probably the grandest of these. And its no wonder, as the battle was fought within its borders and many of its sons were lost. Here, however, the monument's light stone begins to blend into the sky.

Other monuments are smaller, commemorating one life or the position of one regiment. This one, located in Devil's Den, takes on the colors and shapes of the surrounding rocks.

And some, like this one in the National Cemetery, seem to be keeping silent watch.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Historic Ohio

We left Marietta, PA, on Thursday night and spent the next night in Marietta, OH. Ohio has created a byway through a nearby area with four covered bridges and some other "old-timey" structures. I felt at home here, because this covered bridge is called Hill's Bridge.

We have plenty of these in PA. I recently read an article about a man who painted Mail Pouch Barns for most of his life. He could paint two barns per day and centered and placed the letters by eye.

These artifacts are not (anywhere near) as old as the mound, but they are just as interesting. We had an excellent time tracking down these stops on the tour with the last light of day.

Usually bright paint jobs look terrible, but this one was pretty neat looking!

This bridge is the oldest and shows its age. It was sadly covered in graffiti on the inside. The marks do not hurt the structure, but they ruin its atmosphere. Another bridge on the tour has been swept off its supports two times during floods and rebuilt at great expense. Its a beloved community landmark, only a few miles down the road from this lesser-loved bridge. I don't know what makes the difference.

Ancient Ohio

Here's a picture from my New Year's travels. The Serpent Mound is in southeastern Ohio, near Hillsboro. From head to tail, its about 1/4 mile long and two feet high. In this part of Ohio, ancient native americans built many mounds, but few represent animals. This is the largest "effigy mound" in the world. No one is really sure when or why it was built. There are no burials in the mound. The picture shows the tail at left and the head just over the hill in the distance.