Bringing the Past to Life

We have settled into our “summer home” on the outskirts of our nation’s capitol. Volunteering as camp hosts at Greenbelt Park, a park under the auspices of the National Park Service, it is our small way of giving back, as we know many of our national parks are at risk without the help of volunteers, and it also puts us in the middle of a metropolitan area that begs to be explored.  Our biggest challenge this summer will be remaining tick-free. 😦

Our new-found friends John and Pam, of “Oh, the Places They Go” were headed in the same direction up the east coast as we and they offered to play tour guide in DC…perfect!  What began as the seeds of a grand biking adventure resulted in two days of horrendous rainstorms and flood warnings around the area.  What appeared to be a “wash-out” ended in a day spent getting to know each other better over coffee, and continuing over lunch.  Although our original plans had been washed away, we walked away feeling once again as if we had rekindled an old friendship instead of shaping a new one.

Fast forward several days and we find ourselves headed to a place that had a resounding impact on our nation, Gettysburg, PA, once again looking forward to our guide John giving us a tour of one of the bloodiest skirmishes of the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg.  Lest you think I am going to bore you with facts and figures, fear not.  I would not attempt to claim much retention of elementary-school knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg beyond the most rudimentary information.  This post is meant to speak to the generosity of a couple and the passion clearly felt in the stories John shared with us, a man who clearly has a love for the history of this wonderful country.  He brought the landscape alive for us, bringing the past into the present.  His eyes danced as he shared stories at various stops along the battlefield grounds.

I must admit that as we approached the town of Gettysburg, I felt a hush descend over the landscape as I looked out over the myriad statues, monuments, and markers dotting the countryside, symbolizing the events that felled so many those three days. Since this day was all about our nation’s history, please allow me to throw out a few facts, to bring the full import of Gettysburg to light and to let John know that the hours of sharing his love of history were not spent in vain. 😉

For those who may not remember, the Battle of Gettysburg, fought between Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil Way, continued over a three-day period, from July 1-July 3, 1863.  After the fighting ended, it would be known as the battle carrying the largest number of casualties of the entire war, estimates ranging from 46,000 to 51,000 on both sides.  Although the Civil War continued for another two years after this fight ended, the Battle of Gettysburg is often described as the “turning point of the war”.  Given that this battle took place in the streets of Gettysburg and surrounding hillsides, it is rather remarkable that there is only one documented civilian casualty, Ginnie Wade, a 20-year old hit by a stray bullet while making bread in her kitchen. Bullet-riddled brick walls can still be seen today outside the Farnsworth House restaurant in town, where we lunched.

Not unlike our last meeting with John and Pam, rain and grey skies followed us, although not even the weather could put a damper on the day.  We parted with the hope of beautiful hikes together out west later this year.  Given the drought conditions in the southwest, certainly with our track record we could bring some much-needed precipitation to the area! 🙂

We can’t thank you enough John and Pam for the incredible day.  Your generosity will not be forgotten and we will come back for more before we leave DC.