The Gettysburg Battlefield is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Pennsylvania. For three days in 1863, Union and Confederate forces met here on the hills, fields, and wooded landscape of central Pennsylvania in what would become the most famous battle of the American Civil War.
The 6,000-acre battlefield has since been preserved as a tribute to those who fought that day and boasts more than 1,300 monuments, markers, and memorials to tell their story. The modern battlefield and much of the nearby town still look very much like they did in 1863. Today the area remains a living monument to the struggle and strife of our American Civil War.
Why Tour the Gettysburg Battlefield?
The Gettysburg Battlefield is more than just a site of historical significance – it is a place where we can peel back the veil of time and peer through the layers of years past. By walking on the same ground where so many brave men strove and suffered, we can endeavor to understand the sacrifices that were made there in the name of freedom. And by reflecting on the events that transpired at Gettysburg, we can gain a new perspective on the war and its impact on our lives today.
Whether you are a history buff, or simply seek to better understand the timeless lessons of our shared heritage, a visit to Gettysburg is sure to be a memorable experience.
If you’re planning a visit to Gettysburg, here are some of the must-see sights on the battlefield:
Seminary Ridge was the primary position of the Confederate forces throughout the entire battle, serving at General Lee’s headquarters during the Gettysburg campaign. Seminary Ridge offered the Confederates high ground from which to view the area around them, and the foliage there provided important coverage that shielded their movements from prying Union eyes. Today it is the site of the famous Virginia Memorial, a likeness of General Robert E. Lee on horseback.
The Devil’s Den and the Valley of Death were the locations of much heavy fighting on July 2, the second day of the battle. The giant boulders of Devil’s Den provided Confederate sharpshooters a lethal vantage point from which to wreak havoc on the Union troops occupying the surrounding area. The picturesque rock formations dotting the hillside provided ideal cover for small unit actions, leading to an extended bloody engagement between forces contending for control of the area. Between Devil’s Den and Little Round Top is the gully of the Plum Run creek bed, also known as the Valley of Death. Devil’s Den and its environs are reputed to be among the most haunted sites on the Gettysburg battlefield.
This hill is one of the more famous battlefields of the Civil War. It was here that a haphazard grouping of rapidly deployed Union troops arrived just in time to defend the hill from a much larger force of determined Confederate soldiers who sought the superior high ground position it offered. A hard-pressed battle followed, with the Confederates launching multiple sorties until the Union defenders were almost completely overwhelmed and out of ammunition. A desperate, last-minute bayonet charge swept the Confederates off the hill and won the hill for the Union, who held it for the remainder of the battle.
Much of the fiercest fighting at Gettysburg occurred in the infamous Wheatfield. For several hours multiple Confederate brigades clashed with as many Union brigades, resulting in the deaths of several Generals, and the fighting devolved into close quarters, hand-to-hand combat. When the engagement ended on July 2, 1863, the 26-acre wheat field had been flattened, the crushed wheat littered with the bodies of the fallen. Neither side gained control of the ground, but many men gave their lives in the attempt.
Gettysburg was once known for orchards of delicious fruit, but the peach orchard at the intersection of Wheatfield Road and Emmitsburg Road was the scene of intense fighting on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, when Confederate infantry contested the site from its Union defenders. The battle raged for hours around the house and barns of Trostle Farm, home of Farmer Sherfy, the orchard’s owner. After the battle, Farmer Sherfy salvaged as many of the damaged orchard trees as he could and planted new trees to replace those that died. Today, the Gettysburg peach orchard has been fully restored and is maintained as a recreated battlefield site.
Cemetery Hill was the location of the Union Army’s main artillery battery and was the center of savage fighting throughout the Battle of Gettysburg. Located at the north end of Cemetery Ridge, it marks where the Union defense line began to turn east to form the “fishhook” line to Culp’s Hill. No other position was more influential to the battle’s outcome: to win at Gettysburg, the Union Army must hold Cemetery Hill. The Confederacy’s efforts to take it turned it into the tactical center point of the battle. On the evening of July 2, the Confederates launched a last-ditch, full-scale assault on Cemetery Hill and briefly broke through the Union lines, only to be driven back at a terrible cost, effectively ending the battle of Gettysburg. In the months following the battle, America’s very first national cemetery was created on the crest of the hill. Its dedication included the delivery of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
7. Culp’s Hill
Culp’s Hill is a rock-strewn, forested elevation southeast of the Gettysburg town square. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Culp’s Hill anchored the right flank of the Union battle line. On July 2nd & 3rd, 1863, it was the target of attacks by the Confederate 2nd Corps. Held by various Union defenders at various times, at one point most of the forces there were shifted to defend the threatened Union left flank, leaving Brigadier General George S. Greene’s single small brigade almost alone to defend the hill.
9. The Angle
The Angle is an area located atop Cemetery Ridge that contains both the Copse of Trees and the Confederate High Water Mark. It can be identified as the place where the sheltering stone wall zigzags. This was the planned objective of Pickett’s Charge on the final day of the battle, July 3rd, 1863. Union troops valiantly defended the wall during the historic attack, a desperate defense that determined the victor of the battle and turned the tide of the war.
The Copse of Trees was the visual focal point of Pickett’s famous charge. Located inside The Angle, it is the small, wooded area used by the Confederates as the landmark toward which they marched. After a long and brutal march under withering Union fire, the Confederates finally managed to briefly break through Union lines and cross the wall just west of the Copse of Trees, only to be halted and driven back, within tantalizing reach of their objective. Many regard this as the high point of Confederate military achievement in the war, and it is commemorated by the High Water Mark monument at the base of the trees.
10. Cemetery Ridge
Cemetery Ridge functioned as the central nexus of the Union army during all three days of the historic battle. On July 3, the Confederates mounted a final frontal assault that battlefield historians would famously name “Pickett’s Charge.” In that grueling attack, Pickett marched his men, the very best units among the Confederate forces, over a mile through open fields to try to take Cemetery Hill. They would be beaten back by the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry, to whom a famous memorial now stands on the spot.
MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS
Witness the town of Gettysburg through the eyes of the civilians. Interactive displays, 3-D videos, artifacts, and storyboard panels tell the story in a way that will entertain and educate the entire family! Included is the Civil War Trust’s award-winning “Gettysburg: Animated Map,” movie; the perfect orientation to the battle and the battlefield!
Stand face to face with those whose roles shaped and created the Battle of Gettysburg. Enlighten your senses with a walk-through of Picket’s Charge as the battle unfolds around you. See the famous Gettysburg Diorama presenting the Battle of Gettysburg in a fully narrated, truly unique and original light and sound experience.
Dedicated to the civilian experience. Guided tour of Shriver family’s home and business: Shriver’s Saloon & Ten-Pin Alley. The Shrivers were one of the wealthiest families in town and Confederate sharpshooters occupied their home (ultimately, two soldiers were killed in the house). Live civil war bullets were discovered on the site during its 1996 restoration. Tour the period garden and see actual artifacts and bullet holes left over from the battle.
Gettysburg’s Seminary Ridge Museum features three areas of emphasis not focused on anywhere else in Gettysburg: the First Day of Battle, July 1, 1863 (on the very site where it happened), Civil War field medicine (in the building that was the largest Field Hospital at Gettysburg); and the larger issues of Faith and Freedom.
Explore the historic home and experience the tragic tale of Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Eisenhower National Historic Site preserves the family farm of General and 34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Adjacent to the Gettysburg battlefield, the farm served the president and first lady as a weekend retreat and as a meeting place for world leaders.
Noted Attractions on the Gettysburg Battlefield
Following is a Google Map showing the location of numerous landmarks and points of interest at Gettysburg National Park:
Summer is here! Our bus tours of the historic Gettysburg Battlefield are in full swing. Reservations can be made by calling our toll-free number at 877-680-8687. You can also purchase bus tour tickets online. Tours depart from the Gettysburg Tour Center located at 778 Baltimore Street across from the National Cemetery.