Both Sides Tour II
November 14, 2009
Sponsored by the Franconia Museum
On the morning of Saturday, November 14, 2009 forty some Civil War enthusiasts met at the Franconia Museum for coffee and doughnuts as a prelude to a visit to Gettysburg. Instead of calling this the "Both Sides Tour" a more appropriate title may have been the "Confederates Invade Gettysburg by Bus". Many of the tour attendees were descendants of Confederate soldiers, including some that fought in the battle in early July 1863, although we did have a feisty Yankee bus driver named Donna, from New York. Our tour guides were Don Hakenson, Carl Sell and Gregg Dudding, local historians and Franconia Museum Board members. This was a museum sponsored event, the second of its kind, hopefully to be followed by many more tours.
We "mounted up" on the bus and proceeded around the Beltway and crossed into Maryland. As we entered Maryland Don Hakenson told the story of Harrison the Spy, Longstreetís scout at the battle, and his Gettysburg/Franconia connection. Harrison married Laura Broders of Oak Grove during the war. The Broders family lived where the Sunrise Assisted living facility is now located, next to Springfield Mall. A more detailed account of Harrisonís exploits is available in Donís book and a Civil War display at the museum.
Next Gregg Dudding told about his experiences as a re-enactor in the movie Gettysburg. Gregg got to meet some of the actors including Sam Elliot. In fact he sat around the campfire with Mr. Elliot and heard him suggest to Ted Turner where he could place one of the Winnebagos he was complaining about paying so much money to rent for the actors. The suggested placement of the vehicle seems like a physical impossibility, but evidently Mr. Turner got the message and left. Gregg also stated that Martin Sheen was very standoffish and did not portray an accurate Robert E. Lee in his opinion.
Our first "dismount" stop was the "Cozy" in Thurmont, Maryland, a buffet restaurant where we had Brunch. I am no dining critic, but I doubt I can drive by the Cozy without stopping in to eat in the future. The food, atmosphere and service were excellent. After about an hour of eating we all waddled back out to the bus and headed north to Gettysburg. When we "mounted up" we were a well fed and drowsy band of invaders. As we approached Gettysburg Carl and Don got into a spirited discussion about Jeb Stuartís role in the Gettysburg battle, and the claim by some historians that Stuart was "late" to the battle.
The next "dismount" was at the new Gettysburg Battlefield Visitors Center. We toured the museum section of the center, which has been totally re-done and seemed to go on forever through gallery after gallery. I had stopped at the old visitors center about fifteen years ago, but it was nothing compared to the interactive displays that are now featured at Gettysburg. Everybody else that day had to have a ticket to get into the museum portion of the building, except for our tour attendees which only had to say the magic word "Franconia." About 1:00 PM we met at the theatre to watch a new film about Gettysburg, and then tour the Cyclorama. The Cyclorama was the highlight of the day. This was one of the most detailed paintings that I had ever seen, circular and over 300 feet long. This painting was created in 1886, and was recently restored to its original condition. The effect is intended to replicate standing in the middle of Pickettís charge. The battle is simulated with lights, and sound. Particularly interesting was the use of real cannons and other 3D objects blended in around the edge of the painting to add to the realism. This is a "must see" if you take a trip to Gettysburg.
About 3:00 PM we "mounted up" and headed out to the battlefield proper. We had to make an almost impossible turn in downtown Gettysburg, but thanks to our Yankee bus driver that drove like a New Yorker, we made it with knocking down any buildings. We stopped at the Angle; the stone wall at the top of the hill where the Union troops turned back Pickettís charge. Gregg Dudding gave a talk at the stone monument where Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead fell mortally wounded after crossing the stone wall with several hundred of his troops. Gregg explained the friendship that existed between Armistead and Union General Winfield Scott Hancock. Both Generals were there on the hill, both were severely wounded, and Armistead succumbed to his wounds. Gregg gave an emotional talk about the Civil war being a conflict of brother against brother and friend against friend. He received an ovation when he finished.
We "mounted up" and headed down to the bottom of the hill to Confederate Avenue. Carl Sell set the tone for the battle, asking us to be quiet, because southern troops were laying down in the woods all around us during the massive artillery barrage on the Yankees at the top of the ridge. We "dismounted" at the Virginia monument, and Carl gave a detailed account of his ancestorsí participation in the charge. Carlís talk gave the battle a personal perspective, rather than just being a third person narrative of historical facts. After a short stop to take pictures of another southern monument, and with darkness rapidly falling, we continued back to Thurmont.
At Thurmont we grabbed dinner at several fast food restaurants and ate onboard the bus. We arrived back at the Franconia Museum about 7:00 pm for our last "dismount", after a full day of eating, history and eating (in that order.) The tour was well organized, and after paying the fee the attendees did not have to worry about arrangements for meals, museum tickets, or gratuities. This made for a very relaxing and stress free day. I would recommend taking one of the Franconia Museum sponsored tours in the future, they are well worth the price. The tour guides always make a generous donation to the museum in support of all our historical activities during the year.