29 June 2006 by Published in: General musings 10 comments

Saturday is the 143rd anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. I don’t mean to downplay the anniversary of the battle. It’s obviously a landmark event that’s more than worthy of commemoration. That much is beyond dispute.

The anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg has pretty much taken on a life of its own over the years. They started holding an annual reenactment event near the battlefield each year, and that’s what really triggered the insanity. Now, mind you, Gettysburg is a small town, perhaps 7500 permanent residents. It has an uncommon number of restaurants and hotels due to the tourist trade, but each year, tens of thousands of people descent on this little town for the anniversary and for the reenactment.

When that happens, there are no parking spaces. There are no hopes of getting a table at a restaurant. There are long–ridiculously long–lines most places. The battlefield itself is jam-packed with people. Trying to park at a popular spot like the top of Little Round Top–forget it. Not a chance.

I’ve been there on the anniversary twice, both times for booksigning events. The first time, we were fortunate enough to stay in a private residence that is on the South Cavalry Field, and which played a role in the battle. It is about four miles from the center of town, and on the morning of July 4, which was a Sunday that year (1998), the traffic was backed up for more than four miles. It was ridiculous. We went south to go north in order to get away from the traffic.

After the second time, I swore that I would never go there for the anniversary event again, and I meant it. I have absolutely no interest in being there at that time. I can’t deal with the crowds or the heat, and I want to be able to get a table at a restaurant with less than a three hour wait. I couldn’t possibly care less about the reenactment, so I have no desire to be there to see that.

I can certainly appreciate the fact that folks feel strongly enough about going and being there for the anniversary events, but no thanks. I will sit this one out. Enjoy the crowds, the heat, and the lines.

Scridb filter


  1. Mike
    Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 8:06 am

    Not sure if you saw this http://www.mikekoepke.com/blog/2006/06/29/gettysburg-re-enactments-postponed/

    but they delayed the anniversay until July 7th-9th due to all the rain out there.

  2. Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 8:14 am


    No, they didn’t.

    They delayed the REENACTMENT. They did not delay the anniversary itself–that will still happen tomorrow, no matter what the weather will be.


  3. John D. Mackintosh
    Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 8:30 am


    After reading this, I will never even consider going there for the anniversary. I thought the Little Bighorn was crowded in 2001 for the 125th. I arrived at the battlefield before 7:00 a.m., left at 8:00 that night, if I left during the day, I would have kissed the parking spot goodbye. That can’t even begin to compare to what you have described, which isn’t surprising considering how close Gettysburg is to huge population centers.


  4. Phil
    Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 8:46 am


    I concur. Can we come to your house?



  5. Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 9:13 am


    It’s almost impossible to describe it if you’ve never experienced it. I watched the National Tower come down on TV, and that was just fine with me.


  6. Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 9:14 am


    Sure–come on over. It’s only 6.5 hours worth of driving for you. ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. Brian S.
    Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 9:35 am


    You make good points. I’ve been going every year for maybe 7-8 years now. When I started going to Gettysburg there was maybe one new hotel, the Hampton Inn, near the Rte. 15 exit to York Pike, but now that road is pretty much destroyed with development. The traffic gridlock is as bad as any I go through here in Philly. Like I’ve said in an earlier post, I’m a hiker so I park my car in the morning and I’m on my feet for the rest of the day. I go simply to study the landscape and do a few anniversary walks, which are great fun. I really don’t know what the people are doing there in Gettysburg that weekend because it’s always the same faces on the walks. By the time I come in from the field and shower up it’s way past 9pm every night so I have no problem finding a table but parking at whichever hotel I’m at can be rough.

    I do have to say I’m coming around to your point of view. The crush of people has noticeably increased since I’ve been going, which hasn’t been that long. I don’t know if I’ll stop going in the summer but I love studying the field during the fall/winter. Maybe there will be a point where the traffic/people become unbearable but for now I’m still all about the ranger walks.

  8. Randy Sauls
    Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 11:23 am


    I’ve been to Gettysburg every month of the year except for July. Too hot and too crowded. Quite honestly I prefer visiting in the fall and winter – fewer people and less traffic. I give The Dobbin House and O’Rourke’s enough business the rest of the year; I doubt they miss me much in July. Me, my wife and kids used to visit so often that we actually thought about buying a palce up there. Having my own place of refuge is about the only way I’d consider visiting around anniversary time. I’ll just stay here in NC and at the appropriate time, raise my glass in honor and remembrance.


  9. Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 1:27 pm


    I much prefer going when the foliage is down and sight lines are so much better.

    Good luck with it. ๐Ÿ™‚


  10. Fri 30th Jun 2006 at 1:27 pm


    That sounds like a plan to me.


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