Gettysburg, Fort McHenry & Camden Yards Revisted

Trip Start Apr 02, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Maryland
Sunday, September 18, 2011

I had not intended to go to any of the ballparks more than once, with the exception of Wrigley Field.  I almost always go there 2-3 times a year.  In addition, about a month ago, a buddy of mine who is the manager of the local Schnuck's, Eric Snow (a.k.a. Snowman) invited me to the Schnuck's box at Busch Memorial Stadium.  How could I say no to that?  Eric is a good man, and the son of long-time SF retiree and tool crib employee, Don Snow. 

But this other opportunity arose and I couldn't resist.  Sandy had a meeting in Gettysburg, PA called "The Gettysburg Experience," and I was going to join her afterwords for a tour of Gettysburg.  Boy am I glad I did.  Upon of the advice of good friend, Kevin Callis, we invested in a tour guide to take us around the battlefield site.  Once again, a good decision.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Sandy went to Gettysburg on Monday, September 12.  I was scheduled to fly out of BMI on AirTran on Wednesday, September 14 to join her.  The night before, my older sister (Donna) and my Mom came up from Springfield and were flying down to Mom's winter home, Fort Myers, FL.  We took the same plane to ATL that morning.  I must put in a good word for Donna.  She's two years older than me and will be spending the next six months in Florida with Mom.  Mom is 85.  Unfortunately, Mom is losing her memory, and can't live alone anymore.  Not Alzheimer's, just diminished capacity.  We other kids will relieve Donna for a month over Christmas.  Thank you so much Donna for doing what you are doing for Mom.   

Flight to ATL went without a hitch and after saying goodbye to Mom and Donna, I headed for my flight to Baltimore (Did you know that Baltimore was the closest sizable airport to Gettysburg?  Me neither!)  Flight to BWI went well.  Got my Hertz car...nice Buick Lacrosse, and headed the one hour drive up to Gettysburg.  Pretty drive.  

Sandy was staying a few miles outside Gettysburg in Tarreytown, PA in a place called The Antrim 1844 Country Inn.  Very quaint, almost a B&B-type place with several outbuildings where they house guests.  It was the site of her conference.  Very nice.  It started sprinkling rain as I reached the Inn.  Neither one of us had eaten, so we drove the 10-minutes or so into Gettysburg and had a great late lunch at a place called The Dobbin House Tavern which dates back to 1776.  Great place to eat.

Then we headed to the Gettysburg Visitor's Center.  Very well done.  Great artifacts...Civil War uniforms, guns and even musical Big Red Marching Machine Band Friends would love that display.  Besides the movie on the Battle of Gettysburg, your ticket also entitles you to view something called the "cyclorama painting" by the French artist Paul Philippoteux.  The painting depicts "Pickett's charge," the failed infantry assault by the Confederates that was the climax of the Battle of Gettysburg. Never heard of a "cyclorama?" Me neither. It's a 360 degree cylindrical painting. It was originally 42 feet tall (now 27 feet). And painted in 1833. It was intended to immerse the viewer into the scene being depicted.  Apparently it was quite the rage in the first half of the 19th Century.  Think of it as their version of the IMAX theater.  Even though the painting is not historically accurate (the artist even painted himself into the work as a Union soldier), it is cool and very much worth seeing. It was restored in 2008. As I say, very cool.

We wanted to go on a tour of the Gettysburg cemetery with a guide, but it got canceled due to the rain.  So, what should we do?

Well, Sandy had seen an outlet mall on the way and like me and golf courses, she couldn't keep away!  We headed to the mall.  Did a quick run-thorough and Sandy went into one shop while I went into a chocolate shop for some of Sandy's favorites (chocolate covered raisins).  Got to admit, I sort of like them too!  Sandy ended up not investing in the local economy.

We had a quick bite at the mall food court and headed over to see what was playing at the local cinema.  Not much.  We finally landed on "The Debt," a movie about Nazi hunters.  If you get the chance to go see it...don't bother.  Wait for it on HBO.  After the movie, back to The Antrim and bed.

Up and at 'em on Thursday, September 15. Had a good (if not a bit slow) breakfast in Gettysburg, and headed to meet our guide at the Gettysburg Wax Museum. He was standing in front of the place and after parking out back, we met him. Gentleman by the name of John Morton. He wanted to drive...OK by me. For the next three hours plus, he painted the picture of the battle of Gettysburg for us. John is a Licensed Battlefield Guide. Written exam, oral exam and questioning by an established Battlefield Guide before receiving his patch. Then guides become independent contractors to give tours to visitors.  Price is $55 for two hours...we asked for three.  

John was extremely knowledgeable.  He knew the names of every general, major, captain, lieutenant and probably enlisted man involved as well.  He took us through all three days of the battle.  

(History Lesson) - Robert E. Lee had been successful fighting the Union in the South for the past two years and felt a strike into the north, perhaps taking a state capital like Harrisburg, PA would turn the tide of the Northern people against the war and help the South seek a negotiated peace.  He was on his way to take Harrisburg on July 1, 1863 when he sent some men into the tiny town (2200 pop.) of Gettysburg, PA to get supplies.  He didn't know the Union army was there.  They ran into a group of Union soldiers and pushed them out of their defensive positions through the town of Gettysburg and onto a place called Cemetery Hill.  But the Union still held the high ground, a fact that would hinder the South throughout the battle.  Day two saw fierce fighting by Lee and newly appointed Union General George Meade at places like Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Culp's Hill, The Peach Orchard and Little Roundtop.  Fighting lasted into the night on day two.  The battle culminated the next day with what is called "Pickett's Charge," the Southern infantry assault on Cemetery Ridge.  12,500 Southern infantry advanced but were repulsed by the North with a 50% casualty rate for the South.  Overall there were more than 55,000 dead, wounded and captured at Gettysburg...the largest battle of the Civil War.  In the end, Lee had no choice but to retreat.  He would never fight a major battle in the North again.  And although the war would last for two more years, this battle probably turned the tide for the North.  And it's a battle the South nearly won...if not for a few major blunders.  Interestingly, one Union cavalry hero emerged from Gettysburg.  One you probably know from later history...General George Armstrong Custer.  

The battlefield itself is covered with more than 1100 monuments; most of which are to commemorate the state regiments which fought.  One, the 8th Illinois Cavalry, was reported to have fired the first shots of the battle.  And there are many statues of generals, like Lee, Meade, Longstreet, and a little-known Major General from New York by the name of Abner Doubleday, who is credited with beginning the modern-day game of baseball.  Somehow you knew I'd find a baseball reference, didn't you?  (I should advise you that there is some question whether this is the same Abner Doubleday who invented baseball.)   

After bidding our tour guide adieu and tipping him handsomely for his efforts, Sandy and I headed to a museum on the square (roundabout) in Gettysburg called the Wills House.  David Wills was a well known attorney and local politician in Gettysburg, and heavily responsible for establishing the Gettysburg National Cemetery.   His house is now a museum, and was where Lincoln stayed on November 18 and 19 when he gave his famed Gettysburg Address.  The story is an interesting one. 

Wills invited the most notable speaker of the time, Edward Everett to speak at the dedication of the national cemetery.  Almost as an afterthought, Wills invited Lincoln to the event, telling him, "if you wish to make remarks, please make them brief."  Can you imagine the audacity?  Everett spoke at the dedication for more than two hours, and reportedly thrilled the audience, receiving a resounding ovation.  When it was Lincoln's turn, he rose and spoke for less than three minutes those words we all had to memorize in Junior High School or High School, which began, of course with "Four score and seven years ago..."  (How long ago was four score and 7 years ago?  87 years...yep, he was referring to 1776.)  In the end, the crowd was almost afraid to applaud as they didn't know if he was done speaking.  When they realized it, they too gave him a tremendous round of applause.  And although Lincoln wasn't very proud of the speech, Everett said, "I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes." Very cool.

We left Gettysburg and headed toward Harrisburg and Hersey, PA.  We drove through Hershey, seeing the pretty Hershey Kisses light poles and then had a great Italian dinner at Gabriella's.  Then back to the Holiday Inn Express outside Harrisburg and to bed.

What happened the next day is very strange.  Somehow I got a little sick overnight...stomach.  Couldn't have been the food, it was excellent and Sandy and I had eaten the same thing.  Must have been something else.  About 8:00 am we heard a couple of large bangs and then the electricity went off in the hotel.  Later we learned a car had hit a local power box.   The power  came back on long enough for Sandy to dry her hair and she headed downstairs to do email at one of the, she never stops working!  I stayed in bed, again, not feeling 100%.  I didn't think much about the electricity going out again a few minutes later, but Sandy did...she was in the elevator when it happened!  Yep stuck in there for 30 minutes.  Fortunately she had her trusty computer and it even got a signal from the wi-fi. She sat on the floor and did email until they rescued her.  What a trooper!

When she got back to the room, we packed up and left, receiving help from the staff getting the bags down from the 5th floor.  We headed to Baltimore and more history.  

After a nice drive of a little more than an hour, we got to Baltimore.  I headed for Fort McHenry.  Jill (you remember my Garmin, Jill, don't you?) took me one way which was fine until we got to a place where men were working and the sign said, "Road Closed...Bridge Out."  Hmmm., that's a problem.  Some nice construction guys gave us an alternate route to Fort McHenry...a route which took us by the Domino Sugar plant and the Under-Armor factory.  Since it was near Noon, it was interesting to see all the UA employees in their UA garb coming out of the business for lunch.

Fort McHenry was interesting.  Bear with me while I switch eras and wars.  The year was 1814 and the US was immersed in the War of 1812 with England.  

(History Lesson) - The British had already attacked the US and overrun Washington, DC, burning the capitol. It appeared Baltimore was next. On September 13 and 14, 1814, the British commenced a land and sea attack on Baltimore, intent on taking out Fort McHenry which protected Baltimore.  A local lawyer by the name of Francis Scott Key was on a British ship trying to negotiate the exchange of some prisoners of war.  On the evening of September 13, the British initiated a ground and sea attack on Baltimore and Fort McHenry.  The US withstood that attack and Key, the next morning, seeing the US flag still waving over Fort McHenry wrote those famous words ..."Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light..." 

There are actually four verses to the Star Spangled Banner, did you know that?  I actually did.  My favorite is the fourth.  It goes like this:

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The Visitor's Center was cool with all the historical information on the War of 1812 included, and then you went into an area where you saw a 10-minute film on the battle.  At the end of the film, they suddenly raise a curtain and reveal the "the star spangled banner" waving in front of you over Fort McHenry while they play the National Anthem....very moving!   I was somewhat surprised how many people didn't stand up and remove their caps...somewhat sad...but still, very cool!

We headed to our hotel and rested for a while, until an old friend of mine by the name of John Presburg picked us up at our hotel and took us to downtown Baltimore.  John is an old (I meant that in the kindest way) guy who used to work for Mike Boyd, the eminent airport expert.  

We went to John's apartment...wait till you hear this...on the 19th floor of a 20 story apartment building overlooking Camden Yards...the home of the Baltimore Orioles.  What a great view.  

We had a beer, and then headed to the Hilton just below him for sliders, she-crab soup and a crab cake!  Then we headed to the Orioles - Angels game.  

Got to say that Camden Yards is my all-time favorite ballpark.  19 years old, but still beautiful.  Walked down Eutaw Street...the street in left and center field between the ballpark and the former warehouse, now office building.  They have little round plaques where people have hit long home runs out of Camden Yards...most on the sidewalk, but the longest I saw was by Ken Griffy, Jr...10 feet high on the wall of the warehouse (now office building) that was a shot!  

Headed into the game which the Orioles won 8-3 vs the Angels...which is quite surprising since the Orioles are 23 games out of first place.  Sandy was not too interested in the game, but she got a few chapters of her book read!!  (LOL!)  John and I had a good time eating peanuts and having a few Natty Boh's!!!   And I kept my tradition going, giving a nice kid two rows in front of us a baseball...warmed his heart, and mine and those of his parents as well!!  And Sandy got to see what it was like when a little kid receives an unexpected baseball...she liked it as well.  

John took us back to our hotel and after thanking him, we hit the hay.

Up very early the next morning and flights home were just fact, so much so, that we got to see Laura before she headed back to school in Princeton. What an awesome trip!!! 

Hope you enjoyed reading the extra added attraction as much as I did writing it.  Three more games to go...Atlanta on 9/26, Tampa Bay on 9/27 and the Marlins on 9/28...can hardly wait.
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Kay Robertson on

Since I'll probably never make it to Gettysburg and I wasn't very good in History, thanks, dear friend, for a travelogue that made me feel like I was there with you! What a guy!!

Mike Dahlkamp on

my stomping hour and a half from BWI now, on way to Warren Mi....enjoy the sights...there are many of them close by

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