It was gray and drizzly yesterday but my wife, Beth Ann, and I decided to head down to Gettysburg anyway. It was not a day for hiking around the battlefield, so we stuck to the visitor center instead. Beth Ann had never been through the new museum and Cyclorama and I had not had a chance to see the temporary “Treasures of the Civil War” exhibit. Despite the weather we found the parking lot at the visitor center to be pretty full, and plenty of people inside (although it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it was in July). I checked the bookstore to make sure they had plenty of copies of Searching for George Gordon Meade and Guide to Gettysburg Battlefield Monuments on hand. (They did.) Then we watched the movie and took in the Cyclorama program.
I’m still blown away by the Cyclorama. It remains an impressive achievement, even in this era of CGI. The level of detail in the painting is magnificent. We spotted Meade off in the distance and one of the staff members on hand pointed out John Gibbon, Winfield Scott Hancock, Alexander Webb, and other generals. I was not convinced about the identify of Henry Hunt, though, because the figure indicated did not have Hunt’s beard–but what do I know? The man also showed us the figure of Abraham Lincoln that artist Paul Philippoteaux had inserted into his huge canvas. We all know that Lincoln wasn’t really on the battlefield (if memory serves, he was busy fighting a trainload of vampires at the time) but Philippoteaux wanted to include the late president as a symbolic gesture.
Then it was on through the museum and finally to the “Treasures” exhibit. I had wanted to see this small display for some time because it includes a bunch of Meade artifacts, including his glasses, boots, hat, and frock coat. It also had the gorgeous, jewel encrusted sword that the Pennsylvania Reserves had presented to him in August 1863. It was a beautiful object, indeed, though I had to agree with Meade’s assessment that “It seems a pity, though, to waste so much money on an article that from its great value is actually rendered useless.”
After some beers at the Reliance Mine Saloon and dinner at Gettysburg Eddie’s, it was time to head home through a driving rain. All in all, not a bad way to spend a day.