Emmitsburg Road
  he battle has long been fought, but its legacy lives on.

For three days in July 1863, more than 160,000 Union and Confederate troops converged on a peaceful Pennsylvania hamlet, clashing in the bloodiest and most pivotal battle of the American Civil War. When the cannon and musket smoke cleared, 50,000 courageous men lay dead or wounded. But the future of the United States, as one nation, was all but assured.

Today, the distant sound of blaring bugles and the shrill cry of a Rebel yell can almost be heard echoing on the winds that blow over the battleground in winter. Unlike at other times of the year when the majority of Gettysburg's 1.5 million annual visitors pay homage to the past, a quiet calm comes over the National Historic Place from January to March. Particularly, when the park's 1,300 monuments and field artillery pieces are cloaked in a blanket of snow.

"It's a special time on the battlefield," said Katie Lawhon, park spokeswoman. "It's quieter and easier to reflect on what took place ... the sacrifices and why that had to happen. I encourage people to walk the field of Pickett's Charge, from the Virginia State Memorial to The Angle."


National Cemetery 

Saucks Covered Bridge

Just under a mile in distance, the field is peaceful today. A split rail fence runs much of its length and the furrows of a farmer's plow break through the snow cover. But on July 3, 1863, the ground quaked with cannon fire and its golden grass was stained red with the blood of more than 5,000 Confederate dead and wounded, who were cut down like chaff in a futile attempt to breach the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge.

"The big advantage of visiting the park in winter is that Park Rangers can spend more time with you," said Clyde Bell, supervisor of Park Ranger Operations at the National Military Park. "There are less people and there's more direct contact. In a half hour to 45 minutes of quality time, visitors can learn more about the battle."

The Visitors Center, which houses an Electric Map of the battlefield and a comprehensive collection of Gettysburg and Civil War artifacts, averages 14,000 visitors in January. In July, the number of visitors swells to nearly 400,000.

"The winter visitor is a more hardier sort. They really want to be here," Lawhon said. "With the leaves off of the trees, you can see more of the landscape - the small brooks and details of the topography - and have a better understanding of where the battle took place. It's a wonderful time, just dress for the weather."

James Emolo
Farm, Waterworks Road 


All images and content within copyrighted © 2006 James Emolo