Earlier this week, I was in Gettysburg. As my frequent readers may recall, I reviewed J. David Petruzzi’s newest book, “The Complete Gettysburg Guide,” on June 1. (click here for the review and an interview with JD) Deciding that any good review includes a “test drive,” I decided to take JD’s book with me. It should be noted, that anytime I visit a battlefield, I try to have a game plan ahead of time. I spent about thirty minutes, with the “Complete Guide,” before I arrived at the battlefield. I’m glad I spent time doing this, as I was quite focused on what I wanted to see while I was there. Since I knew Gettysburg would be extremely busy, during the 146th anniversary week, I planned on visiting some lesser traveled areas of the battlefield.
- Marsh Creek
- Barlow’s Knoll
- Coster Avenue and the Brickyard Fight
- Spangler Springs/Culp’s Hill
- Sedgwick Avenue
My first stop was at Marsh Creek, which is where the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia battled CSA Brigadier General John B. Gordon’s detachment on June 26. This was the opening phase of Gettysburg, before the Army of the Potomac arrived, and was part of Gordon’s Expedition to Wrightsville. Using the driving directions, and reading the text of the “Tour of Marsh Creek” chapter, I found it easy to find the monument for the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia. I enjoyed reading JD’s narrative of the actions that took place here. Heading back to Gettysburg, I found the statue for the 26th with no problem.
Next, I skipped ahead to the “Tour of the First Day of the Battle of Gettysburg” chapter. Thumbing ahead to page 44, I read about the fighting at Barlow’s Knoll. While I have been a student of Gettysburg, for a very long time, I went ahead and read through the narrative on this portion of the battle. Since I had read the book, before my interview with Petruzzi, I knew what I wanted to look for at Barlow’s Knoll. But I was pleasantly surprised, while reading the section on Barlow’s Knoll, that I felt much more connected with the fighting that took place there, which is an often overlooked portion of the first day’s fighting. Standing near the Old Almshouse Cemetery, which is on high ground, I really appreciated the maps that cartographer, Steve Stanley, produced for the book. You can easily visualize the troop movements of Brigadier Generals Doles and Gordon, and the hard fight that Barlow’s division encountered here, along Rock Creek. To wrap up my visit to Barlow’s Knoll, I walked over to the flagpole where the 17th Connecticut fought. While there was no flag flying, I experienced a new appreciation for the devotion the 17th Connecticut had, for their lost comrades, when they dedicated this flagpole.
From Barlow’s Knoll, I followed JD’s directions to the Brickyard, at Coster Avenue. Considering myself somewhat of a veteran Gettysburg battlefield wanderer, when I first read the book, I was surprised to learn about the fighting here. This fighting is seldom mentioned in narratives on the battle. Following the directions provided in the book, I drove right to Coster Avenue (it should be noted that Coster Avenue is not listed in a Garmin GPS – it is, however, easy to find by following the directions). While there are only two monuments here, I again felt very close to the men that fought at the Brickyard. Perhaps it was because of Steve Stanley’s detailed map! This small section of the battlefield is owned by the National Park Service, and if you search hard, you can find it on their map. During the 30 minutes or so, that I was there, no other tourists visited. This is amazing as Gettysburg was very busy. It was quite peaceful, and the mural of the fight is amazing.
Leaving the Brickyard, I ventured into the heavy traffic of the main battlefield. One of the things that I really looked forward to was searching for some of the rock carvings. I decided to search for Captain David Acheson’s temporary headstone, at the John T. Weikert Farm. The Weikert Farm is on Wheatfield Road. While the area was very busy, I was the only person at the Weikert Farm. Using my Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS, I was disappointed that I could not find the headstone. After checking the coordinate defaults, I realized that I did not have it set up correctly. Once I changed the GPS settings, I walked right to the headstone. Taking some pictures, I headed for the “carved initials” near the 93d Pennsylvania Infantry monument. After entering the coordinates, provided in the book, I walked right to the rock with the initials on it. Talk about feeling close to the action! These were carved by soldiers on the battlefield…. On my way back to the car, I encountered another battlefield wanderer carrying JD’s book. He did not have a GPS, so I pointed him to the Acheson headstone. This was one of many occasions, while I was at Gettysburg, that I encountered someone referring to “The Complete Gettysburg Guide.”
From there, I headed to Sedgwick Avenue. While not detailed in “The Complete Gettysburg Guide,” this little traveled road had many monuments. I took pictures of all of them, as I inevitably will write blog articles on the regiments from the VI Corps, and III Corps, that were positioned there.
My journey to Gettysburg finished with a trip to Spangler Springs/Culp’s Hill. Once again, I used my GPS to find rock carvings in this area. When I interviewed Petruzzi, we spoke at length about the rock carvings, and his use of GPS coordinates. He had mentioned that he envisioned these being used as a modern treasure hunt. I have to agree with him. While the coordinates get you very close to the carvings, you still have to search. Many of the carvings will have weeds, or brush, grown up around them. This made it fun. You find the area that JD provides coordinate for, and then you have to search for the rock that holds the carving. With so many boulders, and rocks, strewn throughout Gettysburg, this is not always as easy as you might expect.
In closing, this book is the definitive guide to the Gettysburg National Battlefield, making its name, “The Complete Gettysburg Guide,” very appropriate. If you are planning a trip to Gettysburg, anytime in the future, make sure you either purchase the book there, or preferably before you leave home. Undoubtedly, if you follow the entire guide, you will need several days to see Gettysburg Battlefield – but it will be worth it! If you are going for a shorter visit, having the book ahead of time will allow you to plan your visit, making it that more more enjoyable.
Thanks JD, and Steve, for such a great book!
Details about “The Complete Gettysburg Guide”
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Savas Beatie, LLC.
Date of First Edition: June 1, 2009