Seeing Gettysburg in a New Light
I have loved the history and ghost stories surrounding Gettysburg Pennsylvania since I was twelve years old. I revisited this August and was able to switch my focus from the battlefield to the town and the National Cemetery. Visiting the town allowed me to better understand not only what the town was like then but what is like now.
A good friend and I stayed overnight in order to see as much as we possibly could and yet there was still a great deal we did not see. The town is rich in history and local charm, so rich in fact that it can be overwhelming. T-Shirt shops, restaurants, museums, ghost tours, hotels, all crowd the streets beckoning visitors inside to explore.Even when we were in the planning stages, we were surprised how much Gettysburg had to offer. We both made lists of things we’d like to see and do but centered our focus on where we would stay the night since we wanted to book the room as soon as possible. After looking into bed and breakfasts and hotels, she discovered the Tillie Peirce House Inn online.
Located on 301 Baltimore St the 1829 building was the home to famous Gettysburg civilian and author, Tillie Pierce as well as a Confederate blockade site and a hospital site during the battle. The history and the quaint but functional looking room convinced us that this was inn for us. When we received a call from the innkeeper letting us know we could check in early if we wished we were further convinced.
With the aid of GPS we easily located the inn and met the innkeeper and housekeeper as we checked in. They were friendly but not overbearing as they told us which room was ours, the Salome Myers Room. Once inside we found a journal recounting other guest’s visits, mostly about the supposedly ghostly activity in the room and the rest of the inn.
As we left our room to explore the dining room, hospitality room and living room, we spoke again with the house and inn keeper, discussing what we read. They shared stories of the ghostly felines that stalk the halls and the ghost of a soldier who was a patient during the inn’s battlefield hospital days who still guards the rooms.
After speaking with them we headed out on the town. The only concrete plans we had was taking a ghost walk that we had booked the month before and visiting TheJennie Wade House. The Jennie Wade House is where Jennie Wade met her death as the only civilian casualty during the battle. While Jennie did not actually live in the house, it was her sister’s home and Jennie moved in to help her mother care for her sister who had recently given birth to a son. While helping car for her infant nephew, brother and a neighbor boy, Jennie also made bread for Union troops. It was while doing this chore that she was struck by a stray bullet and killed.
Though a grim story, we found the tour to be both informative and enjoyable. Our tour guide interacted very well with the group particularly the children. She guided us through the original house, explaining how the battle affected not just the Wade family but the town as well. She also explained what was original to the time period and what was a reproduction.
|Star, our guide|
|The actual bullet hole|
After our tour we had lunch at The Farnsworth House Inn. The historic building has three dining options, the dining room, the pub, and the garden. We chose the garden, since it was a beautiful day and the garden was inviting with its small waterfall and stream that ran through the garden and past the tables. The garden menu was fairly simply, but still very good. I recommend the peanut soup; it’s a good salty and sweet combination. The staff was very friendly and helpful when my friends asked for beer recommendations.
From there, we wondered along Steinwehr Street, popping in out of the numerous shops that sold everything from shot glasses to t-shirts to what they claimed was authentic Civil War bullets and cannon balls salvaged from the battle field. We walked through the National Cemetery as well, visiting the Gettysburg Address monument.
Along the way we discovered Sunset Ice Cream. Its bright orange and yellow paint drew us in, as well as the myriad of flavors, some with Gettysburg themed names. We had a nice chat with the two college age workers before finding our ghost tour.
Even though we had the name of our tour company, Gettysburg Ghost Tours, we had some trouble finding it since there are so many ghost tours and our guide “Spooky” works at more than one. We finally found it by locating the black cat on the sign. We sat on the bench and chatted with a grandmother and her ten year old grandson while waiting for our “Black Cat Tour” to begin.
Our guide greeted us, dressed in Civil War era mourning garb, black form head to toe, and carrying a lantern. She greeted us in an ominous tone, which she carried throughout the tour but with sprinklings of dark humor. She also balanced the grim and creepy tales with respect for those who perished in and around the town.
The tour was about an hour and went from the tour’s home base to the Dobbin House, an inn and restaurant but during the battle was used as a hospital. We sat along the creek bed that is supposedly visited by the soldier’s ghosts, and sat on benches behind the Dobbin House where ghosts sometimes linger and ended our tour in the backyard of a photography studio and heard of another studio that produced a haunted photograph that foretold of death.
The next morning, we helped ourselves to breakfast in the twenty four hour hospitality room, which was restocked for a breakfast that included bagels, homemade mini muffins, yogurt, coffee, and tea. After checking out, we headed further into town to explore. We didn’t have a plan for the last day, so we found street parking on Lincoln Square and visited the David Wills House.
Aside from being example of what a Civil War era house looked like, the house is an interesting visit because not only was David Wills the man responsible for planning out the National Cemetery but the house is also where Abraham Lincoln stayed before delivering his famous Gettysburg Address.
We made two more stops before we needed to leave town, Tommy’s Pizza and then a drive around the battlefield. While we still visited the battlefield, it was new experience focusing on the town for the visit. We both made wonderful memories and list of places we wanted to go back and visit.