34 miles N of Frederick; 50 miles NW of Baltimore
Here on the rolling green hills just north of the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, and in the streets of a tiny town that was home to a mere 2,400 people, some 160,000 brothers met in battle. For 3 days in July 1863, the 70,000 men of the Confederate Army faced the 93,000 Union soldiers under the command of General George Meade. When the 3 days of fighting ended, the rebels had been driven back; some 51,000 were killed, wounded, or captured; and General Robert E. Lee would never mount another campaign of such magnitude again. Most important, the tide of the war had changed. The battle would become known as the "high water mark of the Confederacy."
Today, the 20,000-acre battlefield is one of the most famous in the world, drawing people to its hills and valleys, beckoning them to pause for a moment before the long rows of graves in the cemeteries and monuments in the fields. They stop, too, to recall the 272 words of Abraham Lincoln as he dedicated the cemetery on November 19, 1863.
The park surrounds the small town of Gettysburg, which still bears war wounds of its own. Plenty of small privately owned museums display collections of firearms, uniforms, and other memorabilia of those dark days.
The busiest time to visit is during the 3-day reenactment held every July 1 to July 3, when 350,000 people descend on Gettysburg. If you plan to come, make hotel reservations at least 8 months in advance -- and make dinner reservations before arriving. It's a good idea to come before the reenactment to get a look around, take a tour, and gain some historical perspective. Bring a lawn chair and comfortable shoes.
Another popular event is Remembrance Day, held the Saturday closest to November 19, the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Weekends in spring and fall are perhaps the most pleasant times to visit. Schoolchildren flow in during the school year, and families keep the attractions filled all summer.