Now that I am back from a very fun and relaxing trip to Gettysburg, I wanted to make some additional comments on certain items that I observed. The one thing I love about this town, generally speaking, is the friendliness from shop to shop. I just love engaging workers there in conversation and finding out more information, mainly about the old buildings some of these souvenir stores are located in. Whenever I mentioned that I work at a museum, people seem to open up, maybe telling you some things that they might not ordinarily say. As I wrote about in my previous Gettysburg Journal 2013 blog posts, I found out some really interesting information relating to Jennie Wade, ghost tours, and more. Below are some more of my thoughts:
- For starters, below is the picture I wrote about last time, the one that the guide on our wonderful ghost hunt run out of the Farnsworth House swore was ecotoplasm. While nothing in this field is ever 100% definite, like I said, I am pretty sure this was the result of a double camera flash between mine and the person standing next to me who took a picture a split-second before me. You be the judge:
- On three separate occasions I overheard a ghost walk tour guide begin his schtick with, “The scariest part of the tour is crossing the street”. Very funny, but as they say, truer things are said in jest. He could not have been more right. Save your money and stay away from the ghost hunts. If you like storytelling, then give one of the cheaper walks a try. But if you really want to immerse yourself in darkness, then go on the battlefield with your group at night. Its free, and far less frustrating.
- The more shops I went into, the more I began to wonder if all the owners got together before the 150th anniversary festivities and had a meeting agreeing to charging the same price for everything. While the majority of items in years past did have the same price, with enough looking around, you would have been able to eventually find the item in question for a few dollars cheaper here or there. This time around, however, there was no dice. Everything was identical in price. The other thing I noticed regards the labeling of all the bullets for sale. I could swear that years ago, advertising and labeling used to allude to them being found on the Gettysburg battlefield. While relic hunting there has been illegal forever, I always wondered how they came across so many “Gettysburg bullets”. I thought that perhaps a dealer had gotten a permit to dig before the National Park Service clamped down, or maybe the bullets were found during construction or on land not owned by the NPS. Well, as it happens, none of these bullets are or ever were Gettysburg dug. They are all from Virginia. How do I know? Because every shop worker went out of their way to tell me they were not local bullets, and were actually all from Virginia. This came up when I wanted to buy a few placards for friends back home; you know, the glass enclosed matting that has a bullet or two inside with a picture of a general or painting of some kind. All of them said “Civil War” on the front, but I wanted something that said “Gettysburg” because that’s where my trip was, even if the bullets are not from there. The worker in a store that will not be named said several times, “Remember, these are from Virginia”, before going in the back and digging a few labeled “Gettysburg 1863” out of storage. I am wondering if very recently, someone got fined or arrested for championing Gettysburg bullets, or perhaps illegally selling the real deal. This left a very poor taste in my mouth, as the tourist trap the economy of this town has become is now more obvious than ever before.
- No doubt this 150th anniversary commemoration is going to be milked for years to come. I think 10 years from now they will still be selling surplus items. Of course, the prices were a little bit higher this summer than normal, but do we really need a bottle of wine with an anniversary label to be priced at $25-30? The wine probably isn’t even good, they are just selling it for the label. On top of that, how many people are even going to drink it? If I bought one, it would become a display piece.
- There seems to be a little animosity between history lovers in town and the way other, more “official” people involved tell the history, or how the facts are presented. Twice, I gave my opinion that I did not think Jennie Wade was killed by a sharpshooter from the Farnsworth House to a shop worker. The first time, I was asked very hesitantly, “What makes you say that?” When I elaborated, the person said, “Well, that’s just how they tell it around here.” The second person responded by saying, “I agree with you. I’m not a licensed battlefield guide or anything, but the way they tell the story over there never sat right with me.” And as you may have already read, there may be an explanation for why this falsehood continues to this day.
- For the first time in so many visits, I walked the entire route of Pickett’s Charge. It was a surreal experience. I was by myself in complete quiet and isolation, and was really able to picture what the attack looked like. I tried to listen for the cannon fire and drumbeats, and tried to look for the lines of men marching forward to attack the stone wall. The geography is also much easier to study, as you can see the dips and rises the rolling farmland takes, and how at some points, you cannot even see the stone wall when you are on the way. This is a must-do for anyone who wants to understand the battle.
- Finally, as always, the food in the restaurants in this town was awesome. I still maintain that Montezuma’s is the best Mexican food on the planet. I also got a chance to try the Blue and the Gray Bar and Grill for the first time, and found their burger list very unique—all were named after generals from the battle, and each came with a nice sized flag stuck into the burger, representing the country the general fought for. I had the General John Buford burger: topped with crumbled bleu cheese, caramelized onions, and horseradish sauce. Pictured below: