Over the past two days Gettysburg National Military Park hosted the inaugural “Battlefield Foray,” a series of free hikes and walks that traversed nearly the entirety of the park. It was a great way to welcome the return of spring to south-central Pennsylvania and the kickoff to what we hope will be a great year of walks, talks, and hikes out on the battlefield. We were incredibly grateful and fortunate to have so many of you out on the field with us.
Each of the different hikes on Saturday and Sunday examined a unique aspect of the two armies that fought at Gettysburg. In particular, the different arms of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac (infantry, artillery, and cavalry) were discussed and explored on a part of the battlefield where that particular branch played a prominent role.
Saturday began early, with Park Historian John Heiser leading a tour focused on the backbone of both armies; the infantry. Though Union cavalry initiated the fighting outside of Gettysburg on July 1st, the day as a whole was dominated by the infantrymen. Though the skies were slightly overcast, and a brief drizzle momentarily moved through the first days field, nearly one hundred visitors followed John as he discussed the opening shots of the battle, as Union infantry regiments in Maj. Gen. John Reynold’s I Corps confronted elements of Confederate Gen. Harry Heth’s command. Tromping through Reynold’s Woods and down McPherson Ridge, the story of units like the 24th Michigan, 26th North Carolina, and 2nd Wisconsin were brought to life on the ridges and in the woodlots where those units fought.
Later in the day Ranger Matt Atkinson delved into the role artillery played during the fighting on the 2nd Day. Confederate artillerymen E. P. Alexander wrote of the fighting on July 2 that, “I don’t think there was ever in our war a hotter, harder, sharper artillery afternoon than this.” From Warfield Ridge to the Trostle Farm, Matt explored and discussed the Union and Confederate batteries that dueled for supremacy on the bloodiest day of the battle of Gettysburg.
The exploits and service of units like Battery F, Pennsylvania Light Artillery, better known as “Hampton’s Battery” was discussed from the vantage point of their position on July 2nd. Hampton’s Battery lost roughly 18 men killed and wounded during the fighting at Gettysburg, most of it during the hour they were engaged at the Peach Orchard.
By the late afternoon the rain and overcast clouds of the morning gave way to a blue skies and warm weather. The final program of the first day of the Battlefield Foray brought participants to the East Cavalry Battlefield where Ranger Tom Holbrook described the clash of Union and Confederate horsemen that took place their mid-day on July 3rd, 1863.
On Sunday Licensed Battlefield Guides Garry Adelman and Tim Smith led an all day hike that brought the story together. Leaving from the Visitor Center, they led participants on a hike of the entire position of the Army of the Potomac on July 2nd and 3rd, 1863. By walking the entirety of the Union “Fishhook” at Gettysburg, visitors gained a greater appreciation for the size of the battle and battlefield, and that the fighting that took place at individual locations throughout the battle was in actuality part of one, interconnected, struggle.
We want to thank all of those that showed up and explored the park with us. Hopefully we will see you all out on the field again soon. For more information on ranger led programs, and future events at Gettysburg National Military Park, visit our website at http://www.nps.gov/gett