If you have ever been to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, you might have noticed that the town really isn’t very big. The battlefield’s many winding roads seem to cover a vast area, but everything is actually very close together. If you have a tour map, you can easily navigate between major sights on the field, and one of the most major sights is the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy,” also known as Pickett’s Charge. Most people have heard of this great loss of life at one time or another, but it is one thing to read about it and another thing entirely to stand on the spot where it happened.
Let’s say you are driving up Cemetery Ridge to Hancock Avenue; the huge white monument you just passed is the Pennsylvania State Memorial. As you climb a slight hill, you will see a small stone marker with a pointed tip off to your left. This is where Union General Winfield Scott Hancock was wounded during the third day of battle, July 3rd, 1863, the day when Pickett’s Charge occurred. Keep driving.
To your right will be an open field that tapers off to a road that winds into the woods. Up further on the right you will see a huge statue of a dignified-looking man on a horse. This is none other than Union General George Gordon Meade. One interesting tidbit; way off in the distance to your left, you’ll see a equestrian statue across the fields in another wooded area. This is Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and the statues of Lee and Meade stare at each other across the divide of Pickett’s Charge.
Park your car alongside Hancock Avenue (you won’t be the only one doing this; there are always other vehicles parked here no matter the time of day) and take a look around. To the left you will notice a small clump of bushy trees with a black iron fence surrounding them. This isn’t the National Park Service’s attempt at beautification; it’s the Copse of Trees, General Lee’s famous objective on which he set his sights as his men crossed the field. Union cannons are scattered across the top of the field from the Copse of Trees past the small stretch of land known as the Angle.
Way off in the distance, a beautiful red barn is visible. This is the Nicholas Codori Barn, and the huge farmhouse stands closeby. The Codori Farm is famous for its location directly on the field of Pickett’s Charge, but unfortunately, this is not the original barn. Most people are uncertain of when the reproduction replaced the original, or how closely its design mirrors its battle counterpart.
Especially if you visit at night, Pickett’s Charge has an eerie quality to it. The carefully-maintained fields and wooden fences look no different now then they did in 1863, except for the tourists tramping here and there. Although you probably won’t walk to trek across the field, you can walk around the grassy areas between the Copse and the Angle. You will see many monuments along your walk, and one of them in particular will catch your eye. It looks like a huge boulder, and it actually *is* a giganic piece of granite. Interestingly enough, this same rock once stood in Massachusetts but was transported to Gettysburg in the 1880s to be part of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry’s regimental monument.
The 106th Pennsylvania Infantry monument stands right in front of the Copse of Trees near Hancock Avenue. It is tall and mostly rectangular with a replica of three drums as a crown. Perhaps the most important monument at Pickett’s Charge is the huge bronze book that rests between two cannons directly in front of the Copse of Trees. It was dedicated in 1892 and is a memorial to the Confederate regiments that fought at Pickett’s Charge. On the right side of the road, a crouching soldier tops the monument to the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry. The 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry’s musket-wielding soldier is one of the field’s most handsome monuments, especially when caught in the right light.
One last thing to remember is this: The time you go to Pickett’s Charge should be determined by your purpose. If you want to photograph striking scenery, like the black shadows of monuments against a sunset sky, you should time exactly when the sun will be starting its descent. If you want to go when there are not many people, try early morning, because the closer to closing time it is, the more people might try to rush down to Pickett’s Charge to catch a last glimpse. This is a wonderful place full of reverence, awe, spirituality, valor, and intrigue. Those who travel to Gettysburg shouldn’t miss it.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer