Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Battle of Sweatysburg!


Having furnished ourselves with the full details of the American War of Independence when we visited Philadelphia, we now need to brush up on the other one - the Civil War.  The largest battle of this conflict between the American people was fought over 3 days at Gettysburg.  We've made the hour-or-so journey out to Gettysburg and are now being kitted out to take to the battlefields - on horseback.  We're greeted by Pam, the owner of a number of horses and after waiving our rights to take any form of litigation should anything bad happen, we mount our steeds.

I'm on Dakota, who seems to be interested in only one thing - eating.  Justine is presented with Rio who, apparently, is the boss all the others, but a bit of a problem horse.  Whether Rio's prone to missing drug tests or losing concentration at crucial moments I'm not sure.  (If you don't understand this reference, speak to someone who's into football).

So we head out through the woods with Andi, our guide and she begins to explain how, after about a year of conflict between North and South, the Union Army led by General George G. Meade and the Confederate Army led by Robert E. Lee stumbled across each other.  Now my knowledge of the American Civil War is limited and the only thing I know about General Lee has been picked up from The Dukes of Hazzard, so I had to ask Andi to backtrack a bit and give me a quick idiots guide, which she did very well.  Armed with enough background information, we emerged onto the battlefield.



There are a huge number of monuments out here - it seems that every state has one commemorating their fallen - but other than the monuments the whole area has been preserved and looks exactly as it did around the time of the battle.




As our horses walk in single file, we can start to imagine Confederate sharp shooters lurking behind trees, waiting to pick us off one by one.  It's around 100 degrees farenheit (20 degrees hotter than normal for the time of year) and a severe heat warning has been issued for parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland.  Andi tells us that the battle was fought in hot and humid conditions, not dissimilar to these - we're absolutely boiling and the thought of wearing wool uniforms and carrying equipment and supplies whilst cannons are being fired towards us is not a pleasant one.

By the time we'd finished our tour, I was starting to feel that I was in control of Dakota, rather than the other way round.  Justine had been hit (by the heat) and I feared that Gettysburg may claim one final casualty, but once we got her down from Rio and into the shade she started to recover, and we were able to continue our tour… time for the pub we think!

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