We spotted the American Civil War Museum on the main road in Gettysburg which sparked our interest, so we parked the Magic Van and went in. We lucked out because it was free admission that day. I was kind of freaked out by the creepy mannequins they use in the displays, but I got over it and was able to absorb the history. It turns out Gettysburg is essentially where the civil War was won by the North. Fighting continued for another couple years but this place was the major deciding factor. Confederate General Lee made a fatal move when he decided to attack the Union in Gettysburg. Despite poor odds and being in losing status up to that point, Union troops help their ground and fought with all their might until the Confederates had no choice but to retreat. I'm a sucker for underdog stories so I found this very interesting and couldn't help but realize how close we were to becoming a slave country. Pretty scary.
Next stop was the Gettysburg National Military Park. What an incredible facility this is! I highly recommend it, especially since it's only about 2.5 hours from Philadelphia. It's a brand new building with state-of-the-art everything. Tons of actual relics from the Civil War, incredible exhibits and interactive displays and an endless supply of history and knowledge. I'm not a fan of war so I don't usually enjoy stuff like this, but there were so many authentic letters and artifacts, I felt like I connected emotionally with the soldiers. It's kind of tough to write it off as ancient history that has nothing to do with me when I'm staring at an actual boot worn by someone that died for my life to be the way it is.
When you go to the Gettysburg National Military Park, you absolutely can't miss the cyclorama. It's a 377'x42' painting done by Paul Philippoteaux in the 1800s, a French painter who did several depictions of the war. This is his only surviving piece and was in such bad shape that it took decades, about 10 million dollars and an international team of experts to restore. It's almost impossible to describe the sense of awe it inspires. You just have to see it.