Photo courtesy the Gettysburg CVB
One of the many refurbished cannons at Gettysburg National Military Park. .
Today I drove up the valley from Roanoke, following modern interstate 81 from the southern Shenandoah all the way through West Virginia and Maryland to Pennsylvania, to Gettysburg, the site of some of the bloodiest fighting in the American Civil War. I'm attending the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership's conference, seeking out interesting material for our November/December Civil War issue and interviewing some attending writers and historians.
The drive was beautiful, as the mountains moved farther and farther away from the north-south roads, the valley wider. At Weyers Cave I picked up my mother, who accompanies me on trips when she can – good conversation for the road! – and we continued on up the valley. The farther north you go, the fences are replaced by stone walls, the barns are bigger – houses, too, are made of stone. We drove past my hometown of Harrisonburg, past the turnoff for New Market and Luray, on up through Civil War country, Winchester, Martinsburg (WV), past signs for Berkeley Springs (one of my favorite mountain towns, with its community of artists, massage therapists and the old quirky castle on the mountainside). We crossed a short stretch of Maryland, past Hagerstown, and into Pennsylvania, where the mountain ridges are still visible at the horizon, low blue lines.
Caledonia State Park, green and forested, was inviting once we left the interstate and took 30 to Chambersburg and then Gettysburg. The Appalachian Trail touches down there, right at the road.
Gettysburg itself was bustling, busy with traffic, pedestrians in comfortable walking shoes with maps in their pockets. We checked into the James Gettys Hotel, a lovely spot right in the middle of it all. Its entryway has "City Hotel" carved into the doorstep; its four meandering floors must have been a hotel for a long time. We have a suite, very comfortable, with raspberry muffins, bread, grapes and orange juice waiting for us – and cream in the frig for my mother and my travel necessity, morning coffee.
I arrived at the Majestic Theater about a half an hour ago, leaving my mother to explore the neighborhood and make her own shopping-and-wandering plans for tomorrow while I'm sitting in on panel discussions and workshops. She said she'll scout out a coffee shop. This evening I'll see this 3-D Lincoln photo presentation and hear a lecture from Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard and author of "This Republic of Suffering," which I blogged about last week. Afterwards is a book signing by various authors.
The theater is beautiful, crimson and gold, very 1920s, with a brass-railed balcony, potted ferns on the stage, elaborate chandeliers, crystal-hung wall sconces. Right now there's a short film looping onstage, and I keep catching the phrase, "...kill or be killed. The country had gone mad."Abraham Lincoln in 3-D glasses, in an early 20-century theater? Should be interesting.
If you'd like to follow this on twitter, Tweets will be @brceditor and hashtagged #jthg. This is my first attempt at live blogging, and will be photo-less for the time being.