The Battle of Gettysburg (a Union victory) was a turning point in the Civil War. Often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Confederacy", it was the war's bloodiest battle with 51,000 casualties (killed, wounded, captured or missing). It also provided President Abraham Lincoln with the setting for his famous Gettysburg Address.
The Gettysburg National Military Park encompasses nearly 6,000 acres with over 26 miles of roads connecting major battlefield landmarks including Cemetery Hill and the "High Water Mark". There are over 1,400 monuments, markers and memorials, 400 cannons and three historic houses.
The park also has hiking trails, a horse trail and welcomes on-road bicyclists. Visitors should begin at the Museum and Visitors Center for an orientation to the park and Gettysburg. The Visitor Center offers park maps and brochures, information on touring the park, certified guide services, a Resources Room, expansive bookstore, Refreshment Saloon and can provide local information for the town.
The Museum features 12 exhibit galleries that tell the story of the Civil War and Gettysburg through one of the largest collections of Civil War relics in the world, maps, and high-tech interactive displays, plus a 22-minute film "A New Birth of Freedom" about the Battle of Gettysburg. The Museum also hosts the fully restored Gettysburg Cyclorama - a 360-degree oil on canvas painting enhanced with a landscaped foreground that depicts the full fury of 'Pickett's Charge'. This unique painting was first shown in Boston in 1884 before coming to Gettysburg in 1913. The Gettysburg Cyclorama is 359 feet long, 27 feet high and weighs an estimated 3 tons!
Near the Visitor Center is the Soldiers' National Cemetery where Union dead from the Battle of Gettysburg were buried, and is now the resting place for veterans from all wars. It is also the place where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.
Visitors can experience the park through a self-guided 24-mile auto tour that includes 16 stops in the park plus Historic Downtown Gettysburg (David Wills House and Gettysburg Train Station). Tour route maps are available at the Visitor Center information desk at no charge. Visitors can download a Podcast for a 90-minute walking tour of a Gettysburg battlefield landmark to an iPod or mp3 player from the Park's partner website at www.CivilWarTraveler.com.
The park also offers a Licensed Battlefield Guide Service for private battlefield tours in the visitor's own vehicle, a guided battlefield bus tour (available March-September) and a variety of free ranger-guided programs (available April-October). Living history programs with costumed interpreters, encampments and demonstrations are presented weekends only (spring through early fall). Commercial bus tours of the park are available through companies in Gettysburg.