At Gettysburg, Farther From the Battle but Closer to History

Publication: The New York Times

Author: Dave Caldwell

03/12/2008 - The old visitor center and museum at the Gettysburg National Military Park was cramped, obsolete and a little too close to history. The brick building, built in the 1920s as a private home, was part of a complex that sat where Union lines had stood for the last two days of the most famous battle in the Civil War.

Nearly 1,000 Union soldiers were killed, wounded or captured on the hallowed ground beneath the complex. Wayne E. Motts, a local historian who has been a licensed battlefield guide for 21 years, was not the only person who was bothered by this fact.

“I’ve said if I could go down there and tear down that building with my bare hands, I would,” said Mr. Motts, the executive director of the Adams County Historical Society, which is in Gettysburg, Pa.

Luckily, he will be saved the trouble. The complex is being razed, and the land will be restored to how it looked in July 1863. Meanwhile, a $103 million visitor center and museum will open April 14 less than a mile away — on a plot of land, archaeologists have confirmed, where no fighting occurred.

Park workers and Civil War buffs have been waiting for decades for the opening of the new center and the debut on Sept. 26 of the restored 377-foot circular “Battle of Gettysburg” mural, which was completed in 1884 by the French painter Paul Philippoteaux and 20 other artists. The new museum has been designed so that its galleries of artifacts will give visitors a better historical context for what really happened when Union and Confederate soldiers clashed in the rolling farmland of south-central Pennsylvania 145 years ago.

Read the full article Gettysburg, Farther From the Battle but Closer to History on the New York Times' Web site.

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