This July marks 160 years since the Battle of Gettysburg, often considered the most iconic battle of the American Civil War. The town of Gettysburg is known by most only for those three specific days (July 1-3, 1863) in its history and visitors often focus on the military maneuvers, generals and soldiers who fought. But the town existed before that time and has existed since, and a newly opened museum aims to take visitors “Beyond the Battle.”
Gettysburg National Military Park and a number of other regional museums and sites, interpret who fought who, where and when, and give you a good understanding of how that battle was a turning point in our nation’s history.
The Gettysburg Beyond the Battle Museum explores the town through the eyes of the everyday people who experienced war at their doorsteps.
In its 5,000 square feet, the Beyond the Battle Museum features more than 1,000 artifacts and firsthand accounts of living through a major battle. Through 12 galleries, you walk through the area’s history in a chronological fashion. You start with the natural history and Native Americans and then go to life on the frontier and Revolutionary America. The center of the museum focuses on the Civil War, the aftermath and President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and ends with preservation and progress and the recent past.
Important voices in our country’s history are featured. President Lincoln’s three-minute speech is examined through the lens of the town’s people who listened to it. The lives of President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, who once lived on a farm outside of town, are highlighted. And the stories are told of lesser-known names, such as Thaddeus Stevens, a leader of the Radical Republicans in the 1860s who fiercely opposed slavery and sought to secure Black people’s rights during Reconstruction, and Mary Jemison, who was taken at age 12 as a captive by the Seneca during the French and Indian War and became a valued member of the tribe.
A truly unique experience for museum-goers exists here that very few museums can provide. “Caught in the Crossfire,” is a 360-degree immersive experience that puts you in a Gettysburg home during the battle. You can see, hear and feel what it was like to be a non-combatant in a combat zone. Novelist Jeff Shaara helped to develop the emotional and moving experience that you won’t soon forget.
Videos used throughout the museum were produced by filmmaker Jake Boritt and narrated by actor Stephen Lang (from the “Avatar” movie series and more). The museum is located less than a mile north of downtown and is adjacent to some of the battlefield.
Free parking is available and a timed entry ticket is required. Normal museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays.
For more information:
Gettysburg Beyond the Battle Museum
625 Biglerville Road, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
By Shuan Butcher