Gettysburg Day 2: Seminary Ridge Museum

Me looking out from the same cupola General John Buford used on the first day of the battle to view troop movements.

Me looking out from the same cupola General John Buford used on the first day of the battle to view troop movements.

This was such a fabulous day, with so much to recount, that I’m actually going to split it up into episodic posts. I may not get to everything tonight.

After breakfast at Perkins (we could have had muffins and bagels in the hospitality room, but Diamondqueen insisted I needed protein), we were going to stop at our favorite shop, an enormous place filled with everything from books to souvenirs to jewelry to home decor. However, we were stunned to discover it was closed (not sure if it’s temporary or for good). Since it was an easy jump up to the Lutheran Seminary, we decided to take advantage of the weather and the possibility of limited attendance to visit the Seminary Ridge Museum that just opened in 2013.

Months ago I discovered the museum online and told Diamondqueen they offered the option of going up into the cupola. This is something I’ve always wanted to do; however, the additional cost of admission was over $20, something that made me wary, especially since I’m not the one paying for it. Diamondqueen, though, said it was an experience not to be missed regardless of price, so she bought us the complete package, museum admission plus cupola tour, and we headed to the fourth floor since the next tour started in just minutes.

We both thought it was definitely worth the price. It was just us and two other women on the tour, a relief considering the busloads of students roaming Gettysburg this week. We climbed the narrowing stairway till we reached a long, very unfinished-looking room. This was an “attic” area of sorts, where seminary students would hang out, play cards, and so on. (There’s a round wooden piece attached to the ceiling that the guide said used to hold a punching bag.)

After a brief introductory talk, the guide led us up a set of wooden steps. She pointed out that during the battle, General Buford would have climbed a ladder, not steps. We reached the top, climbed up one last steep step, and there surrounding us was a gorgeous panorama of the entire Gettysburg area.

Looking west over the ground of the first day's battle.

Looking west over the ground of the first day’s battle.

We snapped photos freely and asked questions about various locations. It was windy but not chilly, and the bright sun and blue sky made the spring landscape gleam.

We were up there about fifteen minutes, then climbed down again and started our visit to the museum. It’s superb, probably my favorite display attraction I’ve ever seen regarding Gettysburg. I think I liked this so much because it was more about people then about the military aspects of the battle (although there was plenty of that). I enjoy seeing personal items, such as china and clothes and other personal effects, more than glass cases with endless rows of rifles and uniforms. There were some startling recreations with very life-like wax museum-style figures; I really did jump when I walked into one of the rooms and saw wounded soldiers in beds and chairs and on the floor. One of the prostrate figures seemed to be actually breathing. It was unnerving.

Each of the four floors had a theme, from the first day’s battle in front of and around the seminary; then a floor about treatment of wounded and dying (this held the wax museum scenes); the second floor examined how faith impacted views of slavery, and it also examined the lives and views of the seminary students and the school’s founder. The first floor had an introductory video, bathrooms, gift shop, etc. We spent a long time in the museum and really enjoyed it.

If I had a Gettysburg bucket list, or really any kind of bucket list, getting to visit the seminary cupola would have been on it. It was quite the highlight of the visit and an experience I’ll always treasure.





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