The small town of Gettysburg, gained tragic notoriety in July 1863 for the cataclysmic Civil War battle in which fifty thousand men died. There were more casualties during these three days than in any American battle before or since – a full third of those who fought were killed or wounded – and entire regiments were wiped out when the tide finally turned against the South.
Four months later, on November 19, Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the National Cemetery. His two-minute speech, in memory of all the soldiers who died, is acknowledged as one of the most powerful orations in American history. Gettysburg, by far the most baldly commercialized of all the Civil War sites, is overwhelmingly geared toward tourism, relentlessly replaying the most minute details of the battle. Fortunately, it is perfectly feasible to avoid the crowds and commercial overkill and explore for yourself the rolling hills of the battlefield (now a national park) and the tidy town streets with their shuttered historic houses.