In Chiang Mai, Thailand: Paper lanterns, floral floats and the annual Loi Krathong festival

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Helping hands are welcome by those attempting to light a heat source at the bottom of a paper lantern (woman in green top at lower right) at the Yee Ping festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Picture, if you will, thousands of unadorned white cylindrical lanterns, illuminated from the inside, rising silently ever higher, set against the backdrop of a full moon beaming in the autumn night sky.

Bobbing on the river’s surface are several thousand plant- and flower-laden small floats, each sporting several thin sticks of incense and a flickering candle, all being swept away by the water’s current.

Lights drifting above, lights twinkling below, it’s festival time in Chiang Mai, Thailand. One of the country’s most enchanting events is being celebrated this week, Loi Krathong (sometimes spelled Loy Krathong).

The festival occurs in the 12th lunar month, and is also observed in some other Asian countries. This year’s celebration is November 2-4, so preparations are in full swing, ramping up shortly after the end of the year-long mourning period for long-reigning King Rama IX, also known as Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died at age 88 on October 13, 2016.

When I visited Thailand with my friend Susan in 2011, the festival fell a week later in November. I had read a little about it in my guidebook, which noted that Chiang Mai was one of the best places to watch and participate, so I made sure our itinerary placed us in the northern Thai city to coincide with the festivities.

Loi Krathong takes place at the end of the rainy season, when the rice harvest has been completed. Thanks are conveyed to the Water Goddess for the fruitful bounty, while at the same time responsibility for polluting the water is acknowledged.

The origins of the festival are unknown, but some sources say it can be traced to 14th- or 15th- century India and the worship of Brahmin gods. Another possibility is that it is a Thai twist on ancient Buddhist rituals.

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Holding his krathong, a young man waits his turn to place his float on the river. He’ll light the candle before doing so.

The symbolic floats are meant to cleanse the owner of anger and grudges, banishing the past year’s problems. Some people place a fingernail or a lock of hair on their float, to signify releasing a darker part of one’s self. Including a coin is also seen as an offering.

It’s believed that if the flame is still alight when the owner loses sight of it — among all the other flickering lights — then a year of good luck will follow.

Other components of the three-day festival include a parade with full-size floats being ridden by people in traditional costumes, a beauty pageant, folk dancing and blessings at the wats (temples).

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A woman in our hotel made these krathongs from banana leaves and flowers.

At our city-central hotel, a dark-haired woman was sitting at a table in the lobby, cutting banana leaves and flowers, then attaching them to a round base. Some of the leaves had been elaborately folded and braided, like doing origami with plants instead of paper. The small-scale arrangements were lovely, showing off the lush tropical materials in their best light.

While sightseeing and browsing at fair-trade shops, we saw other people making krathongs, as the floats are known. Many were for sale.

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An industrious young man has everything he needs to construct floats, which he’ll later try to sell to residents and tourists alike.

One young man was sitting cross-legged on a red mat in an empty space in front of a shop, engrossed in folding a leaf and surrounded by his supplies. To his right was a pile of shiny green banana leaves of various widths and lengths. In front of him were several prepared round bases, and to his left were white, blue and pink flowers balanced horizontally on a white bowl.

Inside one of the city wall’s brick gates, we took pictures among the decorations, such as big-as-life cloth-covered white elephants, and other hanging lanterns. Vendors were setting up stalls selling a variety of food — many of them colorful rice dishes — and handicrafts made from materials such as silk and wood.

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Displays celebrating Thai traditions are set up in the city center. Elephants are an enduring symbol in the country’s culture.

We had discussed if we should buy our own krathongs, and decided this would be best done in the late afternoon. But we got a wonderful surprise back in our hotel room: Two identical krathongs had been left for us.

After dinner, with daylight fading, we walked east toward the Ping River.  The beauty pageant was in full swing, with entrants parading across a raised stage, festooned with flowers, and white fabric draped across the front.

We navigated through the crowds, gingerly holding our krathongs, not wanting any decorations to be jostled or dropped off. The closer we got to the river, the more krathongs we saw for sale, some of them stacked two or three tiers high, overflowing with thin fronds and lotus flowers. These more elaborate creations may have been entrants in a contest vying for best krathong.

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Full-size floats take part in a night-time parade.

At the river, we made our way down a rickety platform that jutted out into the water, where we waited in turn to move to the end of the bamboo ramp, bend down and place our krathong on the surface. A young woman helped me send mine off, while Susan did a better job of launching her own.

Many people were holding flat circular objects that looked like collapsed lamp shades. These were, in fact, the lanterns, made of thin paper supported by a bamboo ring. In Chiang Mai, the paper lanterns are considered worthy of their own festival, called Yee Peng. Like the small floats, the lanterns also embody the idea of casting off the ills of the past year. A wish is supposed to be made before sending one skyward.

The heat source used to inflate the lantern reminded me of a small can of Sterno, like you would use for a camping stove or under a chafing dish on a buffet.

Timing seemed crucial to lighting the unfurled lantern, and best done with at least two people, each holding a side, and a third trying to ignite the heat source. For some, the release appeared equally as tricky, with two sets of outstretched arms trying to coax the hot-air lantern aloft in the soft breeze. Some lanterns never took proper flight, destined to plummet stubbornly into the river.  But judging from the number of lanterns overhead, success was far more prevalent than failure.

The liberation of lanterns and floats continued long after we left, until nearly midnight, if the printed scheduled was accurate.

Back in our hotel room, gazing skyward from our small balcony, we could see countless dots of light as more lanterns headed for the heavens. Unfortunately, incessant noise from street-level firecrackers was adding an unwelcome soundtrack to an otherwise magical evening.

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In Dresden, Germany: Resplendent church, rebuilt from ashes of World War II, again dominates city skyline

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Stones from the ruins of the original Frauenkirche were used in the reconstruction. Though darkened by age and war damage, the stones were cleaned and repaired and fitted among the new sections, giving parts of the facade a patchwork look.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos, except where noted. All rights reserved.

House of worship, war monument, giant jigsaw puzzle: Over several centuries, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden, Germany, has been all three.

From its completion in 1743 (after 17 years of construction) as a Lutheran church, to its collapse near the end of World War II, to its reconsecration in 2005, the Frauenkirche has long had a special place in this medieval city.

In Dresden’s heyday before the war, visitors ventured to the city to see world-class art museums, and revel in its baroque architecture, opulent palaces and manicured gardens. They avidly attended classical concerts or an opera at the sumptuous Semper Opera House. After indulging in calorie-rich cuisine and fine German wines, they often took a leisurely stroll down the city’s wide boulevards or along the bustling waterfront.

All these attributes earned the city the nickname “Florence on the Elbe,” and its beauty was immortalized in oil paintings by famous 18th-century artists.

Much of that splendor and those recreational pursuits were lost in the destruction wrought by WWII. Further complicating the city’s recovery was the descent of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War — Dresden was in East Germany — effectively shutting out much of the world for decades.

But with Germany’s reunification in 1990, and vast sums of money pumped into the re-creation of the city center, millions of tourists began once again flocking to Dresden. In 2008, I was among them.

The rebuilt pink sandstone church is a natural magnet, celebrated for its elegance and for its spiritual component. Its doors are open to the faithful, who come to worship and light candles, as well as the curious, interested in seeing what a magnificent job was done in the reconstruction.

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The new organ above the richly ornamented altar in the Frauenkirche has more than 4,800 pipes. Some of the pieces from the altar were salvaged from the rubble and reused.

Many sit quietly in the cushioned maple pews for a few minutes, craning their necks to admire the New Testament scenes expertly painted on the dome’s ceiling, or swivel from side to side taking in the circular upper galleries decorated in pastel yellows, pinks and blues. Or they marvel at the baroque altar and the organ with 4,876 pipes. At capacity, more than 1,800 can be comfortably seated.

The more you learn about the church, the more impressive its renewal becomes.

In the late 1930s, Dresden, the capital of Saxony, had a population of more than 600,000, making it the country’s seventh-largest city. But political, social and economic upheaval was afoot, with consequences that would reverberate for the next decade and beyond.

Throughout Germany, the Third Reich was robbing Jews of their rights, property and livelihoods, including the 6,000 Jews who lived in Dresden. Deportation — and far worse — awaited at concentration camps in Nazi-occupied lands.

During the war, Dresden was an important communications and transport center. It housed military installations and became a manufacturing hot spot for munitions and armaments, fuses and bombsight optics.

The city, which had been bombed twice — in October 1944 and January 1945 — was to become a target a third time, with what happened on two dark winter nights remaining controversial to this day.

On February 13, 1945, nearly 800 Royal Air Force Lancaster bombers and Mosquitoes left England in two waves. The onslaught on Dresden began around 10:15 p.m., and within minutes, the central part of the city was in flames. A second wave of aircraft was overhead about three hours later. In total, they released more than 2,500 tons of bombs and incendiaries.

“We saw from a distance of about 30 kilometers a fire-lit, red night sky reflecting the raging firestorm that destroyed this great jewel of a city in one of the most catastrophic bombing attacks of World War II,”  Dr. Günter Blobel, a 1999 Nobel Prize-winning scientist, would later write in a short autobiography on nobelprize.org. “It was a very sad and unforgettable day for me.”

Blobel was 8 years old and fleeing Silesia (in what is now Poland) from the advancing Russian army. He and his family had driven through Dresden days before the bombing, and Blobel recalled “its many spires and the magnificent cupola of the Frauenkirche.” Years later, while a professor at an American university, he would help to raise the more than $210 million that was needed to rebuild the church.

The destruction of Dresden continued the next day, with two waves of U.S. B-17s releasing more than 1,250 tons of bombs.

For two days, the sturdy stone of the Frauenkirche, with its heavily wooden interior, burned. On the morning of February 15, the church’s dome came crashing down as did most of the rest of the building. Only two sections remained standing, and they were badly discolored from age and the intensity of the flames.

Though the statue of Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, survived, it toppled from its plinth in front of the church, coming to rest staring at the sky.

Estimates from most credible sources put the death toll at about 35,000 to 40,000.

Less than three months after the bombing, the war in Europe was over.

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This August 1949 photo shows much of Dresden in ruins. The open space at left, with the lone statue, is where the Frauenkirche once stood in the Neumarkt area. Photo from the Dresden Treasures from the Saxon State Library via the Library of Congress

The task of rebuilding Dresden, where almost 80 percent of the structures had been damaged, would prove to be enormous. The need to construct housing quickly was the priority, not restoring the Frauenkirche.

Also, as long as the church was in ruins, Communist East Germany could exploit it for political purposes, and rail against the “evil” capitalist West. By the 1960s, East German state representatives were placing wreaths at the site on the anniversary of the bombing runs.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and reunification, attention turned in earnest to the church. In the early 1990s, planning and fund-raising began. In 1993, volunteers and others started to clear the rubble, which was piled almost 43 feet high. Clearing the site took 17 months.

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This section, above and around entrance E of the church, is one of two that survived the 1945 bombings. It was reconstructed and cleaned before retaking its place in the spot where it has stood for centuries.

The intent was to use as many of the original stones as could be cleaned and repaired. The stones were cataloged and stacked on metal racks in the Neumarkt, where the church would rise again. Computer programs would help fit the patchwork of darker old stones among the the new, which were hewn from sandstone from the quarries of an area nearby known as Saxon Switzerland.

On June 1, 1993, the crew was astonished to find the badly burned tower cross in the rubble. It had fallen more than 300 feet from its perch atop the cupola, but it was intact. Today it is mounted at ground level on the south side of the church’s interior.

Less than a year later, on May 27, 1994, the first stone of the new Frauenkirche was laid. The original plans left by master carpenter and architect George Bähr were followed when possible (his grave in the cellar was also located and restored), re-erecting the octagonal lower structure and its seven doors. On the next level up, four towers adorn the corners around the bell-like dome, which is topped by a stone lantern.

A total of 3,539 repaired stones from the original church were incorporated in the more than 500,000 new pink stones that completed the exterior. Tightly fitted together, they present a striking contrast, honoring both the church’s history and the days yet to come.

Modern conveniences such as an elevator were incorporated to take visitors partway up to the dome.

A wide circular incline and narrow metal stairs wind the rest of the distance to the stone lantern. Once outside on the viewing platform, a splendid panorama of the Elbe and Dresden’s skyline awaits.

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The Frauenkirche once again is the focal point of Dresden’s skyline, as viewed from the north side of the River Elbe. To the left, the glass-domed structure with a bronze angel on top is the art academy. In the mid-1700s, the city was a favorite subject for Italian artist Bernardo Bellotto, who was among the royal court’s painters.

In the 10 years that it took to reconstruct the exterior, several international groups were formed to raise funds and to publicize the effort. Among them was the Dresden Trust in England and the Friends of Dresden, founded by Blobel in 1994, in the United States.

The British, whose own 600-year-old cathedral in Coventry, England, had been destroyed by German bombers in November 1940, contributed the new 24-karat gilded tower cross and orb, an exact replica. Leading the work on the cross in London was master silversmith Alan Smith, whose father, Frank, was a pilot with the first wave of Royal Air Force bombers.

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A closer look at the cross and orb that master silversmith Alan Smith, son of a Royal Air Force pilot who bombed Dresden in 1945, made for the new church. It’s an exact replica of the original.

“At first I didn’t tell anyone what was motivating me,” Smith said in remarks on the church’s website. “When it became known that I, the son of a bomber pilot, was creating the cross for the church, there was a big rush for the story. Initial amazement gave way to a very positive reaction. Even the war veterans from my country who had served alongside my father gave me a slap on the back and told me a lot about the past, about the war. They had kept silent about it for so many years.

“I have worked with gold, diamonds and gemstones, created jewelry for royal households and Arab rulers, gifts of state for the highest dignitaries in the world,” he continued. “But this 7-meter-tall gilded steel cross is the pinnacle of my career. It was like putting together an extremely complicated puzzle in which the past and the future neatly fit into one another.”

From the American group, Nobel laureate Blobel contributed the majority of the almost $1 million award to the church. A portion also went to the New Synagogue nearby, replacing the Semper Synagogue that was demolished by the Nazis in 1938.

Finally, on October 30, 2005, one memorial bell and seven new ones rang out to begin the reconsecration service. Visiting dignitaries, politicians and early arriving Dresden residents packed the church, while the crowd outdoors, possibly numbering 100,000, watched the ceremony on a giant screen.

Once again a house of worship, the Frauenkirche then added two more lines to its résumé: “symbol of peace and reconciliation” and “tourist attraction.”

A version of this post appeared in the Travel section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Travel section on August 31, 2008.

Quick reference: Visitors are welcome 10 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Weekend hours are worked around scheduled activities and religious services. Free, but donations are welcome. You can join a guided tour, helpful if you are interested in an explanation of the interior religious iconography. Audio guides are available for a 2.50 euros. A guided tour to the dome, generally in the evening, is 10 euros. This is in German, but you can request your language when you make a mandatory reservation. One-hour organ concerts are given at 8 p.m. on select Fridays. Check the website’s calendar. 10 euros. A 25-minute film, in German, screens during the open church hours. 3 euros. Contact the church for times the film screens in English.

In the basement is a small exhibition that tells of the fund-raising effort, the excavations of the rubble, and original documents from the church.

The Frauenkirche also has an active schedule of concerts and musical programs. Check the website.

Frauenkirche, Georg-Treu-Platz 3, Dresden, Germany. http://www.frauenkirche-dresden.de

In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Brave and resourceful townspeople confront the aftermath of three days of battle in July 1863 during America’s Civil War

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A reproduction of Lincoln’s handwritten Gettysburg Address is on the smaller rectangular monument in front of the centerpiece Soldiers’ National Monument at Soldiers’ National Cemetery in southern Pennsylvania. Lady Liberty stands atop the monument. Ringing the second tier are the figures of “War,” “History,” “Plenty” and “Peace.”

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

When the carnage ceased and the forever-changed Union and Confederate armies marched away from the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the monumental task of dealing with the dead, dying and severely wounded was just beginning for the overwhelmed townsfolk.

The cascade of casualties on both sides was staggering after the three-day series of battles, the bloodiest of the Civil War, waged in this south-central Pennsylvania town. Union General George G. Meade commanded the Army of the Potomac, 93,000 soldiers strong.

A total of 3,155 were killed, 14,529 were wounded and 5,365 were captured or missing. The tally of injured may have been higher, because in those days, the wounded were counted as such only if their care required a doctor.

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“The Battle of Gettysburg” cyclorama is an oil painting that measures 377 feet around and stands 42 feet high, about the height of a four-story building. It depicts the ill-fated Pickett’s Charge, on July 3, 1863, when Confederate forces attacked Union troops on Cemetery Ridge. It was completed in 1884 by French artist Paul Philippoteaux, and is housed at the Visitor Center of Gettysburg National Military Park.

On the Confederate side, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia’s troops numbered about 70,000. Unfortunately, an accurate accounting of Lee’s losses do not exist, so historians have put forth these estimates: 3,500 killed, 18,000 wounded and 6,500 captured or missing.

The population of Gettysburg was a mere 2,400. Many of its residents were farmers, their fertile land overrun by the military clashes of July 1-3, resulting in a turning-point victory for the Union Army. The trim and neat homes and businesses in the center of town were largely undamaged by the fighting, and in the aftermath, some of the wounded crawled to these dwellings, begging for aid.

By the third day of battle, more than 100 buildings — public and private — were housing the wounded. Field hospitals, with surgeons on both sides doing the best they could with limited resources and supplies, were set up in tents and barns and under shade trees.

In addition to the soldiers in dire need of attention — many in great pain crying out for help — thousands of dead horses littered the landscape, as did broken wagon wheels, cannon shells, jagged fences and abandoned rifles and other equipment.

July Fourth — the 87th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America — was a rainy day, muddying the ground, and hampering burial progress.

The fear of the spread of disease and the awful stench of decomposing bodies scattered across 25 square miles of open land were among the most pressing problems, soon to be exacerbated by the stifling summer sun.

This is when the capable people of Gettysburg mobilized their efforts to great effect — burying the dead. Union and Confederate soldiers had started the process, excavating shallow, temporary  graves for their comrades where they fell. It was a hurried effort; limbs and hands protruded from some sites (even months later), lending a ghoulish air to an already morbid undertaking.

When the armies withdrew, thousands of dead men were still above ground.

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The identity of some soldiers could not be determined.

Identification was also a challenge. Neither army wore what we know today as dog tags. It was, at that time, the soldiers’ responsibility to leave proof as to his name and other personal details. In some cases, burial teams found letters or photographs in a man’s pocket to provide clues. Better yet was a diary or Bible, where the soldier had written on its flyleaf his name in full, and the regiment and company in which he served.

Soldiers who had the heartrending chore of burying their friends could in many cases identify them, then leave a list of names written on hastily made headboards to cover a group en masse.

Among the heroines of this part of the story was a German immigrant named Elizabeth Masser Thorn (1832-1907). She lived with her three sons, all under the age of 10, and her parents in the gate house at Evergreen Cemetery.

Elizabeth’s husband, also a German immigrant, was off serving in the Union Army with a company in Virginia. Before the war, the couple were caretakers at the cemetery, the only public burial space in Gettysburg.

“The Thorn family was accustomed to death,” said Caitlin Brown, a National Park Service ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park during a free morning tour I took in mid-September. “They dealt with it on a daily basis.”

For the fateful days of combat, the Thorns were displaced. The Union “high command” took over the house, and soldiers camped around it. “They tore down fencing in order to mount a better defense against the Confederates,” Brown said.

The Thorns fled a few miles south of Gettysburg to stay with friends. When they returned home on July 7, the horror was nearly indescribable.

“Utter destruction was everywhere,” Brown said. “Ten soldiers were in a mass grave at the water pump. All the windows were gone. Gravestones were blown to pieces.”

Worse yet, there was no organization in place to bring order to the surrounding chaos.

Elizabeth looked to her community. “ ‘The Thorn family is suffering, but so is everyone in Gettysburg,’ ” Brown said, paraphrasing Thorn. “ ‘ We need to work together to restore Gettysburg.’ ”

Which is what came to pass. Volunteer nurses stepped up to administer to the needy. And Elizabeth, technically Evergreen’s sole caretaker in her husband’s absence, was six months pregnant. Swollen ankles and an aching back didn’t deter her from digging mass graves for soldiers. She is credited with helping to lay 91 men to rest.

The government also offered contracts for bid to engage burial crews. Some of those were led by free men of color, who, like all workers, had to learn to properly handle the fragile, disintegrating bodies so as not to cause further harm.

Elizabeth’s husband, Peter, survived the war. The middle name of their baby daughter, Rose Meade Thorn, was a tribute to the Union general.

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An informational board tells visitors about the history and layout of Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

A second individual important to Gettysburg’s recovery was attorney David Wills. His three-story brick house on what is now Lincoln Square, in the center of town, took in wounded and served as a depot for supplies. He also received letters from families desperate to locate their dead sons and take them home for reburial.

Wills is credited with putting forth the idea of a national cemetery. Appointed to proceed by Governor Andrew Curtin, Wills was instrumental in guiding the purchase of the 17 acres of battlefield land adjoining Evergreen Cemetery that would become Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

More than 3,000 Union soldiers were eventually reinterred there, under flat markers with their names, if known. Over the years, about an equal number of Confederate soldiers were disinterred and reburied in cemeteries in the South.

Many markers say simply “unknown,” or in some cases the number of deceased in a mass grave are noted and whether they were Union or Confederate troops — if that could be determined.

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United States President Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery,  delivering his two-minute Gettysburg Address. This statue of him is outside the Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park. 

The Thorn family themselves were buried in Evergreen Cemetery, but it has another huge claim to fame in American history: It is where Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, delivered the 272-word Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. The night before the dedication of this “hallowed ground,” he stayed at the Wills home, which opened to the public in 2009.

The formal invitation for Lincoln to participate at the dedication was not issued until November 2. Was Lincoln’s attendance an afterthought? Some experts think so, considering that Edward Everett agreed to deliver “the Oration” in September. Others believe that Wills was just tardy in sending a letter, and cite the fact that he also extended his personal hospitality to the president.

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The Brown family mausoleum occupies the very spot where Lincoln gave his address in Evergreen Cemetery, which is separated by a metal fence from Soldiers’ National Cemetery, the acreage that was dedicated on November 19, 1863. 

A mausoleum for the Brown family was erected on the exact spot, and there is no plaque that reveals that this was where Lincoln stood for the two minutes he spoke to the crowd of about 15,000. A metal fence separates Evergreen Cemetery from the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, but visitors need only exit one site to get to the other on foot.

Lincoln was the second speaker on dedication day. He followed politician, pastor and orator Everett of Massachusetts, who droned on for two hours presenting his 13,000-word opus.

Five manuscript copies (with subtle phrasing variations) of the Gettysburg Address exist. Two are held by the Library of Congress; one by the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield; one by Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; and one resides in the Lincoln Room at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Soldiers’ Memorial Cemetery was closed to burials after the Vietnam War, accepting only spouses and children of those already interred.

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Silenced cannons intermingle with monuments throughout Soldiers’ National Cemetery. 

It is a beautiful, peaceful setting now; a fitting, final resting place for every soldier who “gave the last full measure of devotion” to the United States of America.

Quick reference: Most of the sites at Gettysburg National Military Park are free and open to the public. Rangers give talks on battle-related topics, and guide visitors through the expansive fields and woods where the fighting took place. The one I attended was called “Four Score and Seven Years Ago: Lincoln and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.” Rangers distribute maps, and pamphlets called “Today at the Park,” which contain the talks’ titles and schedule. The cemetery is open dawn to dusk.

If your interest in the Civil War is high, you’ll want to budget two to three full days (or more) in Gettysburg. I spent a full day on the battlefields and about four hours in the museum. I didn’t have time for the 24-mile, 16-stop self-driving tour and saw only a tiny fraction of the 1,400 monuments and memorials. The driving tour takes a minimum of three hours, more if you read everything.

Summer can be hot, humid and above all else — crowded. Plan accordingly.

Gettysburg National Military Park, museum and visitor center: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 1-October 31; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. November 1 to March 31. Closed Thanksgiving, December 25 and January 1. There is a fee for full access to the museum’s 12 galleries, film and cyclorama painting. Backpacks are not allowed in the museum and there are no lockers to store them in. In other words, leave everything locked in the car trunk. Visitors can carry in a water bottle. 1195 Baltimore Pike; www.nps.gov/gett.

For more information on the Gettysburg Address: https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/gettysburg-address