In conjunction with Main Street Gettysburg’s “A Gettysburg Christmas Festival,” the American Battlefield Trust on Saturday, December 2, will be hosting a special open house at Lee’s Headquarters on the Gettysburg Battlefield, including tours of the house decorated for the holidays, historical interpretation and crafts for young and old.
“As the community comes together to celebrate the holidays and reflect on what they mean in a larger sense, we’re glad to make this valuable resource available to the public to visit, explore, and gather in,” said Trust President David Duncan. “We’re also proud to offer meaningful activities that honor the service of soldiers who fought on this battlefield and those who serve this great nation today.”
The American Battlefield Trust is working with the American Red Cross to allow visitors to write a letter to a soldier serving overseas during this holiday season. For Civil War soldiers, reading letters from home, especially during the holiday season, staved off homesickness and helped with the tedium of camp life. The same is true for soldiers today. Civil War nurse Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and served as its president for 23 years until 1904.
Lee’s Headquarters will be open to the public Saturday, December 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., in partnership with the Seminary Ridge Museum & Education Center. Interpreters will be onsite and available to answer questions and tell the stories of this crucial site. A self-guided interpretive trail, with five signs explaining the dramatic events at the headquarters from July 1-3, 1863, is open daily from dawn to dusk.
During the Battle of Gettysburg, the small stone home of 69-year-old widow Mary Thompson served as the headquarters of Gen. Robert E. Lee. The property surrounding the house played a pivotal role in the severe fighting on July 1, 1863, and was a key position in the Confederate line for the rest of the engagement.
In the decades after the battle, the Thompson house and adjacent property became a popular attraction, then host to a museum and motel complex. In 2014, the Trust announced plans to buy and restore the property as much as possible to its 1863 appearance, one of the Trust’s most ambitious restoration projects. The Trust worked diligently to rehabilitate the home, return the landscape to its Civil War appearance, and install a new interpretive walking trail on the property — which opened on October 28, 2016.
The Trust and Seminary Ridge Museum have enjoyed a long partnership, offering an array of educational opportunities to Gettysburg visitors, including battlefield tours, exhibits, historian talks, and more. The Seminary Ridge Museum, in the Lutheran Seminary’s 1832 Schmucker Hall, became a Union observation post on the battle’s first day and then a field hospital that tended to the battle’s wounded soldiers. For details, see SeminaryRidgeMuseum.org.
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 57,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War across 155 sites in 25 states. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.