In the summer of 1863, the farming community of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, became the site of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War. The fierce fighting left 51,000 casualties in its wake, turning farm fields into graveyards and churches into hospitals. The battlefield's first visitors were thousands of relatives searching for dead and wounded soldiers.
The preservation of the battlefield and the establishment of Gettysburg National Cemetery are a testament to the resolve of Gettysburg residents to not only rebuild their town but also to honor the fallen. Today, visitors who come to learn more about the battle can tour the battlefield and see more than 1,400 monuments and markers, or choose to walk with a ranger through Gettysburg National Cemetery.
Over the years, Gettysburg has continued to be a treasured and popular destination. As a result, the park has faced continuous threats from commercial development. At the end of the 19th century, developers built railroads and tourist facilities at the edge of sacred battlefield lands, but many of these inholdings were eventually sold to the government and removed.
NPS is currently engaged in an ambitious program to restore the battlefield grounds to the way they looked in 1863. This will allow visitors to understand how small features of the landscape, such as fences and orchards, played a large role in both the battle's outcome and the life and death of individual soldiers.