Jan 7

This view was taken facing south from Little Round Top circa July of 1863. Big Round Top is in the background.

Over the years, we’ve had a few visitors mention to us that during their annual trip to Gettysburg they can never find time to make it up Big Round Top. With that in mind, today we’ll walk the trail to the summit and point out a few things along the way.

The trail that leads up Big Round Top is to the right of the road here at the Big Round Top parking lot. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

Yes, the Big Round Top set of Joshua Chamberlain Memorial toilets have been put away for the winter. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

But let’s get started. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

The path used to reach the summit of the hill has changed over the years. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

If we walk a bit farther ahead… This view was facing northeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

It becomes apparent that there are two distinct trails that we could take - the paved trail on the left or the stone-dirt trail on the right. We recommend sticking to the paved trail. This view was facing east at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

The main trail in use today was constructed by camp “NP-2″ of the Civilian Conservation Corps, one year before it closed in 1941. Seen here constructing the Big Round Top trail, this view was taken circa 1940 and is courtesy of the Center for Civil War Photography, which has more than 1,000 historic Gettysburg Park images like these on their Flickr.

Previously, in order to get to the 60-foot steel observation tower which stood on the top of the hill, visitors would have to climb a fairly straight path at a relatively steep incline made out of concrete and over 100 stone steps. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

The rerouting of the path performed by the CCC also included ten benches placed at “convenient intervals” according to a July 13, 1940, issue of the The Star and Sentinel. This view was taken facing east at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

Big Round Top from the south, taken circa 1940 and courtesy of the Center for Civil War Photography, which has more than 1,000 historic Gettysburg Park images like these on their Flickr. Note the steel observation tower.

After quite a bit of walking … This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

… We reach a stone wall. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

If we were to take a left and follow this wall … This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

… along its slightly treacherous path … This view was taken facing north at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

… we would eventually reach the Big Round Top monument to the “Corn Exchange Regiment,” the 118th Pennsylvania. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

“Engaged in advance of the ‘Wheatfield’ July 2, and held this position July 3 and 4, 1863.” This view was taken facing west at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

Though it’s possible to access some interesting rock formations from that area of the hill, we’ve climbed back to the main path so we can show you what’s at the top of the hill before we lose daylight. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

As the summit of the hill comes into view, so does the first monument directly on the trail… This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

… to the 119th Pennsylvania Infantry. Both the 118th and the 119th Pennsylvania were organized in Philadelphia during the summer of 1862. This view was taken facing west at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

Very close by is another monument, this one to the 20th Maine’s position on the evening of July 2nd and on July 3rd, 1863. This view was taken facing west at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

We are now looking back down the trail. The monument to the 20th Maine is on the left of this image. The left flank marker for the 20th Maine is to the right of the path in this shot. This view was taken facing north at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

After passing these two regimental markers there’s just one last push to reach the summit. This view was taken facing south at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

Stone steps from the old trail were left at the summit of the hill, as well as the evidence of the steel observation tower. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

One of the corners to the observation tower is present in the bottom left of this image. On August of 1895 a 12 horsepower engine was positioned on the east side of the hill and began lifting the stone used to construct the tower’s foundation (using block and tackle). The monument to the 12th Pennsylvania Reserves is in the right background. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

This view of the observation tower was taken circa 1935 by the CCC. The sign at the tower’s base warns would-be vandals that they will be arrested and charged a fine of 500 dollars if they injure or deface the tower. This view is courtesy of the Center for Civil War Photography, which has more than 1,000 historic Gettysburg Park images like these on their Flickr.

A close-up of one corner of the observation tower’s foundation. This view was taken facing east at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

During the 1960s the observation towers on the battlefield were inspected and slated for renovation. Citing the difficult maintenance and lack of use (due to visitors tiring out at the summit of the hill and deciding to skip climbing the tower itself), the tower was removed in 1968. This view was taken facing south from the observation tower circa the 1940s and is courtesy of the Center for Civil War Photography, which has more than 1,000 historic Gettysburg Park images like these on their Flickr.

Here is another view from the Big Round Top observation tower, this time facing to the north. This view was taken circa 1935 and is courtesy of the Center for Civil War Photography, which has more than 1,000 historic Gettysburg Park images like these on their Flickr.

Also on Big Round Top is the monument to 5th Pennsylvania Reserves. The 5th and 12th both have flank markers that share a common rock, shown here in the right portion of this photo. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

The monument to the 12th Pennsylvania Reserves. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

Though it is a bit of a climb, Big Round Top is well worth the trip, and like much of the rest of the battlefield in winter: it’s nice and quiet. This view was taken facing south at approximately 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 6, 2011.


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