Gettysburg Diorama at Artillery Ridge Campground

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The prosperous rural town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is surrounded by swirling fighting between the Blue and the Gray in this impressive photograph of the Artillery Ridge Campground’s Battle of Gettysburg diorama.

Many years ago, I read an article in Civil War Times Illustrated about a Civil War diorama that had been constructed by a western Michigan man using 20,000+ hand-painted HO scale plastic Civil War toy soldiers (Airfix, Revell, Itali, and several other brands). The huge diorama portrayed the entire Battle of Gettysburg in scale, and was then on display in a shopping mall near Kalamazoo, Michigan. The owner’s dream was to eventually sell the diorama to someone who would relocate it to a permanent place in or near Gettysburg. That dream later became reality when the massive diorama was shipped to Artillery Ridge Campground on Taneytown Road in Gettysburg, where has been available ever since for public view for a modest fee.

Terrain maker and gamer Randy Miller was kind enough to send me a link to several dozen photographs of this diorama that he snapped while visiting Gettysburg during the 145th Anniversary celebrations last July. Here are a few more photos, as well as a hotlink to his photo gallery.

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More than 50,000 soldiers (nearly a third of all the combatants) were casualties of the Battle of Gettysburg, which raged from July 1-3, 1863, with sporadic skirmishing carrying over through July 4 before the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia began its long retreat to the Old Dominion. Here, fighting rages in the fields, pastures, and woodlots south of the town. Names like Barksdale, Semmes, Vincent, Zook, Weed, Cross, and thousands of others would fill the casualty lists.

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The Louisiana Tigers of Harry Hays and the Tar Heel Brigade of Col. I. E. Avery ascend East Cemetery Hill in this depiction of the assault on the Union XI Corps position (actually a night-time attack). Jubal Early’s semi-brigade succeeded in reaching some artillery batteries near the crest, but were unsupported and had to fall back. This action, of course, is the culmination of my autumn 2009 book, A Spirit of Daring: The Louisiana Tigers in the Gettysburg Campaign, coming out from LSU Press.

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The Union XI Corps, one of the most controversial in the Army of the Potomac, ringed Cemetery Hill. Much maligned for their performance at the Battle of Chancellorsville, the corps contained an unusually large percentage of regiments with strong German heritage, and a roster of the individual regiments reveals thousands of names associated with that country. Their Day 1 performance was erratic, with some regiments stubbornly fighting hard, while others panicked during the retreat from the fields north of the town.

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Gettysburg had less than 3,000 residents in 1863. Many had fled, taking livestock, horses, and valuables away to safety to keep them from seizure by the Confederates, which had already occupied Gettysburg on June 27 when Jubal Early’s division arrived in the vicinity and chased off Pennsylvania emergency militia under Col. William W. Jennings.

For more photographs taken by Randy of this massive layout, please see his photo gallery.

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Categories: Civil War dioramas, Civil War toys, Gettysburg | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Gettysburg Diorama at Artillery Ridge Campground

  1. Curt Daniels

    Scott,

    I have not seen this in person but in the photos the slopes of East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill do not look steep enough.

  2. Curt,

    There are several things that are not totally accurate in the massive diorama, including relative heights and ground scale in places, as well, of course, as depicting all the action as occurring concurrently. The sound and light show does a good job of orienting the casual visitor to the various events depicted in the layout.

    If you haven’t see it, it’s worth an hour and is relatively cheap (under $10 IIRC from the last time I was there).

    Scott

  3. For visitors not familiar with this diorama, please see the Artillery Ridge Campground’s website at http://www.artilleryridge.com/museind.html.

  4. The diorama is well worth the price of admission and is a show itself with lighting leading you thru the action. Artillery Ridge is a nice place to camp as well. I tent camped a few years ago and the place is within walking distance of the battlefield and town. Be sure to bring a flashlight for the walk back if you stay after dark.

  5. RMC

    What is even better is to see the slides the creator made using pinhole photography of the diorama. It really breaks down the diorama into the various phases and allows you to really see details you can not focus on when looking at the overall diorama from a distance, which is what you have to do in its current configuration. The diorama has had elements added, IIRC, part of the first day was not in the original configuration.

    The slide show was shown at a past Historicon, by my good friend, Mr GAJO, George Johnson.

    George helped find a home. They even pitched it to the NPS long before it found its current home. The NPS turned it down ,and it actually was in storage, in pieces IIRC, before making its way to Gettysburg.

    I’ll try to track down the slides & see if they can be transferred to electronic format. They are magnificent.

  6. thanks for including us on your site fyi the Diorama
    has relocated. we are now at 241 Steinwehr Ave.
    gettysburg Pa 17325 717-334-6408

  7. Jerzy Urbanowicz

    Obserwuję tą wspaniałą dioramę od dłuższego czasu. To piękna rzecz i ogromna praca w nią włożona. Pozdrowienia dla wykonawcy lub wykonawców tego ogromnego przedsięwzięcia. Jerzy Urbanowicz modelarz z Gubina. Polska.

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