Gettysburg Heritage Trail

While we were cleaning out the basement last weekend, I came across a set of BSA Gettysburg patches from YEARS ago. I have no idea where I got these. I know that my old troop never took a trip to Gettysburg, and I never really earned these patches. I had to investigate what this BSA Gettysburg program was all about.

Old BSA Gettysburg Patches

The old BSA Gettysburg patch set that I had.

After poking around on the Internet for a little while, I learned that these patches were the product of the local BSA Council for that area, the recently re-dubbed New Birth of Freedom Council (and what a killer council patch they have, too!). The different patches correspond to trails you are supposed to go on. There’s a guide book, t-shirts, the whole deal. They’ve even updated the patches and tours back in 2009 since the Visitors Center changed locations.

New BSA Gettysburg Patch

The ALL-NEW BSA Gettysburg Patch set. Way cool!

I love the new set of patches. The main one in the center (with Lincoln on it) is earned for doing a tour of the Visitors Center & National Cemetery and answering a few questions related to the experience. The “Historic” patch at the top is earned for taking a guided 3-mile hike through downtown Gettysburg that hits a few of the key landmarks. On the left, the gray Confederate soldier is earned for completing the “Johnny Reb” trail: a 3-mile hike around Cemetery and Culps’ Hills. The blue Union soldier on the right is earned for completion of the big one: the 10-mile “Billy Yank” trail that winds through the main part of the battlefield, from Meade’s headquarters, down to Devil’s Den, across to the Confederate line, and finishing up in a hike across the fields of Pickett’s Charge. Finally, the 5-star patch on the bottom is earned for visiting Dwight D. Eisenhower’s home west of the battlefield.

Since I’ve done all of those things before (without really knowing that I was fulfilling requirements) I don’t feel guilty about having been given that patch set years ago anymore.

The Trail Guide

The Trail Guide – No maps, but a good description of the route.

Since I found out about the existence of this program in my web research, I decided to read up on the route and requirements so that I can put myself out there as a volunteer guide for any BSA Troops that want to make a trip up to Gettysburg. I called up to the Council office in York and ordered a set of trail guides and patches.

I have to say, the tour is a pretty solid one – very similar to one that I used to do on foot with friends (although mine was a shorter 7-miler). BSA collaborated with the NPS in developing the materials. The guidebook lists several stops that they want you to make and includes a paragraph-worth of story / background for each location.

I can’t wait to get back up there and try it out!

Who’s with me?

3 comments

  1. Keith Barrett says:

    Completed 3 parts of the 5 a few months ago. Can’t wait to go back and finish. Having trouble finding out where you can wear these patches on your uniform. I have seen many people wear them above the right pocket, where a Jambo Patch would go. Not sure thats correct and can’t seem to find any answer on it. Any thoughts?

    • When I was a scout (and it seems like the rules haven’t changed) these patches would be considered “temporary insignia” and are thus worn on the right pocket. When I got my set of patches from the New Birth of Freedom Council, they sent along a custom plastic holder which is visible in the photo on the left. That plastic holder lets you hang the patches from the button instead of sewing or ironing them on, making them much easier to display temporarily.

  2. Nancy Pendleton says:

    Our troop just got back and did the whole tour in a 3 day weekend (Memorial Day). We camped @ Camp Conewago (a boy scout camp about 15 miles away), inexpensive, comfortable accommodations. The first morning we got up early, had a good breakfast and made sack lunches. We did the longest hike (Billy Yank) and had a vehicle meet us with lunch and water @ devil’s den. We then went to the Visitor’s Center @ 4 PM (if you want a group discount you must provide them with a time). We were back @ camp by 6PM for showers and dinner. Sunday started with vespers, breakfast and making sack lunches. We proceeded to the Gettysburg tour and then the Eisenhower tour @ 12:30. We had plenty of time to relax before dinner (or if your a kid a game of capture the flag and exploring the campsite) and then Gettysburg Ghost tour entitled “Lie or Die”. The boys loved it and learned a lot. Monday we hiked Johnny Reb bought some souvenirs and headed home! The cost was about $60 w/20 for grub. All the boys (as young as 11) and most of the adults finished the hikes and the weather was a perfect 74 degrees. We are putting this tour on our rotation and look forward to coming back!

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