It took awhile, but I finally made it to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, site of our nation’s birth.

To stand in that room among the spirits of John and Samuel Adams, Jefferson, Hancock, Franklin, Gerry and 50 other brave patriots who created this nation was like being in a cathedral.

To flash back to that second Continental Congress in 1775 and imagine the oratory and debates for or against independence from King George was uplifting.

Our guide, veteran park ranger Adam Duncan, a Delaware native, was like a history teacher guiding you on a field trip. The tours are free but you must get tickets in advance. Duncan also gets frequent questions concerning the Liberty Bell housed across the street from Independence Hall. The 2,080-pound cracked bell is among the many famous attractions in historic Philadelphia.

My three-day hectic schedule found me at the home of Betsy Ross and 30 miles north at Valley Forge, the encampment of General George Washington in the winter of 1777-78.

I then drove 183 miles west to America’s historic battlefield – Gettysburg. During the first three days in July 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee tried unsuccessfully to route and defeat Union General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

I gazed out at the green, pastoral vista where General Pickett failed in his famous charge on July 3. I stood near the site where President Lincoln gave his two-minute moving masterpiece, “The Gettysburg Address,” at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery on Nov. 19, 1863.
Gettysburg is a sacred site and should not be rushed. Your visit should begin at the visitors center by viewing the film “A New Birth Of Freedom” and the fabulous cyclorama painting of the battle.

Drive the free, three-hour auto tour or pay for a bus tour. Little Round Top, The Wheatfield, Cemetery Ridge, Barlow Knoll, the Peach Orchard, the town of Gettysburg, et al are all there for your trip back in time.

As you read this on this June day, 150 years ago Lee was already marching toward Gettysburg, where 28,000 Confederates and 23,000 Northerners died, were wounded, were captured or went missing.

I want to thank the park rangers, Donna Schorr and Jane Cowley in Philadelphia, and Katie Lawhon in Gettysburg, for assisting me with my bucket list of historic sites.

I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.

Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at Reach him at