Gods and Generals, Horses and Heroes – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

While viewing the battlefields that are now littered with stone reminders of such great losses, defeat and victory, one can only try to imagine
what those three days in hot July of 1863 were like.  Small acres of farmland and fields turned
into graves and bloodshed of tens of thousands. The sounds of horse hooves
pounding the grounds, loud cannons, artillery fire, drum and bugle cadences, command
yelling, painful screams and moaning.  The smells of stench of unbathed men, sulfur
and gunpowder and rotting flesh.  The
sights of men bloodied to unrecognizable extent, tattered uniforms from states
only dreamt about, rifles with bloodied bayonets, shimmering swords flickering with each swipe, and horses
with eyes as big as saucers laden with unrelentless fear.  It’s unfathomable to really grasp the more
primitive means of barbaric fighting that tarnished our Nation’s historic
advances.  Once your senses have
calculated all of the above, you shudder like you’ve never before.  You want to cry for the men, for their loss,
and for their victory.  Gettysburg is
undeniably one of the most ‘moving’ places in our Country that will follow you
for the rest of your life after visiting.

This was our 6th or 7th
time visiting Gettysburg however, our first as RV’ers.  Each time we visit, we try to do something
different and to learn something we hadn’t before.  This time, we opted to tour the battlefields
via Segways since our visit this time was shortened.  We learned of the tours through brochures that were planted in hotel lobbies and various stores.  We rented Segways from Segway Tours of Gettysburg.  The Segway Personal
Transporter is the perfect and fun way to see the Gettysburg Battlefields.  They are environmentally friendly and quiet;
no gas, fumes or noise.  The focus is on
the history of the battlefield however. 
Tours visit all of the main historical sites and are directed by a
Licensed Battlefield Guide.  There were two separate tours.  

Since this was a last minute decision, we visited the office the night before and gave them our names instead of registering online.  We signed up for the Western (main) Battlefield in which took approximately three hours (included about 20 minutes of training).   Our Tour Escort was Aaron; he was fun, knowledgeable and hospitable.  

As taken from the their website:

Our most popular tour by far! This tour visits both ends of Pickett’s Charge, the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Little Round Top, the Peach Orchard, Wheatfield, Devil’s Den, the High Water Mark, and more. It takes approximately 3 hours (including training) and covers about 9 miles with 4 rest stops. The cost is $70 per person plus tax. The tour is escorted by a staff person who plays a recorded tour by a Licensed Battlefield Guide. A live guide is available for a small additional fee. 

We recommend the “Western” route for those who want a very good general understanding of the battle.

We each are leased a Segway in which is named after a notorious Cavalry Horse.  We had to learn about our horses and treat them with dignity and respect; allow them to work for ‘us’; in layman’s terms, be respectful of the machine and it will be reciprocate.  No ‘horse play’ allowed.

Dan’s horse for the Western Battlefield Tour was “Gimlet”;

“The ‘celebrated war horse of the Rappahannock’ belonging to Private John C. Babcock, perhaps the most publicized scout in the Civil War. Babcock was an architect from Chicago whose drafting skills led him to be assigned as a cartographer in Allen Pinkerton’s new Intelligence Bureau for the Army of the Potomac. Unlike other mapmakers of the time, Babcock personally scouted the front lines at great risk to himself and Gimlet. As a result, however, he produced some of the most accurate maps of the war, including one which was described by General McClellan as the finest piece of topographical work he had ever seen. Shadowing the Confederate army near Fredericksburg, Private Babcock was credited with first discovering the Confederate army’s forward movement which ended at Gettysburg.”

Lisa’s horse’s name was ‘Pocahontas’

“The horse of Brig. Gen. George H. Steuart, commander of an infantry brigade in Johnson’s Division, Second Corps. The general was a native of Baltimore and was called “Maryland Steuart” to distinguish him from Virginia cavalryman J.E.B. Stuart. Upon entering Maryland during the Gettysburg campaign, General Steuart was said to have jumped down from Pocahontas, kissed his native soil, and performed seventeen double somersaults while whistling the tune “Maryland, My Maryland” (better known as the tune to “O Tannenbaum”). His celebration was premature, however, as Steuart’s Brigade lost nearly half its strength in the failed attempt to capture Culp’s Hill. The horse was named for the daughter of the Powhatan Indian chief.”

Before we were allowed to go outside to being our tour, we watched a 10 minute safety and operation video and then learned to operate them in an inside obstacle course.  The course was easy and we both were excited to go outside.

And here we were!  Aaron, not only our Tour Escort but he took all of the photos so we could enjoy the tour (and he shared delicious snacks!). 

The following are photos Aaron took while we enjoyed the audio guided tour.  Note, the ‘Tour Escorts’ are not ‘Licensed Battlefield Guides’, therefore, cannot quote or give historic information.  This is why we listened to the historical audio tour through earpieces.  The Tour Escort(s) would start and stop the audio tour each time we stopped or had questions.  It was quite interesting and really put things into perspective as we seg’d our way through the battlefields. 

After the Western Battlefield Tour, we were hooked!! Not only for the fun factor but there was a void left; we yearned to learn more.  So we signed up for the Eastern Battlefield Tour, went back to RV Liberty for lunch and returned for our tour.  As taken from their website:

A shorter tour on a lesser-known part of the battlefield (Culp’s Hill, Spangler Spring, East Cemetery Hill). The tour takes approximately 2 hours (including training) and covers about 4 miles with a rest stop at the Culp’s Hill observation tower. The cost is $50 per person plus tax. The tour is escorted by a staff person who plays a recorded tour by a Licensed Battlefield Guide. A live guide is available for a small additional fee. 

We recommend the “Eastern” route for those who already have a good general understanding of the main battlefield.

Our Tour Escort for the Eastern Battlefield Tour was Jessie.  This time, we ‘rode’ different horses (Segways).  

an rode ‘Jinny’;

the faithful mare of Maj. Gen. Isaac Trimble, Aide de Camp, Second Army Corps (Ewell’s). Upon the mortal wounding of Maj. Gen. Pender, Trimble was assigned to lead one of the three southern divisions in Pickett’s Charge. As they crossed the Emmitsburg Road, a bullet smashed the general’s left ankle, also wounding Jinny. Jinny managed to return the general to the Confederate lines but subsequently died of her own wounds. General Trimble’s leg was amputated but, for fear of infection during the long retreat of the Southern army, he was left to be captured by Union forces and spent the balance of the war in Federal prison camps.”

Lisa rode ‘Dixie’;

“The large dark bay of Col. Edward Porter Alexander, commander of Alexander’s Battery, Artillery Reserve, and the officer in charge of the massive artillery bombardment preceding Pickett’s Charge. Col. Alexander sometimes rode Meg, a shorter, lighter bay, and it was said that his life was saved many times by his choice of horses. While atop Dixie, it was said on some occasions that his leg may have been taken off by a projectile if he had been riding the smaller horse. And while atop Meg it was said that his head would have been taken off by an artillery shell if he had been riding the taller horse.”

Here are some photos that Jessie took of our Eastern Battlefield Tour:

 Of all the visits we made to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, this was by far our best and most favorite!  We enriched our minds and came out with a greater sense of appreciation of those who fell and those who rose in such a brutal battle that shaped our Nation’s history.  This was the best $200 spent and would recommend anyone who visits Gettysburg to look into learning about those horrifying three days in July that led to the ‘Four Score and Seven Years Ago…….’.

For more information on Segtours of Gettysburg <—— click on the link or call 
27-253-7897 or 1-888-4SEGTOURS.  Riders must be 14 years of age.  All riders must sign a liability release waiver.  You can request a more personal ‘Specialty Tour’; we recommend visiting their website for more info on those.

Leave a Reply