Gods and Generals, Horses and Heroes – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

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The battlefields 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 pounded the grounds, loud cannons, artillery fire, drum and bugle cadences, commanders who yelled, painful screams and moaning echoed.  The smells of stench of unbathed men and rotting flesh permeated while sulfur and gunpowder burned into memories of those who survived.  The sights of men bloodied to unrecognizable extent, tattered uniforms, 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 our senses have calculated all of the above, we shuddered like never before.

 

We wanted to cry for the men, for their loss and yet celebrate their victory.  Gettysburg is undeniably one of the most emotional places in our Country that will follow us for the rest of our lives, even after visiting.

 

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This was our 6th or 7th visit to Gettysburg however as RV’ers, it was our first.  Though, each time we visit, we try to do something different and to learn facts and stories we hadn’t before.

 

Previous visit, we’ve ridden on tour buses, took walking tours and rode our motorcycles through. This time, we opted to tour the battlefields via Segways since our visit was short.  We learned about the tours through brochures that were planted in gift shops and 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’re environmentally friendly and quiet; no gas, fumes or noise.  The focus was on the history of the battlefield however, we got to stop at all of the main historical sites and were directed by a Licensed Battlefield Guide.  There were two separate tours.

 

We visited their office the night before and gave them our names instead of registering online.  We signed up for the three hour Western (main) Battlefield tour (included about 20 minutes of training).   Our Tour Escort was Aaron; he was fun and very knowledgeable.

 

 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 were leased a Segway which was named after a notorious U.S. Cavalry Horse.  We learned about our horses and treated them with dignity and respect just as the commanders of the regiments did back in the war.

 

The Western Battlefield Tour

Dan’s horse “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 “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 begin our tour, we watched ten-minute safety and operation video and then, learned to operate them in their inside obstacle course which took about a fifteen minutes.  The course was easy and we both were super excited to go ride our Segway horses outside!

 

…And off we went!  

Aaron, our Tour Escort also took all of our photos so we could enjoy the tour. Oh, and he brought snacks to share with us during stops on our tour.

 

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The following are photos Aaron took while we enjoyed the audio guided tour.
Special side note:  The ‘Tour Escorts’ are not Licensed Battlefield Guides (link above), therefore, cannot quote or give historic information.  This is why we listened to the historical audio tour through earpieces instead.  Aaron, our Tour Escort(s) paused 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.

 

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After we finished the Western Battlefield Tour, we were hooked!! Not only for the fun factor but we yearned to learn more about the Battle of Gettysburg.  So, we signed up for the Eastern Battlefield Tour, went back to Liberty for lunch and returned for our tour later that afternoon.
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.

 

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The Eastern Battlefield Tour

For our Eastern Battlefield Tour, our Tour Escort was Jessie.  This time, we rode different horses (Segways) and had to learn about them as well.

Dan’s horse “Jinny”;

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“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’s horse “Dixie”;

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“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 our tour guide, Jessie took of our Eastern Battlefield Tour:

 

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 Of all the visits we made to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, this was by far our favorite!  We left with a greater knowledge and sense of appreciation for those who fell and 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 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.

Where we stayed and another destination we visited…

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