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There’s a strange air of peace in the famous battlefields of Gettysburg.
It’s almost as if, from the blood, agony, and sacrifice, the spirit has risen and said; “Enough. Only peace and only beauty can live here now.”
As soon as we drove into Gettysburg and saw the first of hundreds of monuments rising up over the fields with magnetic power and grandeur, I felt an overwhelming presence of peace and wonder.
We had to make sure that on this visit to Gettysburg, we visit the battlefields and learn about the events that took place there, and hear stories of those who fought there.
In this guide, I have shared my experience, reflections, and inspiration on a thought-provoking Gettysburg Battlefields Tour and how you can see it too…
- Is A Gettysburg Tour Worth It?
- About Gettysburg Battlefield
- The Story of Gettysburg and the American Civil War
- How to Experience a Gettysburg Battlefield Tour
- Other Gettysburg Battlefield Tours
- Reflections from My Gettysburg Battlefield Tour
- Where to stay in Gettysburg
Is A Gettysburg Tour Worth It?
If you’re wondering whether a tour is worth it, then it really depends on you as the traveler.
You can find self-guided tours and audio tours, but for me, there is something more inspiring and moving about hearing the stories come from the mouth of someone who cares about this part of American history.
What makes a Gettysburg tour unique is the people who run them. Their passion for the job is a testament to what occurred here and a reminder that love is the only way forward. We absolutely loved our driving tour with a licensed Gettysburg guide, who drove our vehicle and told many fascinating stories.
Whether you choose to do a self-guided tour or a bus tour, it is definitely worth doing a tour and hearing about the history. Just looking at plaques and monuments is not enough to really get a sense of what happened here.
About Gettysburg Battlefield
On the battlefield of Gettysburg, 7,000 soldiers died and 51,000 were wounded or captured.
The Gettysburg Battlefield is 5 miles long and 5 miles wide and holds over 1,300 monuments and memorials dedicated to the historic three-day battle.
You can also see close to 400 cannons, as well as historic homes and buildings that play an important role in this historic time.
The Story of Gettysburg and the American Civil War
The complicated story of the American Civil War and Gettysburg’s instrumental role in the ultimate victory by the North is told so well through Gettysburg Battlefield Tours, the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum, The Shriver House Museum, and the National Cemetery.
The complex story of both sides is shared.
Contrary to what we thought, the Civil War began more over the North’s desire to stop the expansion of slavery rather than end it.
They feared an expansion of slavery into the West would shift power to the South.
Tension over this issue brewed for decades between the North and South, until the South threatened to leave if Lincoln was voted in.
They succeeded from the Union as the Confederate States of America when he was.
Even though the ending of slavery wasn’t the original intention of the Civil War, I’m glad it was the end result.
The Battle of Gettysburg was an Accident
Gettysburg was the meeting point of 10 major roads.
It was never intended to be a battle site. It just happened that Confederate and Union soldiers met at this meeting point, which became the most infamous battle of the Civil War.
For three days, fierce fighting happened, immortalizing places like Cemetery Hill, Peach Orchard, Little Round Top, and Culp’s Hill.
Gettysburg did not end the Civil War, which continued for a couple more years, but it was a turning point for the war and the Union armies.
A loss of life that is so difficult to comprehend. The ripple effect of damage this does to communities for generations to come is incredible.
How much of that is still felt now, centuries later?
The Town Heroes
Gettysburg was a massive blow to both sides, even the victorious North. But it was also disastrous to the town.
This small town of 2,400 residents was left to tend to the 21,000 wounded left behind, clean up the town, bury the dead (including thousands of dead animals), and help those coming into town for years later searching for loved ones.
When you are moving around the site and seeing how the town was in the middle of the fighting you can’t imagine the horror the local people must have gone through.
Miraculously only one civilian was killed by a stray bullet through her window.
Their homes were riddled with bullet holes or had been smashed up by the Confederate attackers who overtook their homes.
Their water was contaminated and the fields stank of death and human and animal feces. It was a stench that wafted 25 miles north of Harrisburg.
These are the heroes of Gettysburg we must also remember.
The greater good will always win
The Union victory only happened as a result of little mistakes, small victories, and random luck, which leaves me to ponder.
What side was fate on?
Is it Evolution begging for humanity to be better that ultimately decides the eventual victor?
The more I reflected the more I saw that from all these wars of our past, the greater good eventually won and evolution happened.
At a time when the world, particularly in America, seems chaotic and teetering on the edge of something bad, this gave me great hope to realize, good and evolutionary progress will always win.
The madness will soon pass and we’ll settle back into peace again as better people.
If you don’t use these historical experiences to be curious and reflective there is no point to them. Even though they happened centuries ago, we can use them to shape our future and become better humans.
As we wandered the battlefield with our guide hearing the stories as we stood in the spot where they all happened, Kalyra asked me,
“Who were the bad guys?”
“Well, that depends on what side you’re on.
Each thought they were fighting for the greater good of their particular cause and so saw the other side as bad.
What’s important for you is to decide which side do you stand on? What do you believe in? How can you contribute to the greater good of all and operate from a place of compassion and tolerance?
Can you take away your selfish interests enough to do this? Can you bring love, peace, and compassion into your everyday life so battles like these are never necessary.”
If you stand in the Gettysburg Battlefields and listen to the ghost’s echoes and feel the tranquil beauty of Mother Nature we can follow her calling – the only side we must all stand on is that of love, compassion, and peace.
Leave the past behind and the labels of good and bad and just invite in peace, love, quality, and freedom.
Understand there is abundance for all so we don’t need to fight over the power for it.
Recognize everyone as equal and work together to overcome challenges rather than gun it out.
Then we can truly say those who willingly walked into death on the battlefields, did not die in vain.
How to Experience a Gettysburg Battlefield Tour
The monuments tell the stories of the different regiments that were represented in the battle from both sides.
A Licensed Battlefield Guide will drive your car to points of interest around the battlefield sharing facts and interesting stories.
We never would have had such an immersive and reflective experience doing it on our own.
Our guide had over 30 years of experience and had a wealth of knowledge.
He really brought it to life for us and helped us to understand what Union forces and Confederate soldiers, and the local people went through.
Be sure to spend time at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and see the Cyclorama and Film. It’s riveting and insightful.
Other Gettysburg Battlefield Tours
The air-conditioned bus was lovely, but it’s not the only way you can see the battlefields. Here are some other tours you can take…
Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tours
If you have reduced mobility or you can’t stand the blazing heat, then a bus tour is a great option. You can be taken around on an air-conditioned bus or an open-top double decker bus, while you listen to the commentary as you pass the main sights.
The bus tour is usually packed with other tourists, which can dampen the spirit of things.
But when you choose a bus tour, you also have access to three museums of your choice included with the ticket, which makes it a little more worth it.
You can view bus tours and bus timetables via the Gettysburg Bus Tours website.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour
If you would prefer to explore the battlefields in a more unique way, then you may want to consider a horse-drawn carriage tour.
This style of tour takes you back in time using a mode of transport that would have been similar to what they used during the time of the battle.
As you sit back and relax, your expert licensed guide will reveal the history of the Civil War and answer any questions you have about the famous battle.
This is a 2-hour tour and on the carriage, you are exposed to the elements, rain or shine, so do check the weather before booking.
Self-Guided Driving Tour
I mentioned earlier about doing a self-guided tour, and if you would prefer exploration of the grounds without a guide and go at your own pace, this is a good option.
The self-guided tours come with an app, where you can play information like an audio guide.
The app has all the landmarks listed, such as McPherson Ridge, Cemetery Ridge and the High Water Mark, Pennsylvania State Memorial, and the Valley of Death, and you can hit play to hear information once you arrive at each stop.
Although it allows you to go at your own pace, it does still follow a route. It begins at the Gettysburg Heritage Center and is designed for you to drive to each stop – so you will need to have access to a vehicle for this.
Gettysburg Horseback Tours
Another unique way to see the battlefields is on horseback, which is the most authentic mode of transport as it would have been how the soldiers moved about. This is the best way to follow in the footsteps of Civil War soldiers.
The tour takes you through Gettysburg National Military Park, and to visit the main monuments, such as the Virginia Monument and Spangler Farm.
This tour is guided by a Civil War expert who will reveal stories of the people who fought here. Learn about how General Robert E. Lee awaited the return of the troops, about the events of the Pickett’s Charge, as well as hear about stories from the Union side of the battle.
Reflections from My Gettysburg Battlefield Tour
The blood that seeped into the earth from both sides of the battle fertilizes the ground and makes way for new flowers to bloom.
Its eerie beauty goosed up my skin.
I remembered all I had learned from other battlefields, places like Gallipoli in Turkey, where horror intertwined with monumental bravery in defense of ideals and beliefs.
All that remains after the direst of circumstances is love and peace and the strength to forgive, and move forward.
How must it feel walking towards cannonballs, musket fires, and bayonet charges knowing that today you have an almost certain chance of dying?
How passionate must you believe in something to keep moving forward despite this?
Did they even know what they were fighting for?
Was it freedom or power?
Can one exist without the other?
Why is that humanity thinks this destruction is the only way to solve problems?
These soldiers were not fearless. They feared death and mutilation but still charged forth for duty and honor.
Would I be willing to fight for something with such loyalty and sacrifice?
The only reason I can think of would be for my daughters, which is actually a fight for love and protection. Perhaps in the mind of all these men, that’s what they thought they were doing.
Gettysburg Battlefield Video
You can watch our video of our experience on the Gettysburg Battlefield Tours here…
Where to stay in Gettysburg
When it comes to choosing a place to stay in Gettysburg, you cannot go wrong with these two options…
Lodges of Gettysburg
We stayed in a lovely cottage about 15 minutes from Downtown Gettysburg, as guests at the Lodges of Gettysburg.
The cottages overlook the countryside with views of the Gettysburg Battlefield in the distance. They’re comfortable and quiet and the property has a walking trail and a lovely pond on site.
The Lodges are a great option if you have a big traveling party and also want access to your own kitchen.
My parents loved it and my Dad was particularly entranced by the giant battlefield oil paintings hanging up in the cottage, especially the one with General Custer who is his all-time favorite soldier and leader.
Custer was the first war hero I ever heard of!
If you want to be closer to the restaurants and attractions in Downtown Gettysburg, then we recommend the Gettysburg Hotel.
It’s located on Lincoln Square and is within walking distance to most of downtown and a three-minute drive to the Gettysburg Battlefields.
It was established in 1979, so is a very historic hotel. President Eisenhower and his wife once stayed there. And some residents from different times and places are said to frequently visit!!
Put some thrills and chills into your Gettysburg trip.