You step out onto a field, an old farmhouse and wooden fence can be seen in the far distance as the sun’s golden rays shimmer; flooding the area in a beautiful glow of reds and oranges. Nearby; you can hear the soft sound of a creek running as a light breeze kisses your face. Or perhaps it is a ghost; lost in the past seeking his missing companions.
Gettysburg is one of the few places that you can feel the history. They do not diminish the land by placing meaningless signage or trash receptacles across the area. They do not leave it perfectly manicured and fake, instead they opt to leave the land as it was…beautiful and haunting.
The car tour takes you on a 23 mile journey that takes roughly 3 hours to complete, and that is in no way enough time to give the battlefield any true justice. As you drive, you pass beautifully crafted monuments, cannons that once boomed death, and historical buildings that somehow survived the chaos. You can get an even more historical feel by completing the tour on horseback or take a more modern approach by riding a Segway.
If you are as fascinated by Gettysburg as I am, I highly recommend spending the $250 to ride with a certified guide. You drive your own car while he/she explains the meanings of all the important sites. The guides are all huge history buffs, many of them have published books and love the site and want to share their knowledge with anyone and everyone. My guide did not rush at all, the recommended 3 hours was actually 4.5 and we even stopped for lunch at the quaint little diner in town, he even paid for it!
Afterwards, I recommend taking some time to discover the area for yourself. Park the car and walk up one of the hills and look out on the beauty, reflect on the men that gave their lives on this hollowed ground, breath in the cool air, shed a tear and let your emotions get the best of you. Then go to one of the reenactments; listen to the cannons boom and watch as the men charge the fields. The reenactments are taken very seriously as well, you will not see an accidental phone slip, hear any modern slang, or be acknowledged in any way by the actual participants. They understand that they are creating history for their visitors, and they do an incredible job.
Gettysburg is one of those few historical sites that were able to transition into a modern facility while remaining true to the past. The site is not littered with power lines and unless you are close to the actual town, no evidence of civilization can be seen. You are able to move at your own pace, appreciate the beauty, and experience the history in a way that I have never been able to before!