If you were to approach Gettysburg Battlefield in the year 1927 you would see a sign that states “Department of Gettysburg Battlefield Official Guides Station 500 FT. Ahead, Park to Right, Highways”. Arriving at the Guides Station you would be greeted by a Licensed Battlefield Guide dressed a khaki uniform and badge. After requesting a tour of the battlefield and you would set the length of the tour. If you wanted the usual tour it would consist of twenty to twenty-two miles at the rate of 15 miles an hour. The rates were reasonable and fixed by the War Department.
Today, you still can request the services of a Licensed Battlefield Guide. The organization of Licensed Battlefield guides have been in existence since 1915.
Today as in 1927, a regular tour of the battlefield is 2 hours. Set fees are $45 for 1 to 6 people, $65 for 7 to 15 people, $100 for 16-49 and $135 for 50 plus people. Longer tours and customized tours are available upon request.
To obtain a Licensed Guide are available on a first come, first server basis at the Visitor Center. You can also make advance reservations by calling at least one week in advance of your trip. Call the reservation manager at the Gettysburg National Military Part/Gettysburg Foundation (877)874-2478, 866-889-1243 or fax 717-338-1244. For more information of the Battlefield Licensed Guides go to http://www.gettysburgtourguides.org/
The Battle of Gettysburg not only took place in the fields and hills around the town but also in the town itself. No visit to the battlefield is complete without a tour of the town. There are different tours offered by Main Street Gettysburg. Their site is http://www.mainstreetgettysburg.org/
A Guided Historic Walking Tour, Recounting the Civilian Experience is conducted by special trained licensed tour guides. Tours are offered April through November, tours are daily, 10AM -4PM. Prices are Adults $10, Children, (5-12) and seniors (62+) $8.00, children under 5 are free. For group rates and reservations call 717-339-6161. Licensed tours include stories from diary entries, personal accounts, letters, drawings and photographs. http://www.gettysburgpa.org/guidedtour.htm
A 90 minute self-guided walking tour can be downloaded from the Main Street Web Site, http://www.mainstreetgettysburg.org/images/WalkTour.pdf. There are wayside markers placed throughout the tour. This is a self-paced tour which covers all the historical areas of the town.
One unique thing about Gettysburg is its churches. The historic churches served as hospitals during the battle, some were built as memorials to the battle and some were a big part of the citizens of the town. For information on the church tours call 717-337-0733, or go the site http://www.historicchurchwalkingtours.org/.
One of the most unique ways to tour the battlefield is by horseback. “Ride Into History” horse ride rentals tours are available by Licensed Battlefield Guides or by recorded tape. The tours are usually 1 hour. For more information call 717-334-1288 or 866-932-2674.
You can also purchase or rent a cassette written by licensed guide and critiqued by the National Park Service. Driving your own car, the tour tape will take you through the battle from day one through day three. These tapes are available from retail shops in the area.
If you want to tour the fields of Gettysburg aboard a double decker bus,or an air conditioned bus, Licensed Battlefield Guide tours are available at the Gettysburg Tour Center, located at 778 Baltimore Street. For more information call 717-334-6296.
As you can see, there are many ways to tour the battlefield. On my first visit to Gettysburg many years ago, I purchased a cassette tape tour and when out on my own. Since then I have been on many tours with Licensed Battlefield Guides and Park Rangers and on every visit learn something new. I have read many books on the Gettysburg Battle and to really understand what the authors are writing about, you have to get out of your car and walk the fields and woods. I see many folks driving through the battlefield and never stop once. The events that happen to this small rural town and the fields surrounding it took only three days but memories and emotions that were left upon this hallowed ground will last forever.
I believe it is our sacred trust to keep those memories and emotions alive by doing all that we can to preserve Gettysburg Battlefield; it’s a legacy that we can leave to our children and their children.