By Mary Gallagher
Photographs by Wm. A. Davis
A clear blue sky, slight breeze and moderately warm temperatures gave us the perfect opportunity to visit the Antietam Battlefield encompassing over 3,250 acres of farmland, pastures, woodlots and limestone forests in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This popular National Park Service site has over 200,000 visitors a year anxious to expand their knowledge of the American Civil War’s 12 hour battle that became known as the single bloodiest day with 23,110 casualties.
One can walk, ride a motorcycle, bike, take a bus or car tour of the battlefield. A new feature is the TourGlides Segway tour. One starts with an intensive lesson on developing skills and safety plus helmet fitting. Our Segway guide at Antietam was meticulous about his instructions on how to do it all correctly, with fun and no injury.
One by one we get our training and do lazy circles and straight laps in the field in front of the Visitor’s Center and after everyone seems capable off we go with our trainer and a guide. The tour is 2 ½ hours and follows the paved roads throughout the battlefield with stops for the guide to point out distinctive sites. We stopped at various points along the way for our guide to point out distinctive sites and at one point we are behind a behemoth bus and I felt sorry for those occupants experiencing the Civil War’s bloodiest battlefield from inside a giant capsule. Like the Segway tours, the self guided auto tour covers 8 1/2 mile miles through the battlefield with 11 stops and begins at the Dunker Church.
As the person who can ride a bike but falls off to stop I thought this would be a harrowing experience for me and our little band of “newbie’s” but soon we were all confidently racing around the practice field.
The tour follows the paved roads and has a few hills that one can glide down the gentle landscape. Most major cities offer some form of Segway tours but driving in downtown Washington DC traffic, motorized or pedestrian, in comparison with cornfields and birds at Antietam wasn’t a fair test of my skills.
I found it difficult—less so after practice—to remember that you don’t step on the brake but put the weight on your heels to stop and on your toes to go forward. Our Segway’s had 6 mph governors on them, a very good idea, as I “flew” down a hill trying to recall toes or heels?
Frequent stops at markers allowed one to relax the iron grip and actually learn about the significant history of this battlefield which is being restored to its 1862 appearance.
Most of our group explored the visitor’s center and sat in for the 26-minute introductory film “Antietam Visit.” There are Park Rangers for battlefield talks and a nice little Museum Store.
One event I would return for will be the Memorial Luminary held on Saturday evening December 6, 2008, at Antietam National Battlefield, in cooperation with the American Business Women’s Association, where 23,000 Candle luminaries—one for each soldier killed, wounded or missing at the Battle of Antietam will be placed throughout the park along a 5 mile driving tour.
The Illumination opens to the public at 6:00 pm. Vehicles are to use parking lights only; to the extent technology permits this, and continues through the event without stopping. People on foot are highly discouraged from walking the tour route. Event brochures will be distributed at the event entrance and contributions will also be accepted.
This area of Maryland is alive with Civil War history sites including the nearby towns of Frederick and Hagerstown. We enjoyed a night at the new and very colorful Springhill Suites which is convenient to various malls if you just want to focus on this area for a few days.
TourGlides have several theme tours including wine, photo, history and nature “Glides” available. Call for advance reservations.
If You Go
Sharpsburg, Maryland 21782
National Park Service, Antietam
Springhill Suites by Marriott
17280 Valley Mall Road
Frederick Maryland Tourism
Hagerstown-Washington County Tourism