CWES slide

Civil War Era Studies: Classroom to battlefield, and beyond

Less than half a mile. That’s how far it is from Gettysburg College’s Weidensall Hall, home of the Civil War Era Studies program, to a historic battlefield.

Where else can students immerse themselves in history and study the American Civil War mere steps from the battlefield of the War’s decisive clash?


The Civil War Era Studies (CWES) program at Gettysburg College offers students interested in learning more about the American Civil War the opportunity to study all aspects of the Civil War Era including military, social, intellectual and political history, and they get to do it from the home base of historic Gettysburg, Pa.

Of course the College’s unique location allows learning to spill over from the classroom to the battlefields of the Mid-Atlantic, including Gettysburg National Military Park, and beyond. Interested students can immerse themselves further through CWES-related programs such as the Civil War Club and the living history group on campus.

Read on for more about Civil War-related opportunities at Gettysburg College.

Guelzo with a student

CWES students take classes from renowned historians like Allen Guelzo, Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and a professor of history, pictured above. Guelzo's essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in publications ranging from the American Historical Review and Wilson Quarterly to newspapers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer and Wall Street Journal. He is a two time Lincoln Prize-winner, and most recently authored Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Courses in CWES range from American Women and the Civil War Era to John Brown: Freedom Fighter or Fanatic?

Guelzo at Fredericksburg

Due to the College’s proximity to a number of Civil War battlefields, learning often moves beyond the classroom. Field trips are an integral part of classes, and students can learn the history and implications of a battle from their professors as they walk through the fields and forests where conflicts took place. In the photo above, Guelzo tours Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park with a student.

The Appleford

The chance to study the Civil War in Gettysburg is not exclusive to Gettysburg College students. Since 1998, Gettysburg College and CWES have offered students from other undergraduate institutions a unique opportunity for a semester-long immersion in Civil War Era Studies -- the Gettysburg Semester. Gettysburg Semester students take two core seminars and one course from Gettysburg's CWES program, which allow them to go on a number of field trips. Gettysburg Semester students also involve themselves in internships with the Civil War-related agencies in the area. Gettysburg Semester students live in the Civil War theme residence, The Appleford, pictured above. The Appleford also houses Gettysburg College students.

Students with a statue of Joshua Chamberlain

Gettysburg College and Gettysburg Semester students have many occasions to bond over their Civil War interests. Above is a group who traveled together during a school break to see the home of Joshua Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine at Gettysburg, as well as his statue on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick, Maine.

Students in Harrisburg

Not all CWES and Gettysburg Semester trips include touring battlefields – students are able to take advantage of numerous other historic sites and museums nearby. The above photo depicts students on a trip to the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg.

Prof. Thompson and Roedner in D.C.

The CWES program gives students the opportunity to conduct extensive research of their own. Pictured above (at right) is Lauren Roedner ’13 with her faculty research advisor and CWES professor, Sharita Thompson in Washington, D.C. Roedner received a Mellon grant to further develop a research project from one of her CWES classes. She presented her research at several national conferences including Posters on the Hill in D.C. and the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Utah.

Civil War Club celebrates Lincoln's birthday

Students interested in the Civil War have many opportunities to get involved with organizations that exist beyond traditional academe. The College has a Civil War Club, which hosts numerous events throughout the year like the one pictured above celebrating President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

First Manassas 150th commemoration

The College also has a group of living historians, the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia Regiment. They represent different units of both the Union and Confederacy, including the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia Regiment, which was formed at Pennsylvania College in 1863. Their clothing and impressions represent soldiers and civilians of the Civil War Era. The photo above shows the group at the 150th commemoration of the First Battle of Manassas (also known as the First Battle of Bull Run).

Baltimore Street reenactment

Members of the 26th Pennsylvania often have the opportunity to get together close to home. Above is a group shot in Gettysburg after they participated in a Baltimore Street skirmish reenactment.

Students in dining hall

Passionate CWES students share their interests with the campus community. The photo above shows students in period dress while eating in the College’s dining hall.

Roll with NPS employees

CWES and Gettysburg Semester students interested in history-related careers are able to pursue internships in surrounding areas with organizations such as the National Park Service. During the summer of 2011 Mary Roll ’12 (pictured above) and Becky Oakes ’13, both CWES minors, interned at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Welch on the battlefield

A number of CWES and Gettysburg Semester students have taken what they’ve learned at Gettysburg and turned their love of history into a career. One of the career paths CWES students have pursued is through the National Park Service. CWES alumni have been placed at a number of sites throughout the country, including Gettysburg Semester alums Dan Welch (who works as a seasonal park ranger at Gettysburg national Military Park, pictured above) and Ashley Whitehead Luskey at Richmond National Battlefield Park. Luskey worked as a seasonal ranger at Historic Jamestowne (Colonial National Historical Park) during the 400th anniversary celebrations, and even got to meet the United Kingdom’s Prince Philip when he and the Queen visited that year. She also has her master’s in history with a concentration in public history from West Virginia University, and is pursuing her Ph.D. in 19th century American History at WVU.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Posted: Fri, 29 Jun 2012

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