Battlefield Tours

June 13, 2020 [Saturday]

(1) A Nation Hangs in the Balance: July 2, 1863, Matt Atkinson (Gettysburg NMP)

This tour will explore the Confederate en echelon attack on the second day of the battle. Starting at the Texas Monument, we will walk the Confederate line from south to north while studying various topics such as the communication and expectations between Lee and Longstreet, artillery's role on the second day, and the breakdown of A. P. Hill's portion of the attack.

This tour will require approximately 1.8 miles of walking on all-paved surfaces.

(2) Twilight of the Blue and Gray: Gettysburg College and the 1938 Reunion, Chris Gwinn (Gettysburg NMP)

This tour will explore the site of the "Great Camp" at Gettysburg College, where 1,485 former Union and Confederate soldiers gathered for the final reunion of surviving Civil War veterans. Discover the stories of the veterans that attended and explore the history behind one of the most mythologized events in Gettysburg’s history.

(3) How Active Was Lt. Gen. Robert E. Lee During the Battle? Following In Lee's Footsteps, July 1-3, Troy Harman (Gettysburg NMP)

Did Lieutenant General Robert E. Lee sit on a tree stump at Gettysburg on July 2 and 3, 1863 and let others carry-out his orders, as Edwin B. Coddington suggested in his influential The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, or was Lee actively riding the lines? Surprisingly, there are many sightings of Lee recorded by key participants suggesting that he was quite mobile. Taking a fun “finding Lee” approach, this tour will explore Lee's whereabouts for all three days of the battle, with an emphasis on the second and third day. Participants may be surprised at all the places, movements and famous settings where Lee suddenly appeared on the scene. This tour will be eye-opening even as it calls into question Coddington's assumptions.

The tour will involve minimum walking—only multiple on-and-off-bus stops.

(4) Staff Ride: The Defense of the Union Center, Col. Doug Douds (U.S. Army War College)

Battlefield staff rides are a method of educating leaders. What participants on staff rides must achieve is what German military theorist Karl von Clausewitz defined as critical analysis: Determine the facts, establish cause and effect, and analyze the results. In more simple terms, they must figure out the what, the so what, and the now what. What happened, what did it mean then, and what does it mean today?

This three-hour staff ride focuses on the fighting on the late afternoon of 2 July in and around the Union center from the Peach Orchard to the Codori Farm. It involves about a mile of walking. We will make approximately five stops, along the way discussing issues of culture, initiative, what is measurable versus what cannot be measured, balance, accountability, the limits of loyalty, and more. While this day will include history and leadership, our success will be determined as much by attendees’ interaction, engagement, and sharing as by the guide's preparation.

(5) Benning's Georgia Brigade, Keith Bohannon (University of West Georgia)

This tour will follow the attack route of Confederate General Henry L. Benning's Brigade on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. We will begin along Confederate Avenue and then walk across fields to the Triangular Field, Devil's Den, and Slaughter Pen at the base of Little Round Top to examine the ground where Benning's Georgians saw heavy action fighting alongside the famed Texas Brigade. 

We will walk approximately 750 yards in two to three hours, some of it (the Triangular Field and Devil's Den) over uphill and rocky terrain.

(6) Youth Tour & Group Discussion: Soldiers’ Letters and the Battlefield,Peter Carmichael (Gettysburg College) *

This special evening tour of the Gettysburg battlefield for youth attendees under the age of 18 and their families will focus on the letters of soldiers who fought here and discuss how they expressed their varied experiences of battle through writing. The tour will make several stops along the battlefield and will feature several group discussions of soldiers’ letters. This special tour will offer our youngest attendees a forum to learn, ask questions, and talk about the battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War with Peter Carmichael and other young people in a smaller and more intimate forum, as well as to explore first-hand the actual battlefield sites discussed in the soldiers’ writings.

*For children and teens under 18 years of age and their families

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June 15, 2020 [Monday]

(1) Cool Spring Battlefield, Jonathan Noyalas (Shenandoah University)

When Confederate general Jubal A. Early crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains at Snickers Gap in mid-July 1864, following his push to the outskirts of Washington, D.C., he hoped that his command would have an opportunity to rest on the Shenandoah River’s west bank. However, elements of Union general Horatio Wright’s pursuit force had other plans and engaged portions of Early’s army along the banks of the Shenandoah River near Castleman’s Ferry on July 17, 1864. The following day more than 13,000 Union and Confederate troops engaged on the Cool Spring and Westwood Farms in a battle that earned the distinction of being the conflict’s largest and bloodiest engagement in Clarke County, Virginia.  This tour will provide an in-depth examination of the events leading up to the battle, the fight, and its immediate aftermath and visit various sites associated with the Battle of Cool Spring including Castleman’s Ferry, Judge Richard Parker’s Retreat, Island Ford, Parker’s Island, Parker’s Hole, and the bluffs in the Blue Ridge. The tour will also include a stop at the Winchester National Cemetery—the final resting place of a number of Union soldiers who perished at the battle.

Most of the tour stops will simply require dismounting the bus; however, some moderate walking is involved at Shenandoah University’s 195-acre parcel of the Cool Spring battlefield. The walking is mostly on flat, paved terrain. For those seeking a respite from walking at the site, a golf cart will be available to transport individuals.

(2) 2nd Fredericksburg and Salem Church, Eric Mink (Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP) and Keith Bohannon (University of West Georgia)

This tour will focus on sites associated with the May 1863 battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church.  The tour will start at a county park in Stafford, Va. where we will view Union Army campsites and fortifications and discuss the background of the Chancellorsville Campaign. We will then go to Chatham Manor, the campus of the University of Mary Washington, and the Sunken Road on Marye's Heights to see sites associated with the Union assault and breakthrough at Second Fredericksburg. The tour will end at Salem Church, the site of an engagement where Confederates blocked the westward advance of Federals under General John Sedgwick.

The tour will involve a total of approximately two miles of walking.

(3) Staff Ride: Antietam, Carol Reardon (Penn State University)

Antietam offers a rich variety of illustrations of both outstanding and poor military leadership.  We will use the US Army's matrix of leadership attributes and competencies to evaluate the actions of Union and Confederate commanders from the regimental level through senior army commanders on September 17, 1862. 

This approach will involve an intense mental workout, but will not be physically strenuous.  Feel free to bring a camp stool if you are not comfortable standing for twenty minutes or more!

(4) Leadership at Manassas: The First Test, 1861, Ethan Rafuse (U.S. Army Command and General Staff College)

“You are green it is true, but they are green also; you are all green alike.” That, Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell later complained, was the response he received from members of the Lincoln administration whenever he pointed out the tremendous challenge organizing an army and leading it to victory in the field entailed in 1861. Not least among McDowell’s concerns was finding men capable of providing the leadership necessary to execute military operations on a scale that exceeded anything in American military experience prior to that point.  It was an issue no less compelling to the “green” officers and men on the other side of the hill leading up to the Battle of First Manassas in July 1861. This tour will provide an overview of the first major battle of the war that was fought at Manassas. Particular focus will be on the role leadership on both sides in shaping its course, conduct, and outcome of the battle. We will discuss the backgrounds of the men who exercised leadership; the forces that shaped their selection for leadership and multiples perspectives on its challenges; as well as the operational and tactical problems they faced on particular parts of the field, how they met them, and what could be and was taken away from their experiences to inform professional military judgment in the long war that followed—and beyond.

This all-day tour will include about a mile of walking over varied terrain and open area. Participants may want to bring along a lightweight lawn chair or camp stool. 

(5) The Evolution of the Charge in the Civil War: Bristoe Station, Marye's Heights, and the Mule Shoe, Jennifer Murray (Oklahoma State University)

Civil War armies relied extensively and consistently on the charge--the frontal assault characterized many Civil War battles. This program explores one Confederate charge made in October of 1863 and two frontal assaults made by Union soldiers in December, 1862 and May, 1864. The tour will explore the tactics of frontal assaults and consider the ways in which commanders changed their tactics and their thinking about the charge over the course of the war. We will also consider the successes and failures of these various frontal assaults.

Expected total walking of 2-3 miles (all three sites combined). 


June 16, 2020 [Tuesday]

(1) Bivouac of the Dead: The Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Sue Boardman (Licensed Battlefield Guide & the Gettysburg Foundation)

The creation of the soldiers’ burial ground at Gettysburg was an ongoing skirmish that continued after the big battle had concluded as several prominent citizens fought for control of the project.  As the impact of the Union victory in Pennsylvania emerged, the vision for the proper burial of the Union dead evolved into one of national importance and pride.  This tour will cover what took place before and after the famous consecration in November 1863 and up to the present day.  We will discuss pre-battle conditions of the ground, the original Saunders Plan, the War Department years and the National Park Service stewardship, along with the changing mission during these various eras.  

During the tour we will walk portions of Evergreen Cemetery and all of the National Cemetery Grounds.  Total walking for this tour is estimated to be slightly under 2 miles.

(2) The Pennsylvania Reserves and Wheaton's 6th Corps Brigade at Little Round Top, Dana Shoaf (Civil War Times)

For obvious reasons, most visitors to Little Round Top focus on the battle for the summit and southern slope of the rocky hill on July 2, 1863. But great drama also took place on the landmark's northern slope and its extension on Munshower Hill north of the Wheatfield Road. From about 11 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. on July 2, this area was devoid of Union infantry, and the gap served as an inviting target for the attacking Confederates of Longstreet's Corps. On this tour, attendees will learn how Captain Frank Gibbs’ Ohio Battery held off 3,000 Confederates surging out of the Wheatfield until the timely arrival of the Pennsylvania Reserves, who unleashed a charge, that, recalled a witness, swept "every living thing before them...bayonetting all who for a moment attempted a resistance....” As the Reserves attacked, Brig. Gen. Frank Wheaton’s 6th Corps brigade, the only unit from that corps heavily engaged at Gettysburg, charged down Munshower Hill to drive back Brig. Gen. William Wofford’s Georgia brigade and recapture a Union battery on the John T. Weikert farm. This tour will use wartime diary accounts to describe some of that furious action. The tour will also delve into how the fighting affected the Weikert family, how a Union officer in Wheaton’s brigade was written out of postwar accounts of the battle, and the curious story of the 93rd Pennsylvania's two Gettysburg monuments.

This tour will take you on some of the most "hidden in plain sight" terrain of the second day's fighting. Participants will mostly walk on park roads from the northern slope of Little Round Top to Munshower Hill, and then downhill to the John T. Weikert farm. Any off-road walking will be on gentle terrain. Total walking is approximately 1-1.25 miles.

(3) The West Point Class of 1861 at Gettysburg, Zachery Fry (U.S. Army Command and General Staff College)

The three days at Gettysburg included a number of harrowing sacrifices on the part of recent U.S. Military Academy graduates. This tour follows the personal stories and battlefield exploits of several newly-commissioned Union officers from the May and June 1861 graduating classes. We will relive the action at Gettysburg through the eyes of young men in volunteer infantry service such as Patrick O'Rorke and Emory Upton, as well as regular army junior officers like Charles Hazlett, Malbone Watson, Alonzo Cushing, and George Woodruff. This tour will involve approximately one mile of total walking.

(4) “The Day Has Been a Most Unfortunate One for Us”: The First Day at Gettysburg, Scott Hartwig (Independent Historian)

Why was there a battle at Gettysburg on July 1?  How did it result in a tactical Confederate victory but operational Union success, and shape the battle of July 2 and 3?  These questions and the major decisions and key actions of the battle on July 1 will be the subject of this tour of the July 1 battlefield.

The tour will visit all the major points of the First Day’s fighting from Reynolds Woods to Barlow’s Knoll. There will be some limited walking at some stops but no more than a quarter mile at any stop.