Ranger Programs at Gettysburg

Park staff present a Winter Lecture Series.
Park staff present a Winter Lecture Series.

NPS Photo


Winter Programming at Gettysburg National Military Park

Winter Lecture Series 2017
Controversies, Myths, and Misconceptions: Refighting the Civil War
January 7 - March 11

Winter is a great time to visit and explore Gettysburg National Military Park. On January 7, 2017, the annual Winter Lecture Series begins. Featuring some of the best National Park Service Rangers and Historians from across the region, this 11-week series of hour-long talks will examine some of the more controversial and complex aspects of the of the American Civil War. From Emancipation to the legacy of George McClellan, the Lincoln Assassination to the battle of Gettysburg, the history of the American Civil War is fraught with myths, misconceptions, and controversies.

The Winter Lecture Series is held at 1 pm on weekends in the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center from January 7 through March 11, 2017.

For more information, call the Visitor Information Desk at 717-338-4469. Can’t make it to Gettysburg? All Winter Lectures will be filmed and made available on our park YouTube page.

Saturday, January 7
Longstreet's Counter-march

In one of the more controversial moments of the battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General James Longstreet's men did not attack until mid-afternoon on July 2. This delay possibly cost victory for the Confederacy. Join Ranger Matt Atkinson and explore what we do and do not know about the fateful march. Matt Atkinson, GNMP

Sunday, January 8
A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation remains one of the most misunderstood and controversial events of the American Civil War. Many today still debate its legality and what it accomplished. Did Lincoln truly believe in the document, or was it simply a war measure meant to end the war quicker? What did the Emancipation Proclamation do and what did it mean? Join Ranger Dan Vermilya to address these questions and more, as we discuss what Lincoln called "the central act of my administration, and the great event of the 19th century." Daniel Vermilya, Gettysburg NMP

Saturday, January 14
Is Gettysburg America's Epic Tale, Central to Our National Identity?
Throughout the history of civilization, the most significant nation-states and empires have celebrated an epic war story that formed the core of their identity. Whether it was Homer's Iliad in Greece, Virgil's Aeneid in Rome, the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt or England's Beowulf and King Arthur, all of these informed and instructed successive generations what it meant to be Greek, Roman, Hebrew or English. Each one imparted great stories that promoted collective heritage and instilled moral lessons on how to live a noble and virtuous life. Each epic story embodied the essence of the people portrayed within its pages. Can the same be said for the Battle of Gettysburg? Does the battle encapsulate the nature of what it is to be an American? Troy Harman, GNMP

Sunday, January 15
Mary Surratt: Guilty or Not Guilty
In 1865, Mary Surratt became the first woman executed by the Federal Government. Join Ranger Karlton Smith and examine Mary Surratt's guilt or innocence in connection with the Lincoln Assassination conspiracy. Was she completely innocent or did she, as stated by President Andrew Johnson "keep the nest that hatched the egg?" Karlton Smith, GNMP

Saturday, January 21
If These Things Could Talk: New Acquisitions

The American Civil War spawned a technological revolution of military arms and equipment. Join Ranger Tom Holbrook and examine original objects from the park’s museum collection, many of which have never before been publicly displayed. Tom Holbrook, GNMP

Sunday, January 22
The Battle of Monocacy: The Fight that Saved Washington D.C
On July 9, 1864 Union troops led by General Lew Wallace clashed with Confederate veterans commanded by General Jubal Early. The fighting that would rage outside of Frederick, Maryland that day would be remembered as the battle that saved Washington, D.C. Tracy Evans, Monocacy National Battlefield

Saturday, January 28
Debacle at Balls Bluff: The Battle that Changed the War
On October 21, 1861, Union and Confederate forces fought a bloody battle outside of Leesburg, Virginia. The Union defeat that resulted sent shock-waves throughout the country. Corpses floated down the Potomac River as far as Washington, D.C., the Union commander was imprisoned, and the powerful Committee on the Conduct of the War was created. Join Historian Christopher Gwinn for a look at this momentous and controversial battle. Christopher Gwinn, GNMP

Sunday, January 29
"Vincit Qui Patitur": The Life of an American Armsmaker -Colonel Samuel Colt
The American Civil War saw transformative industrial development on an unprecedented scale. Inventor Samuel Colt obtained his first revolver patent at the age of 22; and during the Civil War, his company manufactured and sold over 375,000 of “The World’s Right Arm” to the Union. You may know the guns. But just who was this Hartford boy-genius, and what is his story? Bert Barnett, GNMP

Saturday, February 4
"...one of the most brilliant victories of the war turned into one of the most disgraceful defeats...." The Fatal Halt at Cedar Creek
Following one of the riskiest and most audacious assaults of the entire American Civil War, Lt. Gen. Jubal Early and his Army of the Valley seemingly won an improbable victory at Cedar Creek. Yet by nightfall, the Confederate army had suffered a near complete defeat and was in full retreat. What caused this stunning reversal was the most controversial decision Early made during the entire 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, if not his entire military career. Known simply as "The Fatal Halt," this decision instantly generated acrimonious debate that continued for decades. Eric Campbell, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP

Sunday, February 5
"The Dawn of Peace"- Grant, Lee and the Lore of Appomattox

On April 9, 1865, a stoic General Robert E. Lee examined the terms written by General Ulysses S. Grant, leaned over the table and signed his name in agreement. It was the end of the Army of Northern Virginia and signpost of the last gasp of the Confederacy. What the two generals took away from their meeting in Wilmer McClean’s parlor and the events that followed have been revered and retold, sometimes quite differently from the reality of the occasion. Legends are often more intriguing than reality and we’ll examine a few of those legends, separating fact from fiction in the troubled peace that followed. John Heiser, GNMP

Sat. Feb. 11
The Controversial Court Martial of Fitz John Porter
After the Battle of Second Manassas, Porter garnered much of the blame for the defeat. He was subsequently court martialed and cashiered for his conduct during the battle. He spent the next 25 years trying to exonerate his name. Matt Atkinson, GNMP

Sunday, February 12
"A Simple Hop, Skip, and Jump?" Burnside and His Bridge at Antietam: A Reexamination
Major General Ambrose E. Burnside ranks among the most maligned generals of the American Civil War and much of the criticism leveled against him stems from his actions during the September 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam, and especially his efforts at storming the Burnside Bridge. But is this popular criticism of Burnside fair? Join John Hoptak for a new look at the role and actions of Ambrose Burnside and the soldiers of his 9th Corps during the war's Bloodiest Day. John Hoptak, GNMP

Saturday, February 18
On the McClellan Go Round—George McClellan and the Antietam Campaign
George Brinton McClellan—one of the Civil War’s most controversial and disliked generals—has been the subject of scorn and derision for decades. Frequently near or at the top of “worst generals” lists, historians typically use words such as coward, traitor, or foolish to describe this former commander of the Army of the Potomac. But is the story we all seem to know so well correct? Does George McClellan deserve the reputation he has today? Join Ranger Dan Vermilya for a look at McClellan’s actions in the pivotal Antietam Campaign, the most important of McClellan’s military career, to see why when it comes to the “Young Napoleon” history tends to be ruled by perceptions and not realities. Daniel Vermilya, GNMP

Sunday, February 19
Longstreet & Huger: The Battle of Seven Pines, May 31 - June 1, 1862
The battle of Seven Pines cannot be considered a Confederate success. Who was to blame? Was it James Longstreet, Benjamin Huger, or someone else? This program will examine some of charges and counter-charges made at the time and in the years since the battle and will explore how historians have interpreted the event. Karlton Smith, GNMP

Saturday, February 25
A Load of Buell? Another Look at The Cannoneer

Many stories have been spun about the American Civil War; some of them better than others. In the modern marketplace, everything from AK-47 wielding Confederates to a vampire-slaying Lincolns permeates the battlefields in search of profit. With this as a backdrop, let us re-evaluate the scorned story of one soldier of the Union in “A Load of Buell?” - Another Look at The Cannoneer. Bert Barnett, GNMP

Sunday, February 26
Thomas Francis Meagher

From his exile to Van Diemen's Land to the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, Thomas Francis Meagher's life was captivating and mystifying. Dedication to his men was unquestionable, but rumors of overindulgence darkened his reputation both on and off the battlefield. Join Angie Atkinson as she delves into Gen. Meagher's complicated history and examines some of the lingering questions regarding his leadership, actions, and untimely passing. Angie Atkinson, GNMP

Saturday, March 4
"In violation of the laws and customs of war:" Andersonville and the Trial of Henry Wirz
The American Civil War claimed the lives of nearly 700,000 Americans. 13,000 of those deaths occurred in one place, more deaths than on any battlefield of the war. That place was Andersonville Prison. Upon the war's conclusion, the Federal Government wanted answers to the atrocities committed at this Confederate-operated prison while bringing the perpetrators of such war crimes to justice. Their answers were found in the camp's prison stockade commander: Henry Wirz. Caitlin Brown, GNMP

Sunday, March 5
“It was, indeed, a scene of unsurpassed grandeur and majesty” – An Audio-Visual Presentation of the National Park Service’s Coverage of the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War.
From 2011-2015, the National Park Service covered the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War through extensive photography and video projects. From behind the camera, Jason Martz and a team of passionate and dedicated staff and volunteers spent countless hours capturing these once-in-a-lifetime events. They were used for immediate use on web and social media sites for a worldwide audience and have been saved and cataloged for ages to come. Beginning with the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) in July, 2011, and ending with the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, Jason will highlight some of the most remarkable and stunning pictures and videos from the Civil War commemoration. Jason Martz, GNMP

Saturday March 11
How Does The Civil War Qualify as the First Modern War?

For 5,800 years of recorded history, wars were fought with pre-modern forms of transportation and communication, where the world was powered by windmills, watermills, literal horse power and human muscle. However, this all changed with the invention of the steam engine and its implementation in the 19th century. In fifty short years, macadamized roads, canals, steam trains, steam boats, steam presses and telegraph communication revolutionized the transfer of energy and power. By the 1850s, every aspect of western civilization looked and functioned differently than it had for thousands of years. It was in this milieu the Civil War was fought. What did the first modern war look like and how did it differ from previous wars? How did wartime observations by foreign emissaries alter the course of future wars? Troy Harman, GNMP


The Gettysburg Battlefield Book Series
Every Saturday: January 7 - March 11
11 am - 12 pm

Gettysburg National Military Park is pleased to announce the selections for the 2017 Gettysburg Battlefield Book Series! Meeting 11 am - 12 pm, every Saturday from January 7 - March 11, this series will examine significant works of history and literature on topics related to the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War.

We invite you to read along over the course of the winter before attending the informal one hour discussions in the Ford Education Center of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Park staff will lead the meetings, providing a brief overview of that week’s topic and discuss the chapters read.

From January 7 to February 4 we will examine our first book, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. Winner of the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it is an account of the battle of Gettysburg from the perspective of some of the key figures who were involved in the climactic event.

We hope you will join us this winter, read along, and share your thoughts and perspectives on these two fascinating books.

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

January 7 Part 1: June 30 with Ranger Chris Gwinn
January 14 Part 2: The First Day with Ranger Daniel Vermilya
January 21 Part 3: The Second Day with Ranger John Nicholas
January 28 Part 4: The Third Day with Ranger Caitlin Brown
February 4 A Conversation with Jeff Shaara

Sickles at Gettysburg by James Hessler

February 11 Chapter 1-3: (Pages 1-68) with Ranger Chris Gwinn
February 18 Chapter 4-7 (Pages 69-142) with Ranger Daniel Vermilya
February 25 Chapter 8-11 (Pages 143 – 212) with Ranger Matt Atkinson
March 4 Chapter 12-15 (Pages 213-300) with Ranger John Hoptak
March 11 Chapter 16-Epilogue (Pages 301-406)
A Conversation with James Hessler

Farms of Gettysburg
Sunday, March 12 - Sunday, April 2
1 pm - 1:45 pm

Before it was a battlefield it was a home. Join a Park Ranger in the Ford Education Center at Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center and discover the fascinating stories of the Farms of the Battlefield, and the people who called them home.

Sunday, March 12 Lydia Leister Farm
Saturday, March 18 Henry Culp Farm
Sunday, March 19 George Weikert Farm
Saturday, March 25 Basil Biggs Farm
Sunday, March 26 Abraham Brian Farm
Saturday, April 1 Moses McClean Farm
Sunday, April 2 Joseph Sherfy Farm


Winter Reading Adventures
For children ages 5 to 10, and their families!
Every Saturday, January 7 - March 11
11 am - 11:45 am

Our new Winter Reading Adventures program is for kids who LOVE to read, parents who WANT their kids to love to read, and for budding history buffs everywhere!

Each Saturday morning, from January 7 - March 11, a park educator will read aloud a picture book, or parts of a chapter book (see this winter’s exciting titles below), followed by an indoor game, activity, or visitor from the past…and then instructions for an outdoor winter adventure with your family!

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
  1. READ a new book with a park educator.
  2. MEET a guest from the past, or CREATE something special from the book.
  3. EXPLORE an extra special place at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Some of our winter reading adventures include:
  • Marching like a Civil War soldier.
  • Cooking up some corn bread.
  • Singing campfire songs like “Goober Peas”.
  • Going on a museum treasure hunt.
  • Meeting General Robert E. Lee.
  • Dressing up like President Lincoln.
  • Or trying out a hoop skirt and corset!
Discounts for your entire purchase, include the weekly book selections, are available for participants in our Museum Bookstore, helping them to achieve their school’s independent reading objectives. Plus kids who participate in five or more winter reading adventures will receive a special SOLDIER’S HAVERSACK to carry their new books around!

January 7
B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet
by Patricia Bauer
January 14
The Patchwork Path
by Bettye Stroud
January 21
Civil War on Sunday (Chapters 1-5)
by Mary Pope Osborne
January 28
Civil War on Sunday (Chapters 6-10)
by Mary Pope Osborne
February 4
Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds
February 11
Pink & Say
by Patricia Polanco
February 18
I Am Abraham Lincoln
by Brad Meltzer
February 25
Voices of Gettysburg
by Sherry Garland
March 4
The Silent Witness: A True Story of the Civil War
by Robin Friedman
March 11
The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale
by Trinka Hakes Noble

Message to parents: The Civil War was a real event, horrific in nature, and it was brought about by issues, such as slavery, that will be new and somewhat difficult for young children to grasp. Some of our book selections introduce and discuss these topics in an age-appropriate way, but we recommend that you spend some time after the program answering any questions they might have and exploring the issues with other books.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1195 Baltimore Street
Gettysburg, PA 17325


(717) 334-1124

Contact Us