Of all the big-box events in American history, none has quite the importance of the Civil War; and within that war, none has quite the resonance of the Battle of Gettysburg. “Gettysburg,” wrote General Alexander Stewart Webb (who was one of the battle’s most prominent participants), “was, and is now throughout the world, known to be the Waterloo of the Rebellion.” Fought over three days (July 1–3) in 1863, Gettysburg really was the last solid chance the breakaway Southern states had of winning the war and their independence. By carrying the war into Pennsylvania, a vital Union state, and by leveraging the war-weariness of the Union voting public into peace negotiations, the Confederacy had its best chance of the entire war for victory. The resulting defeat was the beginning of the end for the Confederate States of America.
This was by no means the only aspect of the battle that surprised its participants. The two opposing armies—the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia—collided almost by accident at Gettysburg. And from the first moment of that collision, uncertainty stalked the outcome of the fighting. Even after 150 years, this atmosphere of confusion and happenstance continues to generate controversies over what actually happened at Gettysburg:
- Why was the battle fought at Gettysburg?
- What role was played in the battle by the peculiar geography of the Gettysburg area?
- Who “lost” the battle for the Confederates? And who authorized the climax of the battle, the great but doomed assault known as “Pickett’s Charge”?
- Who “won” the battle for the Union?
- What was the “face of battle” like in 1863? What did it take to maneuver large, ungainly masses of poorly trained amateurs across lethal battlefields?
- How many soldiers died in the battle? How do we really know?
Gettysburg is memorable not only for the battle also for the 272 words Abraham Lincoln uttered four months later, when he came to dedicate the national cemetery which had been created for the burial of the soldiers killed in the battle. In those words Lincoln sorted out the meaning of the battle, linking it directly with the founding of the American republic eighty-seven years before.
“Gettysburg in History and Memory” will examine the history of the battle, using the battlefield itself as our primary classroom and fitting Gettysburg into the overall context of the Civil War and warfare itself in the nineteenth century. But it will also include the experience of the civilians caught in the town by the battle and the ways the battle has been memorialized, interpreted, and occasionally misused since 1863.
At the end, we will come to know Gettysburg not just as a famous battle but as a hinge event in the development and understanding of American democracy.
Readings are sent by the Institute to seminar participants. Readings may include:
Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. 2013.
Travel & Accommodations
Gettysburg College is located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The closest and most convenient airports are Harrisburg International Airport (a 45-minute drive) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (a 75-minute drive). The college provides shuttle service to campus from many of the major transportation hubs in the area. Call Transportation Services, 717-337-6923, to make arrangements.
The Harrisburg Amtrak Station is about 45 minutes from campus, and Penn Station in Baltimore is about 75 minutes away. Again, the college provides shuttle service so long as you call ahead.
If you plan to drive, the Gettysburg College website will provide you with detailed instructions.
Workshop participants will be housed in on-campus housing in private bedrooms with a shared common bathroom and common space. The rooms are air conditioned. The college will provide sheets, a blanket, a pillow, and one towel. You are welcome to bring your own fitted sheets. Please note that participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, hangers, irons, hair dryers, and shower shoes.
Participants should plan to bring laptops, as computer access on campus will be limited.
Meals will be served in a college cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the seminar. Each seminar participant will receive reimbursement of travel expenses up to $400. Please read our complete travel reimbursement policy before applying.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is proud to announce its agreement with Adams State University to offer three hours of graduate credit in American history to participating seminar teachers. For more information click here.
Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.