Programs & Events

Seminar Summit, July 19-22: The American Civil War — Its Enduring Meaning

Due to the growing health crisis and restrictions on in-person gatherings, the Gilder Lehrman Institute will not be able to offer in-person Teacher Seminars this summer. We are working on an alternative offering for the summer. Please visit for updates.


Allen C. Guelzo, Director, James Madison Program Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship, Senior Research Scholar in the Council of the Humanities, Princeton University


The American Civil War stands beside the founding as the defining event of the life of our republic. Yet it is so often swathed in myth, in misinformation, and even in wanton re-invention that the competing narratives of the war scarcely seem to be describing the same event. This three-day seminar will focus on three key questions: what were the causes of the Civil War (it’s more complicated than you think)? Why was it so costly in terms of life and material (it’s not because of technology)? What did it actually accomplish – a restoration, or a revolution, or both? The answers are the issues Americans still wrestle with today. We will take these problems as our main scaffolding, and within it explore the major events and personalities of the war years, from the great campaigns in East and West, to emancipation and the survival of the Constitution in wartime.

Travel & Accommodations

This seminar is part of the 2020 Teacher Seminar Summit. During this inaugural Summit, the Institute will offer twelve concurrent seminars ranging from the Age of Discovery through the Vietnam War. The Summit is expected to serve more than 400 teachers. Each attendee will participate in a seminar with a lead scholar and master teacher, and will have the opportunity to attend book talks where they can hear other eminent historians discuss their major works. This unique format will also give all participating teachers a chance to network with each other.

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements; the Institute will provide a stipend of $350 for travel expenses. Read the policy hereGettysburg 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. 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 stay 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.


Please be sure to review the Institute’s policies on independent school teacher participation and travel stipends before applying.


Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

Seminar Year: 2019-2020