Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Antietam Tour with Tom Clemens, May 2019

Maryland monument with Dunker Church in background. Photo: NPS

The Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg)
Tour dates: May 2-5, 2019
HQ hotel: Hagerstown, Maryland

In the time that I am writing every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battlefield.

—Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, USA, Commander,
​I Corps, Army of the Potomac
Walk the battlefield next spring with renowned Maryland Campaign historian Thomas Clemens. Professor Clemens will conduct a comprehensive examination of the sites and scenes of the bloodiest day of battle in American history. 

We'll gather on Thursday evening for a pizza reception at our hotel, and to hear an orientation talk by our guide. Friday and Saturday will be all-day bus and walking tours of Harpers Ferry, Sharpsburg and the Antietam battlefield proper, and the Battle of Shepherdstown (aka, Battle of Boteler's Ford).

Click Here for more information,
and to reserve your seat on the bus.

General Itinerary
THURSDAY (May 2): check into our headquarters hotel (Hampton Inn, Hagerstown: details below).
6:30 p.m. Pizza Reception in the hotel meeting room: pick up your registration packets, and meet your host and guide. 
7:30 p.m. Tom Clemens will present an overview of the Maryland Campaign, and Battle of Antietam, and set the stage of the next day's tour with a talk entitled:
"Intentions; the Good, the Bad and the Unforeseen."

FRIDAY (May 3): Board Bus at 7:45 a.m.
Bus departs hotel at: 8:00 a.m.
8:30 am Arrive at Best Farm, Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor’s Center; we'll cover the arrival in Maryland and campaign through Lee’s departure and McClellan’s arrival; discussion of the fateful Special Orders 191.
Approx. 9:30 a.m. — Depart for Harpers Ferry. We'll cover the siege and capture, Bolivar Heights, Schoolhouse Ridge, the cavalry escape, and Maryland Heights
11:00 a.m. — Depart for Crampton’s Gap, cover Franklin’s march and approach, drive by Brownsville Pass.  Burkitsville, Gathland.
Stop for lunch [provided]
Approx. 1:00 p.m. — Depart for Turner’s Gap, stop at Mountain House.  First Corps attack.
Approx. 1:45 p.m. — Walk to Fox’s GapNinth Corps attack
4:00 p.m. — Bus picks up the group at Fox’s Gap; Drive through Keedysville to Pry House overlook
5:00 p.m. — Day One tour concludes, return to hotel.
Dinner on your own. 

SATURDAY (May 4): Board Bus at 7:45 a.m.
Bus departs hotel at: 8:00 a.m.
8:30 a.m. — Overview from Visitor Center at Antietam National Battlefield. 
Poffenberger Woods fight (September 16)
North Woods
Cornfield and East Woods
West Woods
Lunch on the field [provided]
Mumma and Roulette farms
Sunken Road
Middle Bridge

Burnside Bridge
and Ninth Corps Attack
Shepherdstown Ford
(if time allows)
No evening event scheduled. 

SUNDAY (May 5): optional outing (via carpool)
The Battle of Shepherdstown (or Boteler's Ford)
10:00 a.m. for one-to-two hours. Adjourn by noon.

About our guide:

Tom Clemens is a founder and current president of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation and has played a central role in helping preserve the field and associated sites. His essential contributions to the literature on Antietam include the monumental work as editor and annotator of the Maryland Campaign study by Ezra Carmen, published in three volumes by Savas Beatie Publishers. Tom is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on Antietam, as well as one of the most engaging and entertaining tour guides available.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Call of the Bugle

Call of the Bugle, painted by J.K. Ralston. This oil painting shows Custer rallying the troops for the final defense of Last Stand Hill. The Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association (CBHMA) commissioned it in 1964, donating to the park shortly after. Credit: Courtesy of the National Park Service, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  LIBI_00138_06378

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The Rock, and the Big Stick

U.S.S. Iowa, 1951, with Alcatraz in the distance. [LIFE magazine archives]

Battlefield Tours: the Rosebud and the Little Bighorn

​"On a hot June Sunday in 1876, hordes of painted Indian warriors—perhaps as many as 4,000—swarmed over a treeless Montana ridge rising from the Little Bighorn River Valley. Five companies of U.S. Cavalry, about 215 blue-shirted troopers, contended briefly and hopelessly against overwhelming odds. When the guns fell silent and the smoke and dust of battle lifted, every soldier lay dead.
This was "Custer's Last Stand" the most spectacular triumph of the American Indian in his four-century struggle against the relentlessly advancing European civilization that finally crushed him. It forms a chapter of American history that has inspired intense study and provoked intense controversy, that has been chronicled endlessly in prose and verse and enacted time and again on motion picture and television screens, and that has earned a lasting place in the Nation's historical annals and popular folklore. In total defeat and death, Custer and his men achieved an immortality that even the most dramatic victory could not have won them." 
— Robert M. Utley, NPS Handbook, Little Bighorn National Monument.

We'll be heading out to the battlefields with Neil Mangum in mid-October. If you are interested, and can get away for a few days, follow the link below, or go to for registration information, and details on other upcoming tours. 

After hiking part of the Rosebud battlefield on the first day, the next morning we'll follow Gibbon's route down the Yellowstone and ascend the Rosebud. We'll pause at Custer and Indian campsites (and other sites), visit Deer Medicine Rocks, and devote a day each to the Reno and Custer fighting. For good measure, we'll also take in the Baker Battlefield (August 1872), and Canyon Creek (Flight of the Nez Perce).

Friday, May 25, 2018

summer ad for Rosebud and Little Bighorn excursion

Look for this ad in an upcoming issue of Wild West magazine, and in various digital venues. See also the new website for WHT. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Bruce Catton

Photos from University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center, Bruce Catton Papers. Text from New York Times obituary, August 29, 1978
Catton was a reporter with the Cleveland News, the Boston American and later with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and a correspondent with the Newspaper Enterprise Association in Washington before he took several government posts. Among them was director of information for the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1945-46, and special assistant to the Secretary of Commerce in 1948. 
Catton won the Pulitzer Prize for historical writing and the National Book Award in 1954. Among his works on the Civil War was Two Roads to Sumter, co-authored in 1968 with his only son, William Bruce Catton. He received the Presidential Freedom Medal in 1955 and then-New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller named him chairman of the state Civil War Commission in 1960. 
Among Catton's other books were The War Lords of Washington, published in 1949; Mr. Lincoln's Army, 1951; Glory Road, 1952; [A Stillness a Appomattox, 1953 won the Pulitzer Prize] U.S. Grant and the American Military Tradition, 1954; Banners at Shenandoah, 1955; This Hallowed Ground, 1956; The Coming Fury, 1961; Terrible Swift Sword, 1962; Gettysburg: The Final Fury, and Michigan: A Bicentennial History, 1976. 
Catton was editor of American Heritage Magazine from 1954 through 1959. He was named senior editor of the magazine in 1959 and held that position until his death.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Charles P. Roland turns 100

Happy Birthday to Charles P. Roland, who wrotein my opinionthe best short, single-volume history of the Civil War: An American Iliad: The Story of the Civil War (University Press of Kentucky). 

I had the pleasure of sitting with Dr. Roland at dinner one evening, during a Jerry Russell-sponsored battlefield conference. When he learned I had attended college in Evansville, Indiana, it reminded him of his best buddy in WWII, who hailed from Evansville, and Roland related some stories from their adventures at the Battle of the Bulge. 

Roland is a great historian, a fascinating man, and a pleasant dinner companion. I'm glad to hear he's still going strong. Roland also wrote what used to me, and what may still be, the only scholarly biography of General Albert Sydney Johnston (Albert Sydney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics). While visiting the Shiloh battlefield last weekend, where Johnston was killed, I noticed that this (now revised) book is still in print (also from the University Press of Kentucky). 

Those are two great books from a great university press. Here's hoping Governor Matt Bevin's "petty and barbaric" (quoting eminent Kentuckian Wendell Berry) efforts to close the press are thwarted.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Power of History (Bay Area Book Festival)
There's an interesting American History presence at this April's Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley. Wish I could be there for this discussion, but alas, I'll be traipsing around Old Cahawba Archaeological Park that weekend. 

The Power of History: Turning Groundbreaking Scholarship into Page-Turning Prose

Edward L. Ayers, Peter Cozzens, Joel Richard Paul, T. J. Stiles, moderated by Steve Wasserman
Saturday, April 28
11:15 AM - 12:45 PM 

Is best-selling history bad history? Does good history have to be dull reading? Four award-winning historians and biographers talk about the big questions of American history and reveal how they explore them through captivating narratives that win esteem in the academy yet appeal to wide audiences. Bancroft and Lincoln prize winner Edward Ayers (whose many works focus on the Civil War and Reconstruction), Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize winner Peter Cozzens (most recently “The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West”), Pulitzer and National Book Award laureate T.J. Stiles (most recently “Custer’s Trials: A Life on a Frontier of New America” and “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt”), and Hastings Law Professor Joel Richard Paul (most recently “Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times”) talk with Steve Wasserman, executive director of Heyday Books, former editor at Yale University Press, and former book review editor of the Los Angeles Times.
BAMPFA - Osher Theater
Sponsored by Reed Schmidt, with partial support from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria

Monday, February 19, 2018

Rosebud and Little Bighorn battlefield tours (October 2018)

I'm very happy to announce a new tour happening in October, covering the Battles of the Rosebud, and Little Bighorn, with some essential side trips. Neil Mangum, former historian at LBH, and author of the definitive work on the Rosebud, helped customize a unique 4-day outing that will comprehensively cover both battlefields, and take in many other important sites associated with those events, including Deer Medicine Rocks (where Sitting Bull described his sun dance vision of soldiers falling into camp like grasshoppers falling from the sky). See the flyer here for more details.