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Battlefield stomping

I’ve been going to Gettysburg since I was in third grade, and multiple times each year since 1994 or so. Over the course of all of those years, I have walked pretty much the entire battlefield multiple times, and I thought I had seen pretty much everything there was to see.

Every time that I think I’ve seen everything, I find something new. That happened again yesterday. While leading my Stuart’s Ride tour for the First Defenders Civil War Roundtable yesterday afternoon, I noticed something I had never noticed previously: that the Low Dutch Road, which borders East Cavalry Field to the east, intersects with Route 30. We finished up the tour at 5:15 or so, so I had some time to kill before meeting some friends for dinner in New Oxford. After doing some book browsing on Steinwehr Avenue, I decided to get from that part of Gettysburg to Route 30 by taking the Low Dutch Road, just to see if it might help me better understand the East Cavalry Field battle. I’d never been north of the park road on the Low Dutch Road, so I had no idea what to expect.

A couple of hundred yards north of the park road, I discovered a War Department marker I had never seen before. It marks the far right flank of the Union cavalry on East Cavalry Field, and discusses Capt. William E. Miller of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry and his charge into the Confederate flank during the climactic part of the battle on East Cavalry Field. I had no clue that this marker even existed before yesterday. Neither, it turns out, did J. D. It was a new one on him too.

That’s the marker in the photo. I took that photo this morning with my Droid phone, and I regret that it’s a lousy photo. It’s a lousy photo from the combination of the fact that I’m a lousy photographer, poor lighting conditions for shooting pictures, and a not-so-hot cell phone camera. Next time, I will take a real camera with me and will get a real photo of this marker and will post it here. If it’s of interest, you can see the full-sized image of the marker by clicking on the smaller photo that you see here.

So, I found something completely new to me at Gettysburg this weekend. Just when I was getting really cynical about it, I gained new insight. I guess that’s why I keep going back…..

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8 Dec 2010, by

March 26, 2011

I’ve been invited, and have accepted that invitation, to be the keynote speaker for the Saturday, March 26, 2011 Harrisburg Area Community College seminar at HACC’S Gettysburg Campus. Here’s some information on the program. I will be delivering the primary talk that morning and then leading a battlefield tour that afternoon.

Saturday, March 26, 2011 also happens to be my fiftieth birthday, and I cannot imagine a better way of spending my entry into a new age bracket and eligibility to join AARP than in my very favorite place doing what I enjoy most in the world. I hope that some of you will be able to join me in my celebration that day.

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31 Oct 2010, by

The banzai run

Last week featured another of my infamous banzai runs. On Thursday night, I was scheduled to speak to the Hagerstown Civil War Roundtable, so I drove over that morning. Now, it’s about 350 miles from my house to the meeting place/hotel, so it took me about 5.75 hours to make the drive. I went straight to the Antietam National Battlefield, where I met up with fellow blogger and friend John Hoptak. This was my second visit to Antietam in two weeks. Along with three friends, I had spent a weekend stomping the battlefield with old friend Dr. Tom Clemens just ten days earlier.

John and I spent most of our time together hiking the portion of the battlefield where the Ninth Corps fought. First, we walked the newest trail, which leads to the spot where the Ninth Corps attack formed up, and to a new overlook high above Burnside’s Bridge on the Union side. We then walked most of the Final Attack Tour trail. That ground is remarkably difficult ground, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount about that part of the battlefield from my last two visits. First, and foremost, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the fact that Burnside’s men had it much rougher than I ever imagined. There really was no option but for his men to storm the bridge that bears his name–trying to wade the creek would have slowed his men’s approach and they would have had to have crossed a slippery creek bottom in leather-soled shoes, and the banks of the creek would have become impassable, slipper quagmires in no time flat. They would not have been able to scale those banks. The way that the Ninth Corps finally carried the bridge was really the only viable option.

I also never realized how difficult the terrain that the Ninth Corps had to traverse to reach its final positions during the battle. The closest terrain I’ve ever seen is at Perryville–it’s one ridge and valley after another, and they’re usually quite deep. It’s up and down, up and down, and often steep. Because the Otto farm–where most of the Ninth Corps fight took place– was in private hands until recently, it was impossible to come to a real appreciation for the terrain. Now that I’ve walked that ground, I’ve really come to appreciate how the terrain drove the action, and I’ve also come to realize that the ordeal of the Ninth Corps has been badly overlooked by the public for many years. Too many people think that the battle ended with the storming of Burnside’s Bridge, but that fails to account for the ordeal of the rest of the Ninth Corps, or the good fortune of Robert E. Lee’s army in having A. P. Hill’s Light Division arrive just in the nick of time to repulse the lead elements of the Ninth Corps from the streets of Sharpsburg that day.

Like the Wheatfield at Gettysburg, I don’t have a good handle on the confused, chaotic, bloody fight in the West Woods at Antietam. So, at my request, John and I walked the West Woods trail. I had never walked that trail previously, and I now have a little better understanding of how things played out in the chaos of the West Woods. I still have a long way to go before I feel like I really understand what happened there, but I came away with a much greater appreciation of that fight. The woods are much wider than I ever realized–they’re not a narrow band like the East Woods–and there are deep ravines that run through the woodlot that are not evident or visible from the road.

That night, I gave my presentation to the Civil War Roundtable, which was attended by old friends Ted Alexander and Stephen Recker. I gave my talk on the retreat from Gettysburg. The venue is particularly appropriate, because the hotel/convention center is actually on a portion of the battlefield for the July 10, 1863 Battle of Funkstown, which I featured prominently in my talk.

Friday morning, I did some talking head stuff for a video on the role of the City of Hagerstown during the Civil War. The film is primarily intended to be a marketing piece for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and I spent my time discussing both the Battle of Hagerstown (July 6, 1863) and the wounding of Ulric Dahlgren during that fight. The film is scheduled to premiere on the next anniversary of the battle, and I hope to make it to that premiere. I will keep folks advised as I know more about it. After spending an hour or so filming, I changed clothes, made a brief stop at one of the fabulous Wonder Book and Video stores in Hagerstown, and then drove the 350 miles home.

In all, I was gone for 34 hours. I spent 11-11.5 of those 34 hours driving. I drove 700+ miles. I hiked more than four miles on Thursday afternoon over some difficult ground. I gained a better appreciation of a portion of the Antietam battlefield that not enough people get to see, and I spent some time with some good friends. It was quite a trip, but boy, was I tired by the time I got home.

I took lots of photos during the trip with Tom Clemens, and I intend to post some of those photos here in the next couple of days. I will also go into greater detail about that trip then. I surely do love the Antietam battlefield.

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I was gone for two straight long weekends. Both were spent stomping battlefields, and there was one common theme through both: beastly heat and high humidity. That sort of heat saps your energy and your strength.

The first trip:

I flew to St. Louis on Thursday, July 15, and my friend Mike Noirot picked me up at the airport. We had lunch at a really neat microbrewery in St. Charles, which is a growing suburb of St. Louis, and then, after checking into my hotel, we went to check out some of the famous Civil War graves in St. Louis, and there are plenty of them worth visiting.

Our first stop was at Calvary Cemetery, where we visited the graves of William T. Sherman, Dred Scott, the playwright Tennessee Williams, and a Civil War Medal of Honor winner. We then crossed the street and went to Bellefontaine Cemetery. Bellefontaine Cemetery is well worth a visit, as it has formal tours laid out, including a Civil War-only driving tour. Among the graves we visited there were Sterling Price, Don Carlos Buell, Francis Blair, John Pope (who has a surprisingly modest grave that we walked by twice before figuring out which one it was), William Rogers Clark of Lewis & Clark fame, his Confederate general son, Meriwether Lewis Clark. It’s definitely worth a visit.

From there, we had great seats in the Redbird Club at Busch Stadium, where we watched Manny Ramirez dog it in the outfield. The Cards beat the Dodgers 7-1. It was 95 with high humidity that day, and it was hot, let me tell you.

Friday, we were off to Springfield, Missouri for a visit to the Wilson’s Creek battlefield. I had never been there before. It’s a really compact but well preserved and well interpreted battlefield. It was 95 again, and again with high humidity, and it was thoroughly unpleasant getting out of the car, but we did. We hiked a lot of the battlefield. I really enjoyed the visit in spite of the heat, and would gladly go back again. We made a stop at the outstanding battlefield museum, where, to my great surprise, the ranger in charge not only recognized me from my photo but is a regular reader of this blog (so, too, is the ranger in charge of the park library at Wilson’s Creek, who knew my name immediately when I said it). That always weirds me out when that happens, as I never realize how wide the readership of this blog really is.

We then took a ride over to the town of Newtonia, where there were battles in 1862 and 1864 (during the Sterling Price raid). Just before we got to Newtonia, a hellacious thunderstorm blew up, and it was raining sideways when we got there. It was so bad, in fact, that I kept checking the clouds to look for rotation. The heavy rains meant that we never got out of the car there, so we didn’t get a chance to read the interpretation on the battlefield. I will have to go back some time.

We checked into our hotel and asked for a restaurant referral, and had an absolutely spectacular meal at the Flame Steakhouse in Springfield. It was, without question, one of the best meals I have ever had. That ended a long but terrific day.

On Saturday, we were up early and drove the 1.5 hours down to the Pea Ridge battlefield near Bentonville, Arkansas. Again, I had never been there previously, so it was all uncharted territory for me. It became one of my very favorite battlefields after just one visit. For those who have never been there, it is an absolutely gorgeous field with lots of excellent interpretation and good tours. There is a spectacular overlook on Big Mountain that provides a gorgeous view of the entire Elkhorn Tavern sector of the battlefield that is well worth the time to take in. I had read the good book on the battle by Shea and Hess years ago when it first came out, but I didn’t remember it well (and I am now re-reading it). It’s a fabulous place to visit, and I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in what turned out to be one of the most important battles in the Western Theater of the Civil War.

Again, it was beastly hot there. We pretty well wilted hiking in the heat, but we kept after it. When we finished the tour, we had a quick lunch in Bentonville, and then drove down to the Fort Smith Historic Site, which was another 1.5 hours southwest of Bentonville. We visited the National Cemetery, and then spent about twenty minutes in the beastly heat there. It was just too hot there, and there is no shade, and when we figured out that there was little of interest there, we left. 98 degree heat with high humidity and no shade is not fun.

We then headed to the excellent Prairie Grove State Battlefield Park near Fayetteville. I had just finished Bill Shea’s excellent book on the battle, so it was fresh in my mind. There’s a nice visitor center there and lots of really good interpretation. There’s a 1.5 mile walking tour and a driving tour, and we did both. After Perryville, it’s probably the best state park battlefield I’ve ever visited.

We got there at 4:15, at the height of the heat, and it was horrific. I thought we were going to melt while taking the walking tour–no air movement, hot sun, and black asphalt. It makes for a BAD combination. But I really enjoyed the place, which is definitely worth a visit. The combination of the twin defeats at Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove meant that Missouri was forever lost to the Confederates.

We then drove the 6 hours back to St. Louis, arriving at my hotel at 10:40. It had been a VERY long day. Sunday morning, we made a quick visit to the Jefferson Barracks Historical Site for a visit to the National Cemetery, and then a quick stop to take a photo of U. S. Grant’s Hardscrabble Farm house, which is now part of a large nature preserve owned by Anheuser Busch. A mammoth thunderstorm delayed my return flight, but I got home Sunday afternoon. We covered more than 1000 miles, and had a blast. Mike is an excellent traveling companion, and he knew those battlefields well. I think he’s going to do a book on Wilson’s Creek, and I think he will do an excellent job of it.

The second trip:

I was in the office for 2.5 days last week, and then Wednesday, it was on the road again. This time, it was for Ted Alexander’s annual summer soiree, which was titled “From Cedar Mountain to Antietam”, and focused on the Second Bull Run Campaign. I got to Chambersburg in time for a good talk on the first half of the campaign by old friend John Hennessy.

Thursday morning, it was off to the battlefield at Cedar Mountain in Culpeper County, which I had never before toured. The tour was led jointly by Ed Bearss, John Hennessy, and Clark B. “Bud” Hall. We had to move quickly, but we saw much of the battlefield, including the seldom-visited monument to the 10th Maine Infantry, which is on private property and not part of the park. Again, it was very hot and humid, which sapped all of our energy.

After lunch, we then stopped at St. James Church at the Brandy Station battlefield to discuss the movements of the armies and the fighting along the Rappahannock River on the way to Manassas. We then stopped at Jeffersonton Church, site of a meeting between Lee, Stuart, Jackson, and Longstreet. Our final stop that day was at an overlook for the Thoroughfare Gap battlefield. Then, it was back to Chambersburg and a fun dinner with Ted Alexander, John Hennessy, Ed Bearss, and Bud Hall. It doesn’t get much better than that in terms of company.

Friday was lecture day. I gave a talk on Pope’s Horsemen, and Bud did one on Stuart’s cavalry in the campaign. Dennis Frye gave a fascinating and thought-provoking talk on Ambrose Burnside and his role in the campaign, and pointed out that Burnside was actually George McClellan’s go-to guy during the Maryland Campaign. The long day was capped by the annual battlefield preservation fundraiser auction. I auctioned off a personal tour for the winner and five friends, which I was happy to do.

Saturday was more battlefield touring, with the whole day being spent at Second Manassas. Ed and John led the tour, and according to a sign next to Henry House Hill, it was 106 degrees out, with high humidity. After a very quick stop at Stuart’s Hill, we began at Brawner’s Farm, which is a fascinating battle. I had not been there since about 80 acres of trees were cut down, and it has REALLY changed the viewshed at the battlefield. As just one example, the spot where S. D. Lee’s guns were was always in deep woods and couldn’t be seen. Now, it’s wide open, as is the area of the Deep Cut attack, and it dramatically changes the battlefield by showing just how close together these sites are, when it was previously impossible to visualize that due to the thick, dense woods. The effect is much like the effect of the tree cutting at Gettysburg. Kudos to the park superintendent at Manassas for pursuing the tree cutting program.

The downside is that there is not a stick of shade out there, and with that kind of heat, it was draining. Ed led us on a 3.5 mile hike all the way to the Deep Cut, and everyone about melted. After lunch, we covered the August 29 attacks along the unfinished railroad cut, the Deep Cut attack, and then visited the New York Reservation, known as the Vortex of Hell for the tremendous casualties taken by the 5th New York Infantry there–25% KIA during this fight. We then went to Chinn Ridge, and finished on Henry House Hill.

From there, we had a dinner with a short program in the Mumma Farm barn at the Antietam National Battlefield. The ambiance is great there, and the view is nothing short of spectacular, but it was just too hot and we were all too hot from the long day to really enjoy it. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Saturday’s lunch was a special treat. I sat next to Ed, and asked him what he thought of the HBO production The Pacific (he really didn’t like it). One of the other guys asked Ed about how he was wounded on New Guinea during World War II, and he regaled us with the story of his wounding and rescue. Ed is now 87 and is a true force of nature. He’s a national treasure who has forgotten more than I can ever hope to know.

It was just awful out there in terms of the heat. I drank something like 60 ounces of Gatorade, two big bottles of water, and 3 larges glasses of Diet Coke at lunch, and I was still dehydrated when I got back to the hotel. I was asleep by 10:30.

Yesterday morning, I got up and made a quick trip to Fairfield, PA to shoot photos for the new edition of Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions that will be published by Savas-Beatie next year, and then drove home.

It’s been a pretty remarkable run. I took lots of photos. They can be found here. I hope you enjoy them.

As for me, I need a vacation from my exhausting vacations. :-)

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Last weekend, I traveled to Missouri and toured Calvary Cemetery and Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, caught a Dodgers/Cardinals game, toured Wilson’s Creek, Newtonia, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove battlefields, and also made a visit to Fort Smith.

Tomorrow, I leave for Ted Alexander’s annual summer soiree, which will include tours of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, and part of the Antietam battlefield. I’m doing a talk titled “Pope’s Horsemen”.

Next week, when I’m back and the dust has settled, I will write up both trips and post some of my photos from Missouri and Arkansas. Please be patient. I hope it will be worth your while.

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Well, I had an excellent visit to the White Sulphur Springs battlefield not long ago. I had a chance to walk the entire Confederate battle line with West Virginia Civil War historian extraordinaire Terry Lowry, and saw most of the Union line as well. Most of the Confederate line is now a large cow pasture, and it’s filled with land mines. Not the sort that explode, but not the sort you want to step on, either. I had to watch every step I took, but it was worth it. Terry’s a relic hunter, and he’s relic-hunted the entire battlefield. Consequently, he knows were the relics show the action was, and I now understand that battlefield. We recently bought a digital SLR camera, and the tour of the battlefield provided my first opportunity to use it.

We then went to the grounds of The Greenbrier, where sixteen Confederate battle dead are buried in an unmarked mass grave that’s situated in a family cemetery. The management of The Greenbrier has taken steps to hide the cemetery, and even though we generally knew where it could be found, it still took us an hour to find it. There’s a small monument there to commemorate the dead soldiers, and I finally got a photo of it.

The tour ended with a visit to the Greenbrier County seat, which is the nearby town of Lewisburg. I got a shot of the county courthouse, which was the object of Averell’s failed raid, and that completed my trip. I then drove the five hours home to Columbus.

I am very glad that I walked the ground with Terry. Once more, the truth of the maxim that the ground is THE primary source is proven true. I now understand the terrain, and I now understand how the terrain drove the action. Without having access to private property and having Terry as a guide, I would not have gotten the perspective that I got from walking the ground.

Terry has also offered to provide me with his extensive file of primary source material on the battle from the West Virginia State Archives, and old friend and fellow cavalry nut Steve Cunningham has offered to share his twenty years of research on the 7th West Virginia Cavalry. Brian Kesterson and his friend Terry McVay have also come forward to offer their assistance with primary source material. The upshot is that I’m going to have material that no other account of the battle has ever used. I think it’s going to be a good project, and I am again plowing new ground. I enjoy that.

I’m in the middle of editing a book manuscript for a friend (just about halfway done), and when I’m finished with it, it’s time to begin writing.

Sit tight. I will keep everyone posted as to my progress. And thanks for all of your support and assistance. I’m a lucky guy.

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31 Mar 2010, by

Upcoming Tour

I have agreed to do a tour for David Woodbury’s Historical Tours company in September. The tour will focus on the Battles of Kelly’s Ford, Brandy Station, and Trevilian Station, and will be based in Culpeper, Virginia. I’ve done this tour previously, and it’s a good one. The cost of the tour is $270, which includes everything but lodging at the Best Western in Culpeper. For those interested in cavalry actions, this will be a good opportunity to learn about the evolution of the Union cavalry, as it evolved into one of the largest, most effective mounted force the world had ever seen. We will visit the sites of the two largest cavalry battles of the Eastern Theater of the Civil War in Brandy Station and Trevilian Station. The first twelve registrants will get an autographed copy of my new book on the Battle of Brandy Station as a premium for registering.

My friend Patrick Schroeder, the chief historian of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, will be leading an excellent tour for David of sites off the beaten track at Appomattox on June 4 and 5. I had a private version of that tour a few weeks ago, and it’s well worth the trip.

David’s doing a great job with these tours, and I commend them to you. Check them out.

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This past weekend, I got to do something I haven’t had to do in a VERY long time, which was to spend some time in Gettysburg with no agenda and no real commitments other than to enjoy myself.

The trip had its genesis in a speech to the Allison Antrim Museum in Greencastle last Thursday night. I gave a lecture on Ulric Dahlgren, and had a large crowd. Although I didn’t know it, the mother of one of my law school classmates (whom I have not seen since graduation day) was in the crowd, and I got a nice note from him last night. It was nice re-establishing contact after all these years. I also sold $600 worth of books, which was a pleasant surprise.

We then had the weekend in Gettysburg. Unfortunately, it was like a monsoon the whole time we were there, so I didn’t really get to spend any time on the battlefield. Nearly every stream was out of its banks on Saturday, and it was bad. Friday, I met Nick Redding of the CWPT and filmed a piece for the Trust on why the proposed site of the casino is so horrible. It was a challenge in the rain, but we got it done. We then had dinner with some friends, went to Mine for a few a laughs, and had a really good day. It was especially nice getting caught up with Mark Snell on Friday evening. I always enjoying busting Mark’s chops.

Saturday, we had no commitments at all. We did some shopping (I picked up a set of the 1904 edition of Pennsylvania at Gettysburg for $64–an excellent price), laid out the driving tour of the Battle of Fairfield (and had to contend with flooding to do so), made a lap around the battlefield, and then spent the afternoon with old friends Rick Allen and Christina Moon, just enjoying each other’s company. Saturday night, we had a group dinner (14 of us) at one of Susan’s very favorite restaurants in the world, Dave and Jane’s Crabhouse in Emmitsburg, and then adjourned to the Mine once more. It was good to see old friend Duane Siskey and his fiance Laurie.

After another group meal on Sunday morning, it was back to Columbus. This is the first trip that I’ve had to Gettysburg where I didn’t have to work or lead tours in nearly five years. I’d forgotten just how much I missed it. And I didn’t even get to do any battlefield stomping.

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One of the posters on my Civil War forum boards wrote a post today that indicated his interest in the Civil War is waning, and wondering if there was something wrong with him.

I responded. I made the point that I grow through intensive Civil War burnout regularly.

Keep in mind that in some ways, this is a second job for me. Consequently, I can’t even remember the last time that I just went to Gettysburg to go to Gettysburg and have fun, as opposed to going there for some event, to lead some tour, etc. Honestly, I don’t even remember when that was. I’ve been there twice so far this year, and on both instances, I ended up working–leading tours–nearly ever waking minute I was there. At some point, it ceases to be fun and becomes just another chore. As much as I loved seeing everyone at the CWDG Muster this spring, I worked the whole time I was there. It was neither relaxing nor was it fun in a lot of ways. It was work. And work is tiring.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Last year, I auctioned off a two-day tour of cavalry battlefield sites in Central Virginia as a fundraiser for battlefield preservation, and this June, it was time to deliver the goods. I drove the 6.5 hours to Culpeper on Friday, arriving there about 3 in the afternoon. I checked into the hotel and then spent two hours frantically driving around, taking GPS coordinates for a driving tour for my forthcoming Brandy Station book. I ate dinner alone at the hotel, and then spent a big chunk of the evening drafting a contract for a client. I spent the entire next day (a solid 8 hours) taking a dozen people around Kelly’s Ford and Brandy Station. I went to dinner with a friend that night, and then the next day, drive down to Trevilian Station, led the tour, then drove nearly 500 miles home, arriving about 8:30 PM. The next day, Monday, I had to get up and go to work. Sound relaxing? Hardly. Sound like fun? It was nice to have the camaraderie and to be on the fields, but no, fun is not a word that I would describe the experience. It was absolutely exhausting, I got paid nothing for it, and the expenses were out of my own pocket. And, just for good measure, I brought home a nasty case of poison ivy that took nearly a month to go away completely.

Likewise, in the last three years, I can think of one instance where I went to see a Civil War battlefield just for fun, and that was a one-day trip to Perryville with three friends in August of last year. In May 2008, I got a partial day visit to the Rev War battlefield at Guilford Court House. That’s it since 2006.

I get tired of it. I get frustrated with it. I get very burned out with it. I’m actually in one of those phases right now. I don’t feel like writing and I don’t feel like doing much digging. When I’m doing “pleasure reading”–as opposed to stuff that pertains to either my daytime job or to my research and writing–I almost never read Civil War stuff any more. I just finished an interesting book about the how the Israelis hunted down and captured Eichmann and then brought him back to Israel for trial. I finished that last week, so last night I started a book on the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

What I really need is to take some time and just go visit a battlefield–without leading tours and without researching or doing something pertinent to my work–and simply enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it and for no other reason. That usually recharges my batteries and gets me back into the mode again. However, I’ve already been gone too much this year, I have another event coming up next month–another tour to lead–that will require me to be away from the office again, and I simply don’t have the time to be away right now, as my professional responsibilities will get in the way.

I miss the days when I could just go and enjoy being another visitor to a battlefield with no demands on my time or attention. I fear those days are gone forever, which I can accept. However, I really need to find some time to just go and enjoy being on a battlefield without any demands on my time to get my mojo back.

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5 Jul 2009, by

Gettysburg

As some of you may remember from prior years, there is no place I want to be any less than I want to be than Gettysburg on the anniversary of the battle. The town is too small for the massive influx of touristas, it’s impossible to find a place to stay, it’s even harder to find a place to eat, and hardest of all is finding a place to park. The town simply cannot handle being overwhelmed by the folks who come for the combination of the anniversary of the battle and the annual reenactment. I’ve been there on the anniversary three or four times, and each time it happens, I swear it’s going to be the last time.

J. D., on the other hand, absolutely loves being there on the anniversary of the battle. This year, with his new book out, I can understand why he would want to be there. However, he loves being there every year. Where I hate the crowds, he seems to thrive on them. The same goes for our co-author, Mike Nugent. I just don’t get it, but to each his own, right?

It’s like the annual re-enactor’s parade on the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which is also known as Remembrance Day. I am not a re-enactor and never have been, which may be why I don’t have an appreciation of the event. I’ve never once been there on Remembrance Day, and I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in being there that day. None. However, J.D. usually goes, I have lots of other friends who do, too. The weather is usually miserable that time of year, and the idea of standing out in the rain watching re-enactors march by just doesn’t appeal to me at all. My friends, however, really enjoy it. While I may not understand it, I do respect it, and if they enjoy that, then I wholeheartedly support them.

Now that the anniversary of the battle is finally over, it’s time for life to get back to normal in Gettysburg. Normal means I will visit again. And hopefully, it will be soon. I’ve been there a couple of times this year, but each time it was a working trip where I had tours to lead. I can’t even remember the last time I just went to Gettysburg to go to Gettysburg and enjoy some time on the battlefield. That’s long overdue, and I miss that.

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