29 June 2008 by Published in: Battlefield stomping 8 comments

Hell month is over. I survived.

I’m just home from the Gettysburg: Retreat and Pursuit seminar put on by Mark Snell at Shepherd University. This makes four straight weekends that I’ve traveled at least 350 miles to do an event, and wow, am I beat.

The weekend was interesting, to say the least.

It didn’t get off to a good start at all. After meeting Ted Alexander in Hagerstown on Thursday afternoon to lay one portion of the tour, I drove on to Shepherdstown to check into the hotel and got the extraordinarily unpleasant news that there was no room reserved for me. Never mind that I was the tour guide for the event, there was no reservation for me. Mark’s assistant told me that the hotel screwed up the reservation, that they had reserved 25 rooms and only got 20, meaning that there were others who also did not have reservations. It got worse. I was told to go to the nearby Clarion Hotel and wait there, that Mark’s assistant Denise would meet me there. After sitting in the lobby like a moron for half an hour, no Denise. By then, I was so angry that you could have fried eggs on my forehead. I ended up having to change my clothes in the men’s room of the lobby of the hotel, which was terribly embarrassing. Denise ended up giving me her room at the lovely Bavarian Inn, which is just across the street from Shepherd’s campus, overlooking the Potomac River and Blackford’s Ford. All was eventually forgiven, but it was not an auspicious beginning.

One of the very cool things about this seminar was that a couple who attended last week’s program also attended this week’s. It was great fun having them along again. At dinner last night, I told them that if they want to see me next weekend, they’re going to have to come to Columbus to do so. ๐Ÿ™‚

Mark opened the program with a good talk on Union logistics that he finished putting together about five minutes before show time. I enjoyed sitting and chatting with Drs. Chris Stowe and Tom Clemens. I’ve known Tom for 15 years, but I just met Chris for the first time this weekend. He’s a good guy, and I enjoyed getting to know him and further enjoyed chatting with him. Kent Masterson Brown was the “scholar in residence” and the keynote speaker, and he gave an excellent talk on the logistics of the retreat from Gettysburg. I then had a couple of beers with the gang at the Center and had a really interesting discussion with Chris Stowe there.

Eric with Kent Masterson BrownTo be honest, I was a little worried about how things would work with Kent. He’s used to being the star of these retreat tours–for good reason, since his book has been out for several years and is an excellent work–and I’m something of an upstart. There’s also the issue that our work, although intended to complement his, could be construed as competition. Fortunately, I’ve known Kent since 1993 or 1994, and we worked together extremely well this weekend. He picked up where I left off, and vice versa, and I was perfectly happy to permit him to take the lead on the things where he’s the acknowledged expert. It worked like we’d been a team for years, which was very gratifying.

Friday morning, Chris gave an excellent talk on George Gordon Meade and the retreat, followed by a fine talk on the Wagon Train of Wounded by Ted Alexander. I felt kind of bad for Chris. Mark Snell insisted that he do his very silly but spot-on impression of Ken Burns’ God-awful cameo in the movie Gettysburg, to Chris’ embarrassment. He’s a trooper, though, and did it, to lots of laughs.

We then boarded the bus for a trip to Gettysburg to tour the new visitor’s center and a number of hospital sites from the battle. A former student of Mark’s named Nick Redding, who works for the Civil War Preservation Trust as a grants associate, served as the guide. Nick’s very young, but he’s a very impressive young man with an incredibly bright future. He did a terrific job leading the tour, which included a stop at the newly-acquired George Spangler farm (where Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead died of his Pickett’s Charge wound). It turns out that we were the first group taken on the property. After dinner, we then returned to Shepherdstown by following the route of the Wagon Train of Wounded. Kent sat next to me on the bus and directed the driver, which was a tremendous help to me.

Saturday morning was my day. We drove up to Gettysburg again, and Mark surprised me by asking whether we could make a brief detour on the way. Mark lives near Gettysburg, and he has a period farm there. He’d just had the pond on his property dredged, and he simply could NOT wait until today to see the work. We HAD to detour by his house to see the reincarnation of the results of the Battle of the Crater in his yard. My guess is that the extra stop proved to be the reason why we had to cut out a stop at the Cushwa Basin on the C & O Canal in Williamsport, where a significant portion of Lee’s army waded the Potomac River on July 14, 1863. Well, okay, maybe not. But I had to give Mark lots and lots of grief (which isn’t actually all that difficult to do, by the way). After Mark inspected Lake Superior, we finally got to do what we went to Gettysburg to do.

As I mentioned above, the tour went very well indeed. I added a new stop to the tour at the site of the July 12, 1863 fighting for Hagerstown, which was a site Kent had not visited previously. We had a hard and fast time to be back in Shepherdstown for dinner, so we had to drop the last stop at the Cushwa Basin, but that really didn’t inhibit things. Folks came away from the tour with precisely the response we’d hoped for, which is an appreciation for the ordeals of the soldiers, the remarkable movements of the armies, and the fact that there was plenty of fighting during the retreat and not just Meade letting Lee go, as is so often portrayed. We got back to Shepherdstown just in time–a hellacious thunderstorm blew in as we were finishing dinner. There was a period musical program last night, but I only made it through half of it before hitting the wall and having to go back to the hotel and collapse. I fell asleep at 9:45 watching TV. It’s very tiring having to be “on” all day.

This morning, there was a really good talk about preservation of sites along the retreat route by Tom Clemens and a lengthy panel discussion that was a lot of fun. Once that ended, it was time for me to hit the road. After another miserable six hour drive, I got home. Hell month is finally over. I actually get to stay home for three whole weeks before Ted Alexander’s Mother of All Gettysburg Seminars the last weekend in July. I can’t wait to just have some down time to decompress. I can tell you this–I’m sick to death of driving at the moment. For now, stick a fork in me. I’m done.

Scridb filter


  1. Sun 29th Jun 2008 at 9:20 pm

    And I was exhausted after just a week at CWI!

    Your endurance is certainly to be admired.

  2. Sun 29th Jun 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks, Sarah. I’m brain dead tonight as a result of all of it, and it’s back to work tomorrow….


  3. Christopher Stowe
    Sun 29th Jun 2008 at 11:25 pm

    Eric: It was terrific meeting & chatting with you as well! Many thanks for two truly outstanding tours.

    On a distinctly unrelated note . . . I suppose that my attempt to “connect with my inner Ken” will have second- and third-order ramifications that can only be surmised at this point. Oy . . . ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Stu Younkin
    Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 8:16 am


    I can only speak for myself, but I can’t express my sincere appreciation enough for everything you did for us this past weekend. The tour really made a great impression, and helped me to better understand the magnatude of the retreat, as well as the battles “after the battle”. Take care, and I hope to see you again some time soon in the future.

  5. Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 8:17 am


    You’re very welcome. I look forward to doing more battlefield stomping with you in the future.

    It could have been worse. You could have tried to connect with your inner Brave Sir Robin….. ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 9:39 am


    You’re very welcome, and I’m very pleased to hear that you enjoyed the program and that you learned something new along the way.



  7. Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 9:02 pm

    All I’ll say is be glad you’re driving and not flying.

    See you in July.

  8. Ann Kalata
    Tue 01st Jul 2008 at 3:20 pm


    We enjoyed both of our weekends with you. On both you were a knowledgeable guide and made the weekends one of learning and fun. I just wish we had moved with more “alacrity” on the second weekend so that we would have seen Williamsport.

    You can be assured that we will not be arriving at your home this weekend. Enjoy your weekend off. We hope to be able to tour with you again soon.

    Ann and Len

Comments are closed.

Copyright ยฉ Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress