2017 Gettysburg Winter Programs

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Gettysburg National Military Park kicked off their 2017 winter programs this weekend. As usual, the programs were terrific.

We started with the first discussion of the book, The Killer Angels. Supervisory Ranger Chris Gwinn led the discussion this week. We focused on the first part of the book, the part dealing with June 29 and June 30. We talked about Michael Shaara’s background as a veteran of the Korean War, a boxer, and a policeman before he became serious about writing, and his beginning as a science fiction writer. Interestingly, James Longstreet is very much the star of the confederate side. The Robert E. Lee character is there to illuminate Longstreet’s “brilliance” in the author’s viewpoint and to serve as Longstreet’s foil. It seems Shaara identified with the John Buford character as well as the Joshua Chamberlain character in addition to Longstreet. We noted the characters who were the most favorably portrayed were those who were less religious than other characters. We also talked about how the history was changed in the book in subtle ways.


Next, Ranger Matt Atkinson gave an outstanding lecture on Longstreet and July 2 at Gettysburg. His lecture was a very balanced look at Longstreet’s performance, where Longstreet was right and where he was wrong. I’ll post it once it comes up on the park’s YouTube channel.

Saturday evening was a screening of the movie, The Free State of Jones. It was a powerful film, and the depiction of Reconstruction was very well done.

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Sunday saw Ranger Dan Vermilya giving a terrific lecture on myths surrounding Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. He dispelled the lost cause nonsense about Lincoln not caring about slavery, about the EP not doing anything, and about Lincoln just using the EP to keep Europeans from intervening in the war. This is another presentation that I’ll post once it’s on YouTube.

The first weekend, I thought, was a smashing success. The park personnel always do a terrific job, and this was no exception.



  1. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

    I was very fortunate to be tipped off that today’s lecture on the EP and Reconstruction was being live streamed on Facebook. I concur: it was very comprehensive program and presented in a very cohesive format. I am always pleased when any of the agencies include Reconstruction in their itineraries. On the topic of Reconstruction: I feel that it is a cinematic gift to the complete legacy of the Civil War when a movie that can convey Reconstruction in all of its raw detail and still hold the audience’s attention. Free State of Jones accomplished this task in a most riveting fashion.

    I am eagerly anticipating the release of Ranger Matt’s latest presentation, as his Rock Star aura is sure to deliver the goods. Finally, I have a fondness for the book Killer Angels, and having read it twice BEFORE I had any other Civil War learning experience, I would find it illuminating to read it yet again as someone with a scant more enlightenment on the factual history of Gettysburg. The chance to compare and contrast ideas with others would make the experience even that much better.

  2. Al,

    Without a doubt, I’m sure Matt gave an outstanding presentation. However, sadly I believe the Park Staff could have done bit better with regard to the program. As many are probably unaware, there were about 50-75 individuals, including myself who were unable to to view the presentation due to the auditorium being filled to capacity. Arriving at 12:30 pm, many of us arriving were ushered into another classroom for a supposed “live” feed viewing. Unfortunately many, many technical difficulties forced the live feed to shut down and for many of us to leave both frustrated and disappointed.

    In my opinion, the staff should have, at the minimum, tested the live feed prior to the lecture. Also, knowing how popular these lectures can be, there should have been additional allotted time for Matt to give a second lecture if needed. As I mentioned above, many walked away after 15 minutes extremely disappointed.

    I visit Gettysburg at least 3-4 times a year and never have been disappointed with any program until this this past weekends epic fail.

    As I mentioned above, I love Matt’s programs and I am sure his lecture was outstanding, but for many of us, the experience was less than outstanding and we are now forced to wait until the staff uploads the video to You Tube.

    I’m glad you had the opportunity to view an excellence program. Hopefully in the future, the staff can learn from the mistakes of this past weekend.


    1. Thanks for commenting, Brian. I know they do technical checks prior to letting people into the theater, so I can only assume they tested the feed to the Ford Education Center sometime prior to the presentation. If they didn’t, I agree they should have done so. Since the movie was shown in the same theater, I don’t think it would have been feasible to have a second lecture that day. I understand the frustration at all the difficulties and not being able to see the presentation. The book discussion was held in the Ford Education Center prior to the lecture, so they may have tested the feed earlier in the morning.

      Every so often, some of the rangers will take a look at this blog, so they may see your comment. I’ll see if I can bring your comment to their attention this weekend.

      1. Thank you for your quick response Al. From talking with one of the Rangers, he explained they were using a new program. They were also attempting a “live” feed through the Facebook Live app. In my opinion not the best option. Beside the feed cutting in and out, the camera was set up in the back left corner thus making the screen unviewable because of both poor resolution and and lack of focus.

        I specifically asked if they had test this plan out beforehand as a contingency plan. He said they did not. I will admit I admire the staff for owing up to these shortcomings and offering sincere apologies to everyone.

        I’m not going to beat a dead horse. I have voiced my frustration and it is time to move forward. On a bright side, I did get a chance to take some more photographs of the battlefield in the winter. Something I have always wanted to do. When I get a chance to upload the photos to my Flickr account, if you like, I could post the link here for you to view.

        thanks. 🙂


        1. I’m glad you had a chance to express your frustration to the rangers, Brian, and were able to get at least some explanation.

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