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Civil War Tours

Bert Dunkerley

Guest historian Bert Dunkerley of Richmond National Battlefield interprets the shortfalls of Johnston’s ill fated Seven Pines attack.

BGES conducts its Civil War Field University by design for small groups usually traveling in vans to facilitate maximum access where buses cannot go.  By keeping the groups small, BGES provides a stimulating and invigoratingly personal experience available from no other organizations offering Civil War Tours. Net proceeds underwrite charitable and educational activities of the organization. The reputation of BGES has caused it to be sought nationally and internationally for educational and leadership training,  attracting some of the nation’s most respected historians and scholars both as members and teachers.

Upcoming Civil War Tours

Limited time? Want to spend a great weekend out? Look at the BGES Signature Series of Weekend Warrior programs — start at 6 PM on Friday and end by 3:45 PM Sunday — high content, great tour leaders and budget conscious!

March 22-25, 2017. Shiloh: A Bloody Battle, Costly Beyond Imagination

With Jim Ogden from Savannah, TN

Grant’s early victories and western politics generated a convergence of forces as the Union moved to secure its hold on Tennessee. The river from Fort Henry down to Muscle Shoals brought Grant to Savannah, Tennessee, following his brief demotion for unspecified reasons. The tentative Grant and his equally nervous friend William T. Sherman (recently returned to duty) were surprised and nearly destroyed in the first day’s fighting only to receive timely reinforcements that led to a decisive victory on the second day. This program is unique because historian Jim Ogden is branching out his offerings into his other areas of interest. Justly reputed for his preparations and knowledge, Jim is looking forward to delivering a cogent series of tours over the coming years that tell the story of the war in the west as he has studied it–Shiloh is the first. He intends to focus on the actual tactical elements on the battlefield with lots of walking on the ground. Scheduled before the spring shuts down the view sheds of this pristine battlefield this is the tour for the battlefield lover in you. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: Shiloh: A Bloody Battle, Costly Beyond Imagination.

April 17-21, 2017. The Atlanta Campaign Part 2: From Cassville through the Hell Hole and up Kennesaw Mountain

With Gary Ecelbarger from Kennesaw, Georgia

Sherman’s plans for Northern Georgia were augmented by forces from Alabama that created a modern army group of three Union armies under one commander: The Army of the Cumberland, The Army of the Tennessee and the Army of the Ohio. These forces working in cooperation had maneuvered Confederate forces under General Joseph E. Johnston out of strong defensive fortifications around Dalton and had dropped the Confederates into vulnerable positions that crossed several rivers and compelled Johnston to seek battle. The resulting operations and fights at New Hope Church, Dallas, Pickett’s Mill, Marietta, Kennesaw Mountain, Kolb’s Farm and Pace’s Ferry saw Johnston scrambling for defensive positions in front of Atlanta and avoiding probing questions from Richmond. Johnston’s inability or unwillingness to articulate his strategy for arresting this massive move resulted in his removal from command and set the stage for the fighting for Atlanta. Gary is a rapidly rising star who cut his teeth in the Shenandoah Valley but with biographies on John Logan and battle studies in the Atlanta campaign has established his street credentials–travelers really enjoy his style.

This is the second detailed program in the Atlanta Campaign series. Like the first, it is filled with dramatic combat action and is a great campaign to sink your intellect into. It is after all the campaign whose results will earn Lincoln his second term as president. The detailed itinerary and registration information are here: The Atlanta Campaign Part 2: From Cassville through the Hell Hole and up Kennesaw Mountain.

April 21-23, 2017. He Ain’t Fess Parker, Andrews’ Famous Great Locomotive Chase

A BGES Weekend Warrior Program

With Jim Ogden from Dalton, GA

Who among you has not seen the great Walt Disney classic films featuring Fess Parker that included The Great Locomotive Chase? Executed, decorated (with the first Medals of Honor) and buried in a prominent location in the Chattanooga National Cemetery are some of the “honored dead” of that risky and ultimately unsuccessful effort to steal a Confederate locomotive and disrupt the Western and Atlantic Railroad. For years this has been one of Jim Ogden’s favorite stories and now he is going to devote the weekend to telling you about it. Framed in our cost effective and friendly Weekend Warrior format its a great add on to the Atlanta program being conducted on April 17-21–easily accessed and compactly organized to permit you to arrive by the start at 6 PM on Friday and then conclude by 4 PM on Sunday. This is a multi-van program so we can follow the rails with Andrews and his pursuers. This is a fascinating program offered by the man most uniquely positioned and capable of telling the story. You will love this event! The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: He Ain’t Fess Parker, Andrews’ Famous Great Locomotive Chase.

May 5-7, 2017. Lee Triumphant, Lee Crippled: Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville

A BGES Weekend Warrior Program

With Rick Britton from Fredericksburg, VA

Robert E. Lee owned the Army of the Potomac. Since his dramatic successes in front of Richmond, the movement of the armies to the northern portion of Virginia and then the entry into Maryland and the capture of Harpers Ferry in exchange for a bloody day at Antietam, Lee held the northern political and military leadership’s fearing attention. He intimidated them. In 1864, US Grant addressed the aura Lee had by complaining to Meade’s staff that some of them thought Lee would execute a double flip and end up in their rear–and this 11 months after Gettysburg. In this weekend warrior offering, historian Rick Britton takes the BGES’ pilot seat for the first time since his successful audition at Charlottesville in October 2015. What could be better than lectures and a discussion about Lee’s successes on Friday night followed by a day of studying first the dramatic, but, unequal fight at Fredericksburg–a battle that greatly influenced his primary subordinate: James Longstreet. This was followed by Lee’s most dramatic victory, produced by a brilliant counter to General Hooker’s equally audacious opening gambit. Lee defeated and nearly destroyed the Union Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville without his primary subordinate who was still deployed on an independent command. During these two large battles, Lee destroyed the careers of both Ambrose Burnside and then Joseph Hooker; but, lost his loyal paladin, Stonewall Jackson. Great sites for a great story presented in our handy weekend format. Meet at 6 PM Friday and finish by 4 PM Sunday. The detailed itinerary is here: Lee Triumphant, Lee Crippled: Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

May 24-28, 2017. Ohio, Cradle of Victory

With Stephen Wise (of Toledo) from Cleveland, OH

Of course the Civil War was fought primarily in the South and border states; however, the northern states were integral to the eventual triumph of the Union. Many of the sites of profound interest are preserved–Grant, Sherman, Rosecrans, McPherson, Garfield, Hayes, Cox and so many others were all natives of the Buckeye State. While many believe the state is essential in modern political campaigns so too was Ohio critical as the anchor of the Midwest and really the measure of an expanding country–Lincoln from Illinois had been one president and Grant from Ohio would be another to be followed by fellow Ohioans Hayes, McKinley, Benjamin Harrison, and Garfield. Come see how the North and Ohio honored and commemorated the lives of the men who directed the destiny of America. Ohio, Cradle of Victory.

June 1-8, 2017. Roads West, The Santa Fe Trail

With Neil Mangum from Kansas City, MO

The popular historian Neil Mangum is BGES’ “Happy Wanderer.” In program after program he piles on mileage crisscrossing the great American landscape. Few trips are less than a 1000 miles–last year Route 66 was nearly 2,500. In 2017, he continues his string of western themed programs presenting the great frontier conflicts that shaped the developing nation. With so many settlers seeking fortune and a better life the late 18th century trail, which stretches some 900 miles, has had many uses and because it slashed through Comanche country, the army built fortifications along it. Indeed the trail was used as a route of invasion into Mexico during the Mexican War of the 1840s. Having served as the National Park Service’s Southwest Regional historian, Mangum has the intricate knowledge of the history, the route and the archeology of the road. The road trip that will end in Albuquerque (you can fly into Kansas City and out of Albuquerque) goes from nationally famous Kansas City BBQ and Strip Steaks near the National Trails Museum to the land of Green Chile Cheeseburgers a robust and unique New Mexican (not Tex-Mex) cuisine. Travelers with Neil join a loyal family who know the historian, his engaging and enjoyable style and who enjoy each other. New travelers in the cohort are easily assimilated. Many of these programs become eclectic and leave memories for a lifetime. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: Roads West, The Santa Fe Trail.

June 23-25, 2017. VMI in the Lower Valley 1862 and 1864

A BGES Weekend Warrior Program

With Keith Gibson and Troy Marshall from New Market, VA

Get the insider’s scoop from the Director of the VMI Museum system and his New Market Battlefield/Hall of Valor Director in a special access program designed for BGES. Meet in the VMI Hall of Valor Museum on Friday night for lectures by Marshall and Gibson on the 1862 and 1864 Valley Campaigns before a private after hours look at the artifacts of the Hall of Valor Museum. Enjoy light refreshments afterwards. Saturday tours will involve an extensive walk on the battlefield of New Market and then down to see General Hunter’s battle at Piedmont near Fishersville. On Sunday we will turn to Jackson’s 1862 Valley campaign and juxtapose the fights at Cross Keys and Port Republic. This is a full program packed in a short period of time at a great price. You can only get this kind of access from VMI guys proudly showing off some of their heritage (full disclosure–I am a VMI man: class of 1975). The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: VMI in the Lower Valley 1862 and 1864.

July 28-August 4, 2017. The Battle of the Atlantic 1940-1943

With Tim Milligan from Chicago, IL

We live in extraordinary times in which the United States became the world’s most powerful nation, an arsenal filled with free men and women who could out produce any nation on earth and whom became the foundation that saved civilization. In 1941, the United States was drawn into a second World War. Actually it was the continuation of the first one and it followed international disarmament, conferences to outlaw war and a League of Nations. Indeed the Europeans and the people of the Far East had been engaged for half of a decade before we were drawn in.

The forces of totalitarianism and fascism won early and often. Soon all that stood between a new world order and freedom was the island nation of the United Kingdom and the communist conglomerate of the U.S.S.R. British Prime Minister came to America with hat in hand asking for American aid and it came. Hitler understood that outside aid could defeat his efforts while Churchill knew that Hitler had to remain distracted by the USSR. The resulting “Battle of the Atlantic” would determine the outcome of the war. Without victory there the United States GI’s could never reach the continent of Europe and the United States airmen would never have a place to land their B-17s, B-24s and B-25s. Without victory there the UK and USSR would soon be exhausted. This program is that story.

Join National Archives historian, Tim Mulligan as we examine the essential and decisive battle to control the shipping lanes of the Atlantic. The battle to supply Great Britain and the USSR under Lend-Lease terms provided ships, airplane and provisions from the economically abundant United States in defiance of Nazi Germany’s strangle hold grip on the Western and Eastern European countries. Engineered by naval genius Karl Doernitz, German U-Boat and E-Boat pens along the occupied French coast and northern German ports plotted and for a long period controlled access into Europe. So aggressive was the campaign that German submarines patrolled off the east coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico sinking oil laden tankers within site of the very refineries where the ships had been loaded. Eventually escort vessels, “lighter than air” airships, aircraft and naval vessels all participated in convoys against the assembled “Wolfpacks.” The Allies had one great advantage–they had cracked the German Enigma code and use of the intelligence gained helped win the battle of the Atlantic. This tour visits the captured U-505 in Chicago before flying to Manchester, England where we will visit Battle of the Atlantic sites in Liverpool, in London, Bletchley Park, HMS Belfast and in Portsmouth before flying home.

Note: This program is offered in conjunction but separately from a cruise in the wake of the great armadas and convoys of WW II. Because of the overhead involved this program involves a minimum registration of 8 paying clients. This program will cost $3695 single or $3250 double occupancy which is inclusive of roundtrip airfare from Chicago to Manchester, England and London to Chicago; 6 nights superior lodging in England, rail fare from Liverpool to London Euston, transfers to hotels in England, transfers to Chicago Ohare and London Heathrow, all admissions, in country transportation, a farewell dinner at the Royal Air Force Club, London and the services of both a professional historian and tour leader.

August 4-12. The Battle of the Atlantic: In their Wake: The Northern Passage on the Queen Mary 2.

Britain mobilized for war and luxurious assets such as the great Cunard Liner, Queen Mary were stripped down and painted for troop and prisoner transport. Prime Minister Winston Churchill even traveled on board discretely as Commodore Spencer to meet with President Roosevelt. You can return home on the new Queen Mary 2 making the iconic crossing accompanied by Mr. Mulligan who will deliver on board lectures, movie commentary and point out important maritime locations as we sail past. A land package will allow us to tour Halifax, Nova Scotia where a new Battle of the Atlantic Museum and the HMS Sackville, a Canadian naval anti-submarine vessel are housed before landing in New York. Our fee is $1600 to $1800 per person–the balance of your cost is the cost of your stateroom. A limited number of single rooms are available. An optional pre-tour trip of related sites in and around London is available from August 1st. Single airfare is additional; however, Cunard can assist in getting reduced rates tied to your cruise. I would think this would need 8 couples to make it viable as a BGES program. A “go or no go” decision with a full refund will be made in mid-April. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: The Battle of the Atlantic: The Northern Passage.

August 18-20, 2017. Crossed Sabers in Virginia: The Battles of Brandy Station and Trevilian Station

A BGES Weekend Warrior Program

With Rick Britton from Fredericksburg, Virginia

Although much attention in Virginia is properly focused on infantry actions two particularly significant cavalry battles: Brandy Station in 1863 and Trevilian Station in 1864 had ramifications that showed the importance of the mounted arm to the larger land operations. Historian Rick Britton will deliver two lectures on Friday evening of this Weekend Warrior program before devoting a day to the largest cavalry action in the history of the North American continent–Brandy Station where JEB Stuart was surprised and Lee’s northern movement towards Gettysburg was nearly uncovered. The second day brings to the forefront a battle that denied General David Hunter mounted support for his Lynchburg/ Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Raid and opened the door for Jubal Early’s movement to Lynchburg and the subsequent 1864 Valley Campaign, at Trevilian Station. For Custer students, this was a second reckless engagement that could have resulted in the total destruction of his forces. Both battlefields are preservation success stories that will be discussed during an intense weekend program that will end by 4 PM on Sunday. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: Crossed Sabers in Virginia: The Battles of Brandy Station and Trevilian Station.

August 25-August 27, 2017. A Treacherous Affront: The Continental Army Claws For Survival

A BGES Weekend Warrior Program

From Oaks (near Valley Forge), PA

Join BGES for our Revolutionary War week. This year we will start with a Weekend Warrior program. Opening lectures on Friday night will discuss Washington’s maturation during the war and the British command confusion. On Saturday we will take you to Valley Forge to see the formation of the American army in the legendary encampment. In the afternoon, we will go to the Crossing of the Delaware and the battles of Trenton and Princeton. On Sunday, we will go to the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse and return to Philadelphia for a 3 hour independent walking tour of Independence Hall and the area surrounding the great debates. We will finish in time to permit you to freshen up at the hotel before we start our Revolutionary War Field University program with Gary Ecelbarger and Scott Patchan. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: A Treacherous Affront: The Continental Army Claws For Survival

August 27-September 1, 2017. American Fabius, George Washington and the Philadelphia Campaign

With Gary Ecelbarger from West Chester, Pennsylvania

BGES historians Gary Ecelbarger and Scott Patchan shows their increasingly versatile mastery of American history with this Revolutionary War foray into our most revered city–Philadelphia. Here in 1777, Lord Howe, British Commander in North America drove the Continental Congress from the city and occupied it instead of supporting General Burgoyne’s movement towards Albany, New York. The disaster at Saratoga pulled the French into the War on America’s side while Howe enjoyed a social winter following the battles with Washington at Brandywine, Paoli, Whitemarsh, Germantown and Forts Mercer and Mifflin. The detailed schedule and registration information is here: American Fabius, George Washington and the Philadelphia Campaign

September 8-10, 2017. Yankee Blitzkrieg, Wilson’s 1865 Alabama Raid

A BGES Weekend Warrior Program

With Norm Dasinger from Birmingham, AL

The growth of Federal power in an increasingly bloody war reached its climax with the fielding of Army Groups by the Union Commanding General, US Grant. It was a logical progression that this prowess would also extend to the mounted arm and in early 1865, Grant protégé James H. Wilson fielded a mounted force of over 13,000 men heavily armed and capable of severe fighting. In his way were the remnants of the fierce fighter Nathan Bedford Forrest. Our opening lectures on Friday night will set the stage for a fast paced visit through the Civil War and Civil Rights history of Alabama–they are intertwined and should not be overlooked especially in Selma and Montgomery. This program has perhaps more bang for the buck than any other this year. Many of these are American sites that really should be visited and understood. You will know the names and the deeds and by the end of the weekend you will have stood literally in their shadows. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: Yankee Blitzkrieg, Wilson’s 1865 Alabama Raid.

September 22-24, 2017. The Maryland Campaign Part 1: Sealed With Their Lives: Defending South Mountain

With Tom Clemens and Scott Hartwig from Frederick, MD

BGES is pleased to commence a three year study of this pivotal and, many would argue, decisive campaign of the war in Maryland. With Clemens’ editing of the papers of Ezra Carmen that featured the recollections of the men who fought in the campaign and Hartwig’s monumental and painstaking chronicle of the antecedents and battle at South Mountain and Crampton’s Gap, you will learn the evolution of the campaign–Lee’s options and McClellan’s mandate. We will discuss in detail the ramifications of Special Orders #191, its loss, discovery and the use of the South Mountain chain as a screen for Lee’s operations and plans. Both historian’s works are magisterial as is their knowledge of the campaign–with the passing of Joseph Harsh, no one knows the campaign better. This is the treat of the week. Start on Friday evening at 6 with two lectures and then spend Saturday and Sunday in the field visiting all the sites that can be accessed, you will want to register for Part 2 before Part 1 is finished. Don’t miss this one. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: The Maryland Campaign Part 1: Sealed With Their Lives: Defending South Mountain.

September 29-October 6, 2017. The 1872-1873 Modoc Indian Wars

With Neil Mangum from Portland, OR

When we started the Indian Wars series, with Neil, little did we know what wonderful treasures would be revealed and the appreciation we would have for the settlement and expansion of the United States. It is not a pretty history at times and places and yet it is American and an important passage to identify who we are. Although the wars are brief, the sites of the United States army and the Modoc tribes are at once picturesque and haunting–sadly the scripts are all too familiar–the white man unknowing Indian ways and fearing those that are different pursuing a punitive and arguably phony agenda to remove the Indians from the lands of many generations In many ways the sites in this study are reminiscent of the Apache Indian Wars sites we have previously visited: remote and raw. Ironically, one of the key events of the Modoc war is the murder of General ERS Canby who accepted one of the last Confederate surrenders at Citronelle, Alabama in 1865. Stops will include Fort Vancouver, Cascade battlefield, Coos Bay, Port Orford, Chelco River battlefield, Lost River Battlefield, Sorass Lake Battlefield and several key museums. This tour was done by History America Tours to rave reviews a few years ago–it is an itinerary that needs to be offered to BGES. An expanded and detailed itinerary and registration information is here: The 1872-1873 Modoc Indian Wars

October 17-21, 2017. The General’s Terrain Study: Iuka, Corinth and Davis Bridge

With Parker Hills from Pickwick Landing State Park

The 1862 Maryland and Kentucky Campaigns have overshadowed one of US Grant’s defining periods and his historical relationship with one of the unappreciated enigmas of the war, William Starke Rosecrans. Here in one 3 week period Confederate fortunes turned in Mississippi, a controversial new Major General was launched into a dark destiny and Grant jettisoned men whose performance disappointed him–telling us more about Grant than perhaps the people who were dispatched. Many people do not know the campaign and its components–a Federal supply base at Iuka, the exchange of control, the decisive ground outside of town and the approach, egress and terrain that led to a proffered excuse of an acoustic shadow. At Corinth, we see interlocking defensive works adapted by the occupying Federal forces and commanding ground that produced the second largest battle in Mississippi during the war. In the engagement and at Davis Bridge, we see the desperate withdrawal of a wounded Confederate force only to see them escape when Grant called off the pursuit. The political machinations involving both Rosecrans and Earl Van Dorn make this one of the important campaigns of 1862 and fully worthy of the study and pearls of education we will share with you. A great program rarely offered and then only by the BGES. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: The General’s Terrain Study: Iuka, Corinth and Davis Bridge.

November 2-5, 2017. Hood’s 1864 Tennessee Campaign in four parts, Part 1, The Prelude

With Keith Bohannon and Lee White from Rome, GA

Jefferson Davis believed the war could be won in 1864. Decisive and aggressive offensives into Tennessee and Kentucky could reverse the losses of 1863 and redeem the disaster at Missionary Ridge. The President discussed his expectations in detail and confidence with a recovering major general who knew the turf. John Bell Hood was but 32; however as a legitimate war hero he was to be elevated to the rank of Lieutenant General and given command of one of Joe Johnston’s corps. Johnston and Davis had a history and the president was soon disappointed with the general’s failure to take the offensive and when Johnston had been pushed back to the gates of Atlanta he was replaced by the aggressive Hood. Hood lost Atlanta, as it appeared he had to, but from Palmetto, Georgia he reorganized his battered army and with the concurrence of the president, whom he met with in September, engaged in operations that would force Sherman to fight for his supply line and possibly give up all he had gained in the spring and summer to defend Tennessee. This program with two superb historians will take Hood’s army from Palmetto along the Western and Atlantic Railroad to the banks of the Tennessee River in a dramatic month of maneuver that definitely caught Sherman’s attention. This program will end with Hood awaiting supplies as he prepares to enter Tennessee. This is a real jewel of a program, and a great 4 year series, for westerners or people who want to understand the great west and its impact on the war. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: Hood’s 1864 Tennessee Campaign in four parts, Part 1, The Prelude.

December 1-3, 2017. Charleston, Heart and Soul of the Rebellion

A BGES Weekend Warrior Program

With Richard Hatcher and Kyle Sinisi from Charleston, SC

This program concludes the season and is one of our favorite destinations. The program which officially starts with a dinner cruise on Charleston Harbor will have a real bang up lead in with a 2 PM meeting at the Citadel with Kyle and a 90 minute tour on John’s Island of the unknown and never visited Battle at Bloody Bridge/Burden’s Causeway. This July 6-9, 1864 fight prevented Union troops from crossing to James Island in a coordinated assault to take Charleston. The ground is largely pristine. Following the dinner cruise, Saturday will commence with a walking tour of historic Charleston followed by a tour of critical sites like Fort Johnson and Secessionville on James Island. Sunday will be a tour de force with visits to Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie and the Lash Conservation Lab to see the Hunley. The program closes with a visit to the sacred grounds of Magnolia Cemetery. Here are buried heroes and scions of South Carolina Society. Charleston is one of our favorite cities and this tour will help make it one of yours as well. A great wrap to a great season. The detailed itinerary and registration information is here: Charleston, Heart and Soul of the Rebellion.