BGES 2020 Program Schedule

The Blue and Gray Education Society is proud to announce its 27th season of Field University programs. Registration forms will begin posting in September and will continue until all are completed toward the later part of the year. Scroll down this page to see our entire list. Your response now will ensure you are on the list to receive the information as soon as it is ready for posting.

BGES conducts its flagship “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—usually between 8 and 20 people—BGES provides a stimulating and invigoratingly personal experience available from no other organizations offering Civil War tours.

Spotsylvania, VA / Photo courtesy of Chuck Lee

As a nonprofit, 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.


BGES trips offer a range of amenities that vary by the type of tour and the accessibility of resources. Field maps are often designed and used, reading books are usually featured, and suggested reading lists help interested persons prepare for the study to follow. Included meals are listed for each program. Lodging is usually not included unless the tour includes overnight stays away from the headquarters hotel.

Browse our list of upcoming tours on this page. Follow the links for detailed descriptions, itineraries and registration information.

“Any Victory Not Bathed in Blood”: The Tullahoma Campaign | June 17-20, 2020

William Rosecrans and Braxton Bragg. Photo montage by Hal Jespersen.

While Robert E. Lee and U. S. Grant were making headlines at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, another army commander was moving in a decisive manner that promised to wrestle Tennessee and its critical railroad through Chattanooga from the grasp of the reeling Confederacy. The Tullahoma Campaign, originated by William Starke Rosecrans, would maneuver the Confederate Army of Tennessee from that central state and push the war into Georgia. Brilliant in conception, it was overshadowed by the bloodier events east and west of it, causing Rosecrans to complain that it was being overlooked because it wasn’t Bathed in Blood. Sadly for Rosecrans, the campaign ran upon the rocks around the pivotal city of Chattanooga. With Jim Ogden, from Murfreesboro.

Jim Ogden is one of the region’s most respected historians. Long revered for his detailed preparation and flawless narrative, he has long studied but rarely been able to do Tullahoma. You won’t want to miss this one.

Tour Details and Registration Information.

Sheridan Recovers the Valley, Fall 1864 | July 7-11, 2020

Sheridan’s army following Early up the Valley of the Shenandoah

With Robert E. Lee’s army besieged in Petersburg, Gen. Jubal Early became his single maneuver element. During the summer of 1864, Early disrupted the stability of the Lincoln administration with hard-hitting and deep raids into Maryland and Pennsylvania. The success of Early compelled General Grant to dispatch Gen. Phil Sheridan to command Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley.

Sheridan engaged in warfare to deny the resources of the Valley to Lee’s army and had success in keeping Early contained with the exception of a surprise attack at Cedar Creek. Even there, however, his dramatic leadership turned the tide of that battle, and subsequent operations again marginalized Early’s effectiveness.

This program will study how Sheridan did this and will cover major battles such as Third Winchester, Cedar Creek, and Fisher’s Hill, among others. With Scott Patchan and Gary Ecelbarger, from Winchester, Virginia.

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Civil War 101: The Gettysburg Campaign | July 17-19, 2020

The Battle of Gettysburg. P.F. Rothermel 1870. Courtesy Library of Congress.

This survey program presents the essential events of the three days fighting at Gettysburg. Perfectly suitable for people who do not require deep detail but who want to have a comprehensive understanding of what happened at Gettysburg in July 1863 and why it mattered. Approximately sixteen hours of sites, events, and personalities that will have you wanting to read and do more at another time. With Len Riedel, from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Tour Details and Registration Information.

Grant Moves South: A Star Ascends in the West | July 27-August 1, 2020

Battle of Belmont, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, opposite Columbus, Kentucky. Fought November, 1861. originally published in Frank Leslie’s Pictorial History of the American Civil War. Courtesy Library of Congress.

General Grant is the man who won the Civil War, yet he had a hard time establishing his credentials. This road trip follows Grant in his early Civil War exploits, from his nearly disastrous start at Belmont, Missouri; through Kentucky, Forts Henry and Donelson; his shelving, resurrection, and near ruin at Shiloh; through the siege of Corinth, Iuka, the battle of Corinth, and Davis Bridge. This fast-paced but insightful program helps you understand how Grant was positioned to tackle the greater challenges that would arise at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and, ultimately, in Virginia as General in Chief. A lotta bang for your bucks! With Tim Smith, from Memphis, Tennessee.

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On Sacred Grounds: The Indian Wars on the Northern Plains | August 13-18, 2020

Originally scheduled for June 8-13, 2020

Lakota Sioux chiefs. Red Cloud is seated, second from left. c. 1899

The Sioux Indian Wars are the most visible of the Native American conflicts. While most people visit the major site at the Little Big Horn, there are many important events that Custer’s misfortune overshadow. This tour features the War on the Northern Plains from 1866 to 1877, and it will include Fort Phil Kearny and seven other battlefields, including Dull Knife and Fetterman, plus three-hour stops at the Battle of the Rosebud and Little Big Horn. A great summary of this historic region. With Neil Mangum, from. Sheridan, Wyoming

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Fire and Retribution, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln | August 26-29, 2020

The successful execution of the plot to kidnap that evolved to assassination plunged the nation into a deep period of anger and a desire for harsh retribution. Justice was broad reaching and swift. Join us as historians Gloria Swift and Paul Severance guide us through those torturous days and the intricacies of the plots and actions from Ford’s Theater through the pursuit of John Wilkes Booth and the trial, imprisonment, and execution of the conspirators. A fascinating story with great artifacts. Suitable for every person with an interest in American history. With Paul Severance and Gloria Swift, from Alexandria, Virginia.

If you are interested in this program, please contact us.

Unlimber the Guns: Key Role of Artillery Leadership from Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville | September 11-13, 2020

Hazel Grove
Hazel Grove, where Hooker retreated at Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006. Courtesy Library of Congress.

No instrument of war has a larger footprint or a more significant impact on the success of an infantry assault than the presence, use, or effectiveness of artillery. The “Long Arm” widened the engagement zone and promised instant and massive death and damage to the opposing force–effectively used assaults could be broken before they started and attacks on the verge of imminent success could be thrown back in blood, death, and confusion. Join us in studying the deployment, use, and effectiveness of artillery at Fredericksburg, Kelly’s Ford, and Chancellorsville. With Greg Mertz, from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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A Historian’s Reflections on the First Day at Gettysburg | September 18-21, 2020

Originally scheduled for May 1-3, 2020

Confederate troops assault the barn at McPherson Ridge”, 1887.

While Gettysburg is perhaps the most storied of any Civil War battle, and while hundreds of historians have written about the battle, there’s one Gettysburg expert who stands head and shoulders above the rest–and he’s your guide for this tour. Scott Hartwig served as Supervisory Historian for the Gettysburg National Military Park for twenty years. During his career, he won the NPS’s Freeman Tilden Award for excellence in interpretation, and he was the KEY Player in the new visitor center interpretative experience. On this tour, Scott shares his unique insights into July 1, the day that the great combat was joined. You can take any tour of Gettysburg, but it isn’t often you will get a chance to take it with Scott. With Scott Hartwig, from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

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Not Welcome Here: Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne Invades New York | September 22-26, 2020

Crown Point, NY. 2006. Courtesy Wikipedia.

If Gettysburg is the turning point of the Civil War, Saratoga is the same in the Revolutionary War. Facing a complicated and dangerous British invasion from Canada, the American forces fought and defeated the component parts of Gen. John Burgoyne’s mixed British and Native American forces.

Our tour will examine Burgoyne’s plans and then probe each expedition individually. We then arrive at Saratoga and the two significant actions that resulted in the surrender of the British army and the subsequent alliance of the French with the Americans. This is the decisive campaign of the American Revolution, and you should understand it. With Scott Patchan and Gary Ecelbarger, from Albany, New York.

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All’s Fair in War, Streight’s Raid & Forrest’s Bluff | October 2-4, 2020

Col. Abel D. Streight, 51st Ind. Inf. USA.

There is no disputing that Nathan Bedford Forrest is one of the most important figures in the Civil War. Long reviled for his brief association with the KKK after the war and his career as a slave trader, no event is more controversial than his alleged massacre of black soldiers at Fort Pillow. All that aside, he was a daring and usually successful cavalry officer whose ferocity on a battlefield earned him the nickname “That Devil, Forrest.”

This program through northern Alabama tracks the pursuit, interdiction, and capture of Union Gen. Abel Streight’s Union force as it trekked on mules from Eastport Mississippi toward Georgia. Controversy surrounds the purpose of the raid. Was it a poorly conceived attack against southern resources or a cleaver distraction from Grant’s master plan to take Vicksburg? With Brian Steel Wills and Norm Dasinger, from Gadsden, Alabama.

Wills is the director of Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center and Forrest’s biographer. Dasinger is an Alabama and southern historian.

Tour Details and Registration Information.

Revolutionary War 101: The Shot Heard Around the World, Boston, Lexington, and Concord | October 9-11, 2020

Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775. Courtesy New York Public Library

The American Revolution burst into full reality in April 1775 with the fighting at Lexington and Concord. In the wake of the Boston Tea Party, the British government closed the maritime port of Boston and the area around it. The ramifications were extraordinary and, with martial law in effect in the area, the movement of British soldiers on punitive expeditions enflamed a region that was fertile for rebellion. A wonderful “on the ground” introduction to the causes and events that brought on America’s revolution. With Len Riedel, from Lexington, Massachusetts.

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My Old Kentucky Home: Bourbon, Battles, and Baseball | October 16-24, 2020

The World’s Largest Baseball Bat stands outside the entrance to the Louisville Slugger Museum. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.
Nineteenth-century America showed Kentucky as the heartland of a growing society–indeed, both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were born there. Kentucky’s rich heritage offers an insightful look at a people divided in beliefs and loyalties but with a rich spirit of sport and adventure. This week-long trip loops through that Americana and history with a dramatic contrast ranging from the Underground Railroad to Colonel Sanders, Citation, George Patton, and Muhammed Ali. Foodies will not be disappointed, and Civil War buffs will not complain. An excellent outing filled with stories that are well summarized in Stephen Foster’s immortal song “My Old Kentucky Home.” Not to be missed. With Neil Mangum, from Newport, Kentucky.

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Stonewall Jackson’s Greatest Victory | October 18, 2020

Harpers Ferry Virginia 1865. Courtesy National Archives.
Dennis Frye was born, raised, and lived in and around Harpers Ferry, Antietam, and South Mountain. For more than fifty years, through a noteworthy career with the National Park Service at Harpers Ferry and as a founding member and president of the Association for the Preservation on Civil War Sites (APCWS), Dennis evangelized about saving battlefield land. Now retired, Dennis focuses on writing and talking about the Civil War as he has lived it.

In this Day of History, Dennis will focus on the military experiences of Stonewall Jackson primarily in and around the 1862 Maryland Campaign–spend a morning on Schoolhouse Ridge overlooking Harpers Ferry and then the afternoon with Stonewall in and around the North, East, and West Woods on the Antietam battlefield. A lot of insight into one of America’s most intriguing Civil War figures. With Dennis Frye, from Frederick, Maryland.

Tour Details and Registration Information.

The Overland Campaign Part 1: The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Yellow Tavern | October 26-31

Originally scheduled for May 10-15, 2020

Higgerson House
Higgerson House. Courtesy of National Park Service.

For the past twenty-five years, Grant’s Overland Campaign—the decisive Eastern campaign—has been defined and interpreted by one man. Gordon Rhea stands above every other historian who has written on this dominating event. An award-winning author, Rhea has walked the entire campaign in extraordinary detail and has composed five award-winning books that detail the dramatic events of six weeks that riveted the nation. This two-part series starts with the first two weeks of the campaign covering the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. Expect compelling insights, rich narrative, and private access to sites that defined the actions, and the military and political ramifications of this decisive confrontation. With Gordon Rhea, from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Tour Details and Registration Information.

The Battles of Dalton–Chapter 1 of the 1864 Georgia Campaign | Nov 4-6, 2020

Originally scheduled for April 25-26, 2020

Dug Gap
Battle of Dug Gap
Drawn May 8, 1864. Alfred R. Waud. Courtesy Library of Congress

The surrender of Atlanta is widely regarded as the event that sealed the reelection of Abraham Lincoln and ensured the ultimate victory for the Union. Composed of an intricate and interesting series of military operations and human errors, the campaign from the shadows of Chattanooga to Atlanta is best examined a bit at a time.

Historian Bob Jenkins lives the campaign and has written several seminal volumes on parts of it. Join us for the first of eight tours that will extend through 2023, which set the stage by discussing the positioning of the Confederate and Union armies and opening operations around Mill Creek Gap, Crow Valley, Dug Gap, Rocky Face Ridge, and Potato Hill. A robust two-day trip that gives this series a solid start. With Bob Jenkins, from Dalton, Georigia.

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The Battles Around Resaca – Chapter 2 of the 1864 Georgia Campaign | November 6-8, 2020

Originally scheduled for November 13-15, 2020

Battle of Resaca
Kurz & Allison, Art Publishers, 1889. Courtesy Library of Congress

Join us on the second weekend installment of Jenkins’s eight-part weekend series on the Atlanta Campaign. In this installment, General Sherman maneuvers his huge army group to slip behind Johnston’s citadel near Dalton to attack the Western and Atlantic Railroad behind the Confederate army at Resaca. The plan goes awry when the Army of Tennessee Commander, General MacPherson, fails to capitalize on his advantage. With Bob Jenkins., from Dalton, Georgia.

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Unvexed to the Sea, the Mississippi River is Reopened | November 18-21, 2020

The Battle of Baton Rouge, La. Aug. 4th 1862. Currier & Ives, 1862. Courtesy Library of Congress.
BGES completes its four-year series on the Vicksburg Campaign by showing the southern component of the campaign. Here we will start with the August 1862 battle of Baton Rouge and progress to the operations against Port Hudson. Anticlimactic with the surrender of Vicksburg, this rarely done and easily overlooked component of the campaign to control the Mississippi River was real enough for the people who fought here. With Parker Hills from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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Death of an Army: The Battle of Nashville and the Long Retreat to the Tennessee River | December 4-6, 2020

Gen. John Bell Hood’s grand invasion had ground to a halt in front of Nashville. Bled by missed opportunities and a devastating assault at Franklin nearly two weeks earlier, sorties near Murfreesboro had not brought any promise of success, and now Hood’s army waited on the hills south of the Union occupied Tennessee capital city. General Grant was impatient for the final act and dispatched a relief commander to replace General Thomas. He need not have bothered. In two days of bloody fighting, the Confederate offensive was over, and the last major Rebel army in the West was rebuffed. An instructive and interesting study of one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War. With Lee White, from Franklin, Tennessee.

If you are interested in this program, please contact us.

A Walking Tour of the Battle of Fredericksburg | December 10-12, 2020

Ambrose Burnside was the new army commander, and he had been hired because his predecessor was not aggressive enough. After stealing a march on Robert E. Lee, he found himself positioned in front of Fredericksburg. If he crossed the river rapidly, he would be positioned between Lee and the Confederate capital of Richmond. What followed was mismanagement on a gross level, resulting in one of the American military’s most tragic episodes. Come learn what the plans were, where they went awry, and what the long- and short-term consequences were. An insightful study with one of the nation’s best leadership teachers. With Paul Severance, from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

If you are interested in this program, please contact us.

Refund and Cancellations

BGES is an educational organization. All registrations are open-ended and may be refunded if circumstances require the client to cancel. The general policy is a 100% refund for cancellations made before the event. Penalties are not usually assessed unless nonrefundable vendor costs are incurred. All refunds are determined and approved by the Executive Director of the BGES.