The Great Invasion, Prelude to Gettysburg Itinerary

A 2019 BGES Field University Program

April 10-13, 2019

In September 1862, Robert E. Lee’s plans to enter Pennsylvania were derailed by the battle at Antietam. Knowing the toll the contending armies would extract from operations in Virginia, Lee planned to open the 1863 campaigning season in Pennsylvania. But fate has a way of blazing its own path, and a series of events delayed Lee’s plans until June 1863. Once he secured permission from the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, however, events proceeded rapidly and culminated in the great battles at Gettysburg.

This program follows Lee and his activities once he moves into Pennsylvania. Rarely done, this is an essential element of any Gettysburg Campaign experience. Not coincidentally, BGES is offering a series of related programs that will permit you to experience and examine the events bearing on the campaign, culminating with a professional and cutting-edge analysis of the battles themselves. See BGES programs in March in Vicksburg, Mississippi, May in Culpeper, Virginia, and June in Frederick, Maryland.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

6:00 PM. Meet at the headquarters hotel to pick up your reading books and nametags, and to meet your fellow students. At 6:30 PM, Bert will deliver a talk on Lee’s Invasion Goals and the Pennsylvanians’ preparations for that invasion. We will break in time for you to have dinner on your own.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

8:30 AM. We are off early today, en route to the Mason-Dixon Line and Lee’s entry into Pennsylvania. We will visit Greencastle, site of a skirmish where the first Union soldier, Private Riehl, was killed. We will move on to McConnellsburg, site of another skirmish and where Confederates killed were buried. While here, we will also visit Waynesboro, where a post battle engagement took place with the retreating Confederates. We will then visit Mercersburg, where another skirmish occurred and which served briefly as J.E.B. Stuart’s headquarters during the withdrawal. The day finishes with skirmishes that took place at Chambersburg and Shippensburg–a day filled with unique and rarely considered sites. Lunch is included.

Friday, April 12, 2019

8:30 AM. We are out again at 8:30 and headed to Hanover where JEB Stuart’s cavalry was heavily engaged while trying to rejoin with Lee’s main body. We will spend a considerable amount of time walking the streets where the fighting took place. We will then move in Jubal Early’s footsteps through York to Wrightsville. Like Moses’ trip in the bible, Early stood on the edge but was unable to cross the river (the promised land). Our chats today will focus in on the various movements made by Lee’s subordinates and the decisions forced on him by circumstances. We will spend some time examining the role played by the militia in Pennsylvania and how it would affect the impressions that created in Lee’s subordinates’ minds. Lunch is included.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

8:30 AM. On our final day, we head for Harrisburg. The loss of Confederate state capitals had a significant impact on Confederate nationalism and morale. Might not the capture of the Keystone State’s capital created the same emotional surge? Of course the bend of the mountains that screened Lee’s movements delivered his troops under Richard Ewell to the very banks of the river. We will look at the fortifications erected to protect this political power center. We also will look at the extended vulnerability that Lee’s divided force faced. Other important engagement sites along the route today include Carlisle, Oyster Point, Peace Church, and Fort Couch. As our day winds down, we will find ourselves at Marsh Creek and Herr Ridge–the battle is joined. Lunch is included.

This is an infrequently examined theme, and yet it is precisely why the three days of Gettysburg come together. Walk these grounds, and the Great Invasion has a really different meaning.

About the Faculty

Bert Dunkerly is a highly regarded historian with the National Park Service. He has extensive grounding in the Civil War and history in his native Pennsylvania. Currently a historian at Richmond National Military Park, he has also served at Appomattox, Moore’s Creek, King’s Mountain, and Morristown. Bert is highly published and is the author of the pending National Geographic book, The American Revolution: A Traveler’s Guide. Bert served as a member of the BGES Board of Directors between 2015 and 2017.

Hotel Information

This program will be based in Gettysburg. The headquarters hotel will be announced on this site. You can expect the hotel to be approximately $110 inclusive of tax.


The servicing airport is Baltimore/Washington (BWI). Southwest Airlines serves the region. Other usable airports include Harrisburg (MDT) and Washington Dulles (IAD). All will require a rental car to reach Gettysburg. The town of Gettysburg can be easily reached by car using U.S. Highway 15 or Interstate 81.

Recommended Reading

You will be provided with a reading book and maps upon arrival. We recommend the following books to enhance your preparation for this tour. has a program to support non-profits IF YOU SIGN UP to support Blue and Gray Education Society (EIN 54-1720582) at AmazonSmile. When you sign up there rather than the normal Amazon site, one-half of one percent of your purchase price will be provided to BGES as a donation from Amazon. This will apply not only on this purchase but others you may make at other times.

Edwin C. Bearss and J. Parker Hills: Receding Tide, Vicksburg and Gettysburg, The Campaigns that Changed the Civil War
Jacob Hoke: The Great Invasion of 1863
Scott Mingus: Flames Beyond Gettysburg, The Confederate Expedition to the Susquehanna River June 1863
Wilber Nye: Here Come the Rebels

Register for this program using a secure PayPal link

Registration Type

To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: The Great Invasion, Prelude to Gettysburg