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Virginia 400: Virginia on the Half Shell

November 1-11, 2018

A BGES Americana Field University Program

Photo courtesy of

It was England’s premier colony named after the virgin queen Elizabeth I—Virginia. It brought England wealth and innovation, joy and heartbreak, and when she made common cause with other colonies she became the home of a new nation. Four of America’s first five presidents were from the Old Dominion, and the trend continued into the 19th and 20th centuries. When America engaged in a great Civil War, she became the epicenter of fighting with a former president now firmly aligned with the fate of Virginia and her confederacy. Over the years, she continued to innovate and lead—electing the first African-American as governor. She was integral to America’s space exploration, and continues to host some of the nation’s most important and strategic military installations. Virginia is truly a central and luminescent diamond in America’s crown.

Since the beginning, Virginia has developed its own heritage identity. There are so many places to see that fundamental Americana is often overlooked. No more—join us as we hit a wide variety of oft-overlooked sites in Virginia’s heritage. They are sites so important that anywhere else they would be central to any tourist trail; but in Virginia, they are just another item on the bucket list. This is our Virginia—a personal insider’s look at the state we know and love. Come and join us. We will open your eyes.


Neil Mangum is one of the nation’s foremost historians and is an expert on frontier life. However, Neil is a Virginian who grew up in the shadow of the Petersburg National Battlefield, which was one of his very first assignments in the NPS. He still has deep ties. A retired National Park Service official, Neil served as Superintendent at the Little Big Horn National Battlefield as it transitioned from Custer National Battlefield. The popular Mangum only allows himself four or five tours a year, and BGES is fortunate to enjoy his favor. He enjoys the clientele and the small, folksy nature of the group that is usually well prepared. Neil is the author of The Battle of the Rosebud: Prelude to the Little Big Horn. He has a following, and most people on this trip will have traveled with him before, which makes this event even nicer.

Len Riedel is the Executive Director of the Virginia-based non-profit, Blue and Gray Education Society. He is a transplanted Virginian who was raised in Norfolk, went to school at both VMI and Old Dominion University, and who wrote his master’s thesis on the Defense of the Virginia Peninsula. He has lived 42 of his 64 years in Virginia. He has walked the backwoods of the state and is a worthy companion to Neil in this backstage look at Virginia in its fifth century of settlement. Riedel is the editor of the National Geographic’s best-selling guide The Civil War, A Traveler’s Guide.

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