The Civil War era—and all of American history, for that matter—has had its fair share of colorful characters. For BGES member Bryan Hagen, this undeniable fact is one of the things that makes the study of our nation’s past so fascinating. And it’s even more fun for him when he gets to be “in character.” On several occasions, Hagen has played notorious historic figures in immersive experiences, including Dr. Thomas Walker and Thomas Mann Randolph. “Maybe it reminds me a little bit of the actor I wanted to be,” he says with a chuckle.
There’s no acting when it comes to Hagen’s support of BGES. He has taken tours at sites up and down the East Coast and throughout the South. He tries to go on at least one a year, and is looking forward to learning more about the Virginia Campaign of 1781 at the end of November.
BGES Blog: You grew up in Minnesota, and lived a good part of your life there. Now you live in Virginia. What brought you to the East Coast?
BH: History and family. Virginia attracted me because it’s full of American history. My wife and I also wanted to be close to our grandkids. Weather was a factor, too.
I started taking trips to Virginia in my thirties, and toured a lot of Civil War sites. From there, I started learning more about the Revolutionary War. This area has so much to offer, particularly where we are in Richmond.
BGES Blog: What are your favorite spots in Virginia?
BH: I’ve spent a lot of time at Monticello, Montpelier, and Tuckahoe. I love Tuckahoe Plantation, in particular. Jefferson lived there as a kid. It was part of the Dahlgren Raid in March of 1864. It’s full of history. I’ve led a lot of tours there. Tuckahoe keeps my head full of so many stories and quotes.
BGES Blog: Didn’t you do a lot of work with the Wounded Warrior Project at Monticello and Montpelier?
BH: Yes. I participated in tours for Wounded Warriors at both sites. Those soldiers are amazing. On one tour, I tore up my knee in three places after a fall. These Wounded Warriors surrounded me in seconds. One guy offered me his wheelchair. They lifted him out, put me in it, and then they brought us all back.
I really enjoyed those tours and those guys. My heart goes out to them. We always had a good time. They were interested in all kinds of military history. We had a lot of really good discussions.
BGES Blog: Have you always been a student of history?
BH: Every summer, my parents took me on vacations. Often, we drove all the way to Florida. I remember stopping in Springfield, Illinois, on one of our first trips. I learned about Lincoln and I was hooked.
I’ve always been struck by the tragedy the Civil War. I’m just as interested in the people of the Civil War. And I love working in historic homes. It’s really quite fun.