A Historian’s Reflections on the First Day at Gettysburg

A 2020 BGES Weekend Warrior Program

Presented by Scott Hartwig

April 30 – May 2, 2021, from Gettysburg, PA

Confederate troops assault the barn at McPherson Ridge
From the book “Battles and Leaders of the Civil War”, 1887.

Robert E. Lee had entered Pennsylvania in an effort to make the North feel the war and in response to the Federals’ efforts to open the Mississippi River at Vicksburg. The three days fighting has perhaps more ink dedicated to it than the rest of the war put together. The battle has a scholarly magazine devoted to it, and any historian of note as well as many of little note have written their Gettysburg tome. Few have had the luxury of living the battle day after day for years and years–meet one such man.

David Scott Hartwig was the senior historian for Gettysburg National Military Park and the National Park Service, serving there for 34 years. Recently his scholarship was put on display by Johns Hopkins University Press with the publication of his book To Antietam Creek, The Maryland Campaign of 1862. This excellent monograph is being followed by a second book on the battle of Antietam. This work is undisputed evidence of the analytic capacity of the author. Federal regulations restricted government officials from profiting by their jobs, so Hartwig did not write on the battle where he worked. Still, in his position he was immersed in the battle and its resources both on the field and in the park archives. As a retiree he is released from those restrictions, and now you can walk the grounds with him and gain from his years of insight. It is a field experience that would be hard to duplicate with any other historian. We are honored he has agreed to do this for you.



Friday, April 30, 2021

6:00 PM. Check in at our headquarters hotel for our meet and greet and to pick up your map handout. Scott’s opening lecture will address why he is most interested in the first day at Gettysburg. A spirited Q&A will follow before breaking so you can go get some dinner on your own.

Saturday, May 1, 2021 and Sunday, May 2, 2021

When BGES Executive Director Len Riedel spoke with Scott about heading a program, he wanted to plumb his decades of experience as the park’s primary historian. But instead of asking Scott to parse out his proposal into stops and themes, he asked him to provide a description, in his own words, about the tour. As such, Scott provided the following, addressing the core of his work as park historian and what most draws his attention.

We will provide you with lunch each day, cold water, and snacks. We will start both days at 8:15 AM and end about 5ish. You can depart on Sunday after 5 PM.

Scott in his own words:

“In the popular memory of the battle of Gettysburg, the parts of the battle that receive the greatest attention and are often perceived as the scenes of the fiercest fighting, are those associated with July 2 and 3: Pickett’s Charge, Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard, and the Wheatfield. Yet, the two regiments that suffered the highest loses for their respective armies in the battle, the 24th Michigan and the 26th North Carolina, both fought on July 1. The same is true for the two brigades that sustained the highest losses: Solomon Meredith’s Iron Brigade and James Pettigrew’s North Carolina brigade. Every regiment of the Union 1st Corps suffered 50% casualties or higher. For the numbers engaged, July 1 was the bloodiest day of fighting at Gettysburg. But the importance of July 1 is more than the quantity of blood spilled.

In my 34 years working at Gettysburg National Military Park, I developed a special interest in July 1 because I came to understand the decisions made that day and how the fighting resulting from those decisions profoundly shaped the rest of the battle.

Our tour will explore those decisions and follow in the footsteps of the fighting men, to Herbst Woods, the Railroad Cut, McPherson’s farm, Seminary Ridge, Oak Ridge, Barlow’s Knoll, and other points. What happened that day was indelibly burned in the memory of Tom Setser of the 26th North Carolina. He was not much for spelling, but the trauma he experienced still echoes loudly through his words:’You may talk of this big fite and that big fite but tha hante bin (no) such fiting as was dun over thair for the first days fite. I could all but walk over the field on the dead and wounded. I never hav seen the like before.'”

Clearly, this is an on-the-ground program with perhaps one of the best qualified instructors we have ever had. He is engaging, and this is an area of special interest to him. You will be lucky to be on the ground with him–it will be a really unique experience.

About the Faculty

Scott Hartwig is a highly respected historian who recently retired from his position as lead historian for the National Park Service at Gettysburg NMP. In his years at the park he has overseen interpretation and had years of interaction with the grounds and artifacts in the park’s substantial collection. He also is the noted historian of the wonderful and exceptionally readable scholarly study of the 1862 Maryland Campaign. His book To Antietam Creek, The Maryland Campaign of 1862 is part 1 of a two-book series that is bound to become the standard source for the pivotal 1862 campaign. He lives where he worked, in Gettysburg. This is his home turf.

Hotel Information

This program will be based in Gettysburg. The hotel is the Hilton Garden Inn (1061 York Rd., Gettysburg, PA 17325). We have a block of rooms set at the group rate of $145 plus tax. Reservations against the block named “Blue and Gray Education September Group” must be made by calling 717-334-2040. Cheaper hotels may be had in Hanover, Emmitsburg, and Chambersburg.


The servicing airport is Baltimore Washington International (BWI), more than an hour east of Gettysburg. Harrisburg (MDT) may also be a suitable place to fly into. The program also is easily accessible by automobile.

Recommended Reading

You will be provided with maps upon arrival. The following books are suggested to enhance your readiness for the program. Amazon.com 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. BGES is selling the two Bearss books.

Register for this program using a secure PayPal link

Registration Type

To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: A Historian’s Reflections on the First Day at Gettysburg

Questions? Need more information? Please contact us.