Stonewall Jackson’s First Year of the Civil War

A BGES Civil War Field University Program

With Gary Ecelbarger

October 23–27, 2024; from Winchester, VA

By the end of the War’s twelfth month, one of America’s most iconic generals had already fought his third battle and was embarking upon his fourth campaign. He had added two stars upon his epaulets, expanded the size of his command from four regiments to three brigades, and obtained a world-famous nom de guerre. His name was Thomas Jonathan Jackson––but we all know him as “Stonewall.”

In a first-ever tour package, BGES will spend four days in glorious autumn conditions retracing the footsteps of Stonewall Jackson. We launch from Winchester to visit and study Jackson and the campaigns in which he participated: from his sojourn as a colonel commanding a brigade during the spring of 1861 to the major general commanding a military district through the first days of spring in 1862. This includes the household names of the Civil War: Harpers Ferry, Manassas/Bull Run, and the Shenandoah Valley. Between and within these famous locales are the lesser known but no less interesting sites, including Falling Waters and Dam #5, Bath and Hancock, Blues Gap and Bloomery Gap, as well as Piedmont Station and Paris (No, not THAT one!).

Our guide for this enticing program is Gary Ecelbarger, our quarter century veteran of BGES tours who specializes in campaigns involving Stonewall Jackson and is uniquely experienced from his previous George Washington series at balancing battle/campaign tours with a focus on the architect of those military endeavors. Whether you are a novice to this subject or a well-read aficionado, this program promises to fulfill your expectations in the field, while surrounded by the peak colors that autumn has to offer for these locales.


Wednesday, October 23, 2024

Meet and Greet in Winchester at the hotel at 6:00 P.M., where you will receive detailed handouts of maps and primary source material, and be given an orientation program by Gary who will go over a chronology of the first weeks of the Civil War as well as provide an overview of what we will be experiencing together for the following four days in the field.

Dinner is on your own.

Thursday, October 24, 2024

We head to Harpers Ferry to study the region and activities when Jackson rose from colonel to brigadier general, all the while commanding five Virginia regiments yet to be identified with their famous sobriquet. Included in our first morning together is the fascinating prelude to the War––John Brown’s 1859 execution site. We then take a short jaunt to historic Harpers Ferry (Spring 1861) with a focus on the first “invasion” of the North by Jackson on Maryland Heights and a visit to the Railroad Bridge to discuss how Jackson crippled Union supply lines for the next nine months of the War. Our afternoon includes a rare visit to the battle of Hoke’s Run/Falling Waters (July 2, 1861). We wrap up the day at Dam 5 to relive and analyze Jackson’s first expedition as the commander of the Valley District in December 1861.

Lunch is included but dinner is on your own.

Friday, October 25, 2024

The theme of this day is the Emergence of “Stonewall.” We start from Winchester and follow the original road beds that the Virginia column negotiated upon through Ashby’s Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains through the town of Paris to Piedmont Station (Delaplane) where the Virginians crammed into boxcars and rode the rickety rails to Manassas Junction (the actual spot). From there we visit the Wilmer McLean House site. After lunch we head to the first great land battle of the war from the perspective of Jackson and his men, following their route from Portici to Henry Hill, where we will not only relive the gripping action of July 21, 1861, but also discuss whether the everlasting sobriquet of Stonewall was christened upon the commander and his brigade out of awe or derision. Our tour day ends with a brief visit to the earthworks of Centreville, where Jackson was stationed in the fall of 1861 before promoted to major general and assigned to the Shenandoah Valley.

Lunch is included but dinner is on your own.

Saturday, October 26, 2024

Our theme this day is the Winter Campaign, beginning January 1, 1862, and the first phase of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. We ride the route of 10,000 Confederates from Winchester to Gainesboro to Unger’s Store to Berkeley Springs (Battle at Bath on January 4), then the Bombardment of Hancock Maryland January 5 & 6, then return to Unger’s Crossroads, then see the action at Blue’s Gap (January 7), then advance to Romney January 12-13, and action at Bloomery Gap on Valentines Day. Our day will be completed with a tour of Jackson’s Winchester HQ with a discussion about his temporary resignation.

Lunch is included but dinner is on your own.

Sunday, October 27, 2024

Our final day of touring includes a morning of rarely visited activities. This includes General McClellan’s lift-lock disaster of February 27; Winchester in early March 1862, Fort Collier, Star Fort, Main Fort, and West Fort. We will use the backdrop of Jackson HQ and sleeping quarters (two different houses) to relive Jackson’s March 11 Council of War. From there, we will go through the evacuation of Winchester. After lunch, we end our day with an afternoon focus on Jackson’s first battle as an independent commander. We will uniquely cover the battle of Kernstown from Jackson’s known locales and perspectives. This includes Bartonsville, Opequon Church, and Sandy Ridge.

Lunch is included but dinner is on your own.

About the Faculty

Gary Ecelbarger is an award-winning author of nine books relating to 18th and 19th-century personalities and events, as well as more than three dozen monographs, essays, and articles of Revolutionary War and Civil War-era topics. As a historian, symposium speaker, and tour guide for the past 26 years, he has led his audiences through complex campaigns and prides himself on crafting well-researched, thought-provoking programs that maintain an intriguing, chronological flow and feature off-the-beaten-path historical sites.

Hotel Information

This program will be headquartered at the Fairfield Winchester, 250 Front Royal Pike, Winchester, VA, 540-665-8881, Oct 23-27, 2024. $119 plus 9% tax.

Click here for a link to the hotel but call them direct and mention Blue and Gray Education to get the BGES rate.


The servicing airports are Charlottesville (CHO), Washington, DC Dulles Airport (IAD) or Reagan Airport (DCA), but Dulles is closer. Then, access to Winchester may be obtained via I-66 to I-81.

Recommended Reading

You will receive maps that will meet your onsite requirements. The following books are suggested to enhance your readiness for the program.


This program includes the services of your historian, a tour director, 4 lunches, maps, appropriate transportation for the registration, and light refreshments and snacks.

Register for this program using a secure PayPal link

Registration Type

To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: Stonewall Jackson’s First Year of the Civil War

Questions? Need more information? Please contact us.