I am nearing the end of a five-day stay at Gettysburg. I've been busy attending sessions of the Civil War Institute, an annual seminar on the war, at Gettysburg College. Today I'll lead a tour of Col. Edward E. Cross and his brigade on the south end of the battlefield.
In addition to the lectures and discussions, I've made time each day to explore some aspect of the battlefield. I've been here 20 or 30 times before, but for all the reading and listening I've done, it is the battlefield itself that remains the best teacher and informer.
Just one example: In Our War I wrote a chapter on three New Hampshire men who fought on July 2. I had been in the spots where each of them fought -- the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, the Klingel Farm -- many times before. But this time I have twice I walked the road from the Peach Orchard to the Wheatfield and learned new things about how their actions intertwined on that day and how landmarks on the battlefield related to each other geographically.
I keep a journal and have been writing accounts of my battlefield walks throughout the Civil War Institute conference. Over the next few days I'll share some of my observations along with photos my wife Monique and I have taken. I'll also share some of the views of speakers here who have studied the battle far more closely than I have.