Escorting Classics Majors at Gettysburg

by Scott Manning on January 14, 2013

On January 5, I had the privilege of playing tour guide for five Classics majors from Temple University. This was my largest group so far and the most rambunctious.

Ma’am, please get off the cannon!

The Eternal Light

On the way there, I was able to discuss the antebellum period with three of them, but the others showed up without my two-hour spiel on the causes of the war. Then from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM, we went through stop after stop in chronological order, as we saw the unfolding of the battle on a spot that neither Lee nor Meade envisioned.

I named the tour “The Western Way of Warfare at Gettysburg,” catering the tour to them. Throughout, I provided quotes from Homer, Herodotus, and Thucydides, describing scenes similar to the ones we discussed at Gettysburg. The goal was to bring some familiarity to the battlefield while demonstrating how the experiences of soldiers, separated by more than several thousand years can be eerily similar.

Over the course of the tour, I found that the unique personalities drew them, as John L. Burns and Winfield Scott Hancock became memorable figures they asked about throughout the tour. We had to circle back around so they could pose with Burns before we moved into the town.

Ma’am, please release Mr. Burns!

John Burns

Of course, Chamberlain was a big hit with his educational, multilingual background, and his serious appreciation for the Classics. I typically de-emphasize Chamberlain’s role at Gettysburg, but telling the story as popular history remembers it and then explaining how that history became popular provided some interesting fodder for discussion. Michael Shaara did seek out American heroes after being teased by his Italian relatives for America’s lack of history and heroes like Caesar. The result was The Killer Angels.1

Here we are on top of Little Round Top. Yes, that woman on the left has a cigar and a flask!

Little Round Top

Heading down Little Round Top. I cannot remember the last time I drove to the top.

Heading down Little Round Top

At the beginning of Pickett’s Charge.

Picket's Charge 2

Pickett's Charge 3

PIckett's Charge

The weather was magnificent, making it bearable with just a jacket. While the snow and ice on the ground made it slippery, they also made the battlefield gorgeous.

High Water Mark 2

However, when that sun set on the way to the High Water Mark, the temperature became a little too cold and we wrapped it up quickly.

High Water Mark


  1. Thomas A. Desjardin, These Honored Dead: How The Story Of Gettysburg Shaped American Memory (New York: Da Capo Press, 2003), 144. []

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