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Sun, Aug 15


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HISTORYtalks: Military Staff Rides: Using Civil War Battlefields as Open-Air Classrooms for Officer Ed by Carol Reardon

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HISTORYtalks: Military Staff Rides: Using Civil War Battlefields as Open-Air Classrooms for Officer Ed by Carol Reardon
HISTORYtalks: Military Staff Rides: Using Civil War Battlefields as Open-Air Classrooms for Officer Ed by Carol Reardon

Time & Location

Aug 15, 2021, 7:00 PM EDT

Online Event


About the Event

Please join us for a Chambersburg Civil War Seminars & Tours Lecture Series! Our next lecture will be: Military Staff Rides: Using Civil War Battlefields as Open-Air Classrooms for Officer Education. Cost is $5 per person. Zoom Login details will be sent with your email registration confirmation.

Talk Synopsis:

Have you ever seen a group of soldiers, perhaps in uniform, on a Civil War battlefield huddled around a map, pointing enthusiastically at key terrain, or debating--loudly--the merits or flaws of famous generals ?  If so, you witnessed a military staff ride.

A staff ride is a professional military education exercise with a long and fascinating history. The U.S. Army first employed the practice around the turn of the twentieth century, when West Point cadets and officers attending the Army's more senior military schools made their way around Civil War battlefields on horseback.  They made frequent stops to examine the application of various elements of the military art on the very ground where real leaders made hard decisions in high-risk situations which threatened the fate of the Republic.  Before World War I, Army War College students even planned to write an official history of the Civil War based on their onsite analyses. After World War I, the popularity of the staff ride faded for several decades, but it  returned after Vietnam to reclaim an important place in officer education that still thrives today. Join me to learn more about what today's military professionals learn on yesterday's battlefields!


Dr. Carol Reardon is the George Winfree Professor Emerita of American History in the College of Liberal Arts at Penn State University, specializing in military history. In addition to her tenure at Penn State, Dr. Reardon served as Visiting Professor of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1999-2000 and twice held the General Harold K. Jonson Professorship at the United States Army War College in 1993-1994 and in 2011-2012. She currently serves as adjunct professor of history at Gettysburg College.

As a military historian, Dr. Reardon specializes in the study of the American Civil War and the Vietnam conflict. She takes a wide-ranging approach to her discipline, equally comfortable with traditional battle and campaign analyses, leadership studies, and the integration of social, political, cultural and economic forces that shape the way we understand war and armed conflict. She has led military staff rides at Gettysburg and other regional Civil War battlefields for active duty, reserve, and National Guard units from all the US armed forces and several international groups for over twenty-five years.

Dr. Reardon’s most notable Civil War publications include the prize-winning Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory, With a Sword in One Hand and Jomini in the other: The Problem of Military Thought in the Civil War North, and Soldiers and Scholars: The U.S. Army and the Uses of Military History, 1865-1920. Her most significant work on the Vietnam War is Launch the Intruders, centering on an A-6 squadron’s 1972 combat cruise. Inspired by her long experience with staff rides, she authored—with Tom Vossler (Colonel, US Army, Retired)--A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield Through History, Places, and People, as well as A Field Guide to Antietam: Experiencing the Battlefield Though History, Places, and People. Reardon and Vossler also co-authored The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863 for the U.S. Army Center of Military History’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Pamphlet series.

Dr. Reardon’s significant public and professional service profile includes much senior leadership experience. She was the first woman to be elected—and then re-elected—to the presidency of the Society for Military History, the premier professional association for this field of study. She served on the Board of Visitors of the Marine Corps University from 1997 through 2011, chairing the board in 1998-1999. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Gettysburg Foundation and chairs its Education Committee.

Dr. Reardon has received many awards and accolades for her academic work and public service.  She served as the 2015-2016 Penn State University Laureate, an honor bestowed upon one faculty member each year to promote the arts and humanities throughout the Commonwealth and all the Penn State campuses. She also received the Department of the Navy Superior Public Service Award and, twice, the Department of the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award. The Society for Military History presented her with its Victor Gondos Service Award in 2009. In 2018, she received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Allegheny College, her undergraduate alma mater.

Dr. Reardon received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Kentucky in 1987, her MA in History from the University of South Carolina in 1980, and her BS in biology from Allegheny College in 1974.


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