Claimed by the Civil War
College President Bradley Gottfried guides reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg
Bradley Gottfried first stepped onto the Gettysburg battlefield about the time of its 1963 centennial. His 13-year-old self “had a strong interest in the war,” Gottfried says. “But I couldn’t visualize what happened there.”
He spent much of the next half century trying to picture that history.
Gottfried grew up to be a scholar, but not of the Civil War. Instead he studied zoology, earning a Ph.D. A turn into college administration brought him to the College of Southern Maryland, where he’s been president since 2006.
The Civil War reclaimed him accidentally.
Returning to Philadelphia educated, he decided to “open some of those boxes of books that I had been carting around for years. It was almost like the air in Pennsylvania reignited my interest in the Civil War.”
He first wrote histories, but that old curiosity to see into the past sent him down a road less traveled. He’s since become a preeminent cartographer of Civil War battles.
“I’ve never been in war,” Gottfried says. “But when I read the stories, letters and diaries, I am there reliving battles through the eyes of these young men. I am translating what I’ve learned, what I’ve seen, what I’ve heard onto these pages. For me, it’s a way that I honor these individuals.”
Gottfried’s first project illustrated the Battle of Gettysburg in 150 maps. Each map page faces a description of what happened there, so that readers can follow the battle phase by phase.
This week, Gottfried’s insight takes form in three dimensions. For the 150th Commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg, reenactors replicate troop movements, armory placement and battle scenarios highlighted in Gottfried’s The Maps of Gettysburg: The Gettysburg Campaign, June 3–July 13, 1863.
At reenactment planning meetings, the commanders for the North and the South use Gottfried’s book as their guide.
“There are lots of books on Gettysburg, more than any other battle or campaign,” Gottfried said. “But you have to wade through them to understand the battle. I have people tell me that they have been studying Gettysburg for 30 years. After reading my book, they finally get it because of the visual representations.”
Commemoration ceremonies: www.nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/150th-anniversary-events-2013.htm.
Battle Reenactment, June 27-30: www.bluegraygettysburg.com/