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A War Correspondent at Gettysburg: A Reporter's Mission, a Father's Search

All-Day Tour

Full Day Tour

Saturday, September 14, 2019 - 8:45 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1ND037
Departs from the Holiday Inn Capitol at
550 C St SW (corner of 6th & C Sts)
Fringe: I-270, Exit 26 Urbana Carpool lot
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Sam Wilkeson, ca. 1859, by Mathew Brady (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, 19-year-old Bayard Wilkeson—the Union’s youngest artillery lieutenant—fell while spurring his men to action. His father, Sam, a noted New York Times war correspondent, was already on his way to Gettysburg, and on arrival learned that his son had been wounded in the battle’s opening hours and was left on the field when his 11th Corps was overrun.
Sam Wilkeson spent three days searching for Bayard as he reported on the conflict, ultimately learning of his death at the county poorhouse. Sitting at the grave of his son, he wrote what many feel was one of the most descriptive and emotionally powerful battlefield dispatches written in that, or any war—one whose language presaged some in Lincoln’s eloquent address a few months later.

Join author Chuck Raasch, whose book Imperfect Union covers Sam Wilkeson’s soul-searing time on the field and its personal and professional aftermath, on the sites at Gettysburg National Military Park against which the stories of father and son unfolded.

As he explores Wilkeson’s conflict between devotion to Bayard and the duty to report the events he witnessed, Raasch also traces the beginnings of the modern war correspondent’s role. He examines how these 19th-century journalistic daredevils, fighters, and chroniclers of horrific action and heroic acts invented a profession under fire.

The tour also includes the Gettysburg Museum and Visitors Center, a screening of the film New Birth of Freedom, and a viewing of the historic Gettysburg Cyclorama, a fully restored version of the epic 19th century-painting, 377 feet in circumference. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Fringe stop at about 9:40 a.m.