Washington’s Winter Surprise: The Battle of Trenton in Depth – April 28, 2011

Thursday, April 28 (8:00am-5:00pm)
Leaving from the Dolce Hotel, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Led by Bill Welsch and Bruce Venter
Registration Fee: $145.00 

Less than an hour from Valley Forge was the scene of George Washington’s stunning victory over the British army’s garrison of feared Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey. It was here that a ragged, sleet-soaked Continental army crossed the ice-packed Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 to attack unprepared German hirelings under Colonel Johann Rall. Washington’s complete victory at Trenton is considered by some historians to be a more significant turning point in the Revolutionary War than even Saratoga. Washington’s steadfast determination to lead his troops to victory stabilized sagging Patriot morale at a time when the American cause was at its nadir.

This full-day tour will cover the battle of Trenton in-depth. Our first stop will be the Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey. The Visitors Center houses the famous Swan Historical Foundation Collection of nearly 900 Revolutionary War era items, including muskets, side arms, swords, clothing, maps, etc. We have invited Mr. Harry Kels Swan, who frequently visits his collection, to be at the Visitors Center for our tour. Our next stop will be the Johnson Ferry House and the site where Washington’s troops actually crossed the river and marched up a road bed that is still visible today. We will also cross the river (by bridge, not boat) to see Pennsylvania’s display of Durham boats. Our tour will include a sit-down lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch we will visit the Trenton Battle Monument and tour the Old Barracks in downtown Trenton. The Old Barracks, built by the British during the French and Indian War, where Rall housed some of his Hessians, has been fully restored and includes a gallery of Colonial and Revolutionary War artifacts and militaria. Then we’re off to Five Mile Run where British Major General Charles Lord Cornwallis launched his counterattack against Washington on January 2, 1777. Next we will visit the Assunpink Creek site that was important to both battles of Trenton. We’ll see the Douglas House where Washington met with his generals during the Trenton actions. We’ll finish the day at the site marking the start of the Continentals’ march to Princeton and complete the story of these two famous battles.

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Blackbeard and the Pirates of the Chesapeake – June 1-4, 2011

Wednesday, June 1 (7:30 PM) thru Saturday, June 4 (5 PM)
Headquartered in Chesapeake, VA and Beaufort, NC
Led by John V. Quarstei
Registration Fee: $619.00 (double occupancy) – $645.00 (single occupancy)

Unquestionably, Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard” was one of the most notorious pirates who ever sailed the Seven Seas. Myriad legends surround the Blackbeard mystique, but the real story of this 18th century scoundrel is even more riveting. Teach and others roamed the Atlantic coast during the “Golden Age of Piracy” from 1680 to 1720. Our Blackbeard and the Pirates of the Chesapeake tour will explore the adventures of Teach and many of his other bloodthirsty comrades in crime.

Our first day will take us from the Hampton Roads area to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The ride along the Outer Banks will provide a great venue for our historian, John Quarstein to regale us with salty pirate yarns as well fill us in on the area’s little known Civil War history. He’ll also develop the background of colonial piracy from its inception near Jamestown, Virginia to the Anglo-Dutch Naval Wars of the mid-17th century and then to the 18th century swashbuckling activities of Blackbeard and his partner in crime, Major Stede Bonnet. We’ll cross on a ferry to Ocracoke Island where we’ll have lunch. While on the island we’ll visit Teach’s Hole’s, Blackbeard’s favorite anchorage where his pirates hid awaiting their water-borne prey. It was off Teach’s Hole that British Lt. Robert Maynard attacked and defeated the infamous pirate, bringing Blackbeard’s head back to Hampton. We’ll also visit Springer’s Point, also known as “Blackbeard’s Plantation” and reputed to be the pirate’s favorite haunt. [Read more…]

Fredericksburg: A Comprehensive Walking Tour – June 22-25, 2011

Wednesday, June 22 (7:30 PM) thru Saturday, June 25 (5 PM)
Headquartered in Fredericksburg, VA
Led by Frank O’Reilly
Registration Fee: $425.00 

Pushed by President Abraham Lincoln to win a decisive victory for the Union, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside attempted to cross the Rappahannock River in December 1862 to please his commander-in-chief. Burnside successfully forced a crossing, but the result was a major Federal debacle at Fredericksburg. Our comprehensive tour of the Fredericksburg campaign will be conducted by the nationally recognized expert on the battle, Frank O’Reilly.

We will stop at all the major sites associated with the battle and some places that perhaps you have not seen. We’ll get to understand this campaign as a far more complex operation than just a frontal assault by Blue-coated infantrymen on the entrenched positions of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia which stretched eight miles along ridges west of Fredericksburg. Our tour will include a stop at Chatham, a magnificent plantation home used by Union Maj. Gen. Edwin “Bull” Sumner as his headquarters and later as a field hospital. We’ll walk thru part of the old town where Confederate Brig. Gen. William Barksdale’s sharpshooters held off Union troops for twelve hours as they attempted to pontoon the river. Of course, we’ll follow the heroic charge of the Irish Brigade on the stone-lined Sunken Road below Marye’s Heights which was held by units under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. [Read more…]

Leatherstocking Tales – July 6-9, 2011

Wednesday, July 6 (7:30 PM) thru Saturday, July 9 (5 PM)
Headquartered in Albany, NY
Led by Wayne Franklin and Bruce Venter

We all remember the novels of James Fenimore Cooper from our youth either through movie versions, the “Classic” comic books series or by actually reading them in English class.

Cooper was a popular and successful writer in his own time in part because he described many actual historical places in his books. These sites were readily identified by early 19th century readers because they had learned about these same places in school. Cooper was able to vividly describe these historical sites because he had actually visited them himself. Whether it was sitting on a porch in Westchester County, sailing upon the crystal blue waters of Lake George or tramping through the woods near his boyhood home in Cooperstown, he was able to translate what he observed into stirring tales of early America.

Our tour will explore the real historic and geographic sites portrayed in several Cooper novels. It will give us a better understanding of the author’s insight into America’s frontier legacy. Explaining how the actual places and events were reflected in the New Yorker’s fiction is one of our goals. While we will concentrate on three popular novels, The Spy, The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer, there will be plenty of references to places associated with lesser known works like Satanstoe and The Pioneers.

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Pontiac’s Rebellion – August 24-27, 2011

Wednesday, August 24 (7:30 PM) thru Saturday, August 27 (9 PM)
Headquartered in Cranberry Township, PA
Led by Douglas Cubbison, Walter Powell, and Bruce Venter
Registration Fee: $775.00 (double occupancy) – $795.00 (single occupancy) 

An often overlooked event of the colonial period is Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763. Faced with English settlers streaming across the Appalachian Mountains following the French and Indian War, various tribes, loosely led by the Ottawa Chief Pontiac, rose up to save their native lands. Bloodshed was rampant on the Ohio and Pennsylvania frontiers as British outposts fell like dominos. Likewise, Great Britain’s coffers were drained as the cost of troops, sent to quell the rebellion, added to an already staggering national debt from the last war with France. One of Britain’s solutions, the Proclamation of 1763 was a vain attempt to keep colonists east of the mountains; it failed and quickly became one of several causes of the American Revolution. Our historians will discuss the entire scope of Pontiac’s Rebellion, including incidents and battles we will not see on this tour.

On our first day we will visit the reconstructed Fort Ligonier. The original fort was built in 1758 by Maj. Gen James Forbes during his campaign to capture Fort Duquesne (later renamed Fort Pitt.) Fort Ligonier was the jump off site for Col. Henry Bouquet’s expedition to relieve Fort Pitt during Pontiac’s Rebellion. The reconstructed site is an extraordinary example of 18th century fortifications. Its museum displays a set of pistols owned by Lafayette and given to George Washington. Our lead historian, Doug Cubbison, a former artillery officer will provide an in-depth explanation of the fort’s magnificent reproduction of a British artillery train. After lunch at a historic restaurant in Ligonier, we will visit the Bushy Run Battlefield for an extensive walking tour of Bouquet’s Highlanders’ great victory over some 400 Delaware, Mingo, Shawnee and Huron tribesmen. The 200+ acre battlefield sits pristinely against a rural landscape. [Read more…]

“The Regulars are Coming…” – September 14-17, 2011

Boston, Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill
Wednesday, September 14 (7:30 PM) thru Saturday, September 17 (5 PM)
Headquartered in Billerica, MA
Led by William Welsch and Bruce Venter
Registration Fee: $425.00 

The Regulars are ComingListen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

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Shiloh: A Comprehensive Walking Tour – October 5-8, 2011

Wednesday, October 5 (7:30 PM) thru Saturday, October 8 (5 PM)
Headquartered in Corinth, MS
Led by A. Wilson “Will” Greene
Registration Fee: $475.00 

This tour is dedicated to the Memory of David C. Hinze who loved the Shiloh Battlefield

Like so many engagements in the Civil War, the Battle of Shiloh revolved around a railroad junction. The new city of Corinth, Mississippi sprang up at the point where the Mobile & Ohio Railroad crossed the Memphis & Charleston line. Control of that vital crossroads would be determined in the spring of 1862 by the most sanguinary combat the North American continent had ever witnessed to that point and the jarringly contrasting semi-siege that followed. Four months later, two different armies would clash again around Corinth in a dramatic and bloody contest for control of what the locals call, The Crossroads.

Our tour of the Shiloh Battlefield and the two major military actions at Corinth will take a detailed “boots on the ground” look at one of America’s most pristine military landscapes. The Shiloh National Military Park preserves the vast majority of the battlefield that pitted Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Don Carlos Buell against Albert Sidney Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard and an upstart cavalry officer named Nathan Bedford Forrest. Unlike so many other battlefields fought over nineteenth-century road corridors that have now become interstate highways, Shiloh’s pedigree along the Tennessee River in rural west Tennessee has allowed the area to remain much as it was 149 years ago. We will get out on the battlefield and walk as the soldiers did over the ground they hallowed on April 6 and 7, 1862.

Our itinerary will include retracing the Confederate approach routes to the battlefield, a visit to Union headquarters at Savannah, Tennessee, and a detailed walking tour of the key spots at Shiloh including infamous places such as The Hornet’s Nest, the Bloody Pond, and the Peach Orchard.

We will also spend a day in and around historic Corinth, including a visit to the outstanding Corinth Interpretive Center, operated by the National Park Service. Our route will take us to well-preserved fortifications prepared during May 1862 when Henry W. Halleck methodically compelled Beauregard to abandon Corinth, most of which are hidden away in the woods north of town. We’ll also visit key locales associated with the October 1862 Battle of Corinth, which witnessed some of the most proportionately horrific casualty rates of any Civil War battle in the Western Theater. We’ll also take a peek at some of Corinth’s surviving antebellum homes and sample the unique 21st century attributes of this charming little city.

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The Bristoe Campaign – October 13-15, 2011

Thursday, October 13 (7:30 PM) thru Saturday, October 15 (5 PM)
Headquartered in Manassas, VA
Led by J. Michael Miller, Horace Mewborn and Bruce Venter
Registration Fee: $375.00 

Sandwiched between the climactic battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 and the blood-letting of the Overland campaign the following spring, the Bristoe Campaign has been largely overlooked by historians and Civil War enthusiasts alike.

America’s History will remedy this lapse of attention to the Bristoe Campaign by offering two full days exploring the cavalry and infantry maneuvering and fighting between General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac. As Lee sought to take advantage of his opponent and the Federal commander attempted to avoid any operational mistakes, there was a great deal of action in this unheralded operation along the Orange and Alexandria R. R. In the end, the two celebrated armies came to combat near an oft-misspelled railroad depot. The Confederate infantry’s valorous, but failed attack resulted in one of Lee’s most famous admonishments during the war. “Well, well, general, bury these poor men and let us say no more about it,” the Confederate army commander remarked to Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill after his corps commander’s disastrous attack against a well-entrenched Union II Corps under Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren. How and why Hill’s attack failed will be a keynote of this tour.

After a meet-and-greet orientation on Thursday evening, our Bristoe tour will start at Jack’s Shop, an overlooked cavalry battle southeast of Madison Court House. The flamboyant Confederate cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart was nearly annihilated by Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. John Buford and the always colorful Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick. Recent unpublished research by one of our historian/tour leaders, Horace Mewborn will correct previous interpretations of this fight, including the official Civil War Trails marker. Next it’s on to see Liberty Mills Ford, Stuart’s escape route. Then we will follow the start of the Bristoe campaign as we cross the Robinson River near Russell’s Ford and stop at Bethsaida Church to discuss the action there. From here we’ll go to the often missed site of the battle at James City. You’ll also be able to see Thoroughfare Mountain, a Union signal station that is cited in many official reports. We’ll follow Stuart’s route through Griffensburg, having lunch in historic Culpeper, and then ride to the site of the second battle at Brandy Station on October 10, 1863. Before ending our first day, we’ll stop for the actions at Jeffersonton and Fauquier Sulfur Springs and then back thru historic Warrenton which also played a part in the Bristoe campaign.

On Day Two we’ll drive to Auburn, the site of the battle of Coffee Hill and get a glimpse of Neavel’s Mill (private property.) After Auburn, we’ll make a brief dismount at Stuart’s Bivouac, and then it’s on to the recently saved battlefield of Bristoe Station. Our historian/tour leader, Mike Miller was instrumental in preserving parts of this battlefield and his knowledge of the battlefield is incomparable. We will spend the remainder of the morning walking the field of Hill’s attack, getting a detailed, unit-by-unit lesson on what happened on this site. After lunch, we will walk Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s attack across Kettle Run at Bristoe (private property.) for another detailed study of this action. We will complete our day with a stop at Buckland, an infamous cavalry battle subsequent to Bristoe Station where Stuart and Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee turned the tables on Kilpatrick and his subordinate Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer in the so-called “Buckland Races.” With our third historian/tour leader, Bruce Venter’s interest in Yankee cavalry, this stop will surely spark a lively discussion. Before returning to our hotel, we’ll pass Chestnut Ridge, a terrain feature that factored heavily into Stuart’s plan for attacking Kilpatrick’s cavalry. This geographic feature is presently under development, so this may be your last chance to see the terrain before it is obliterated by Mc-mansions.

Registration Fee: $375.00

What’s included: motor coach transportation, two lunches, beverage and snack breaks, a map and materials package, all admissions and gratuities, and the services of three experienced tour guides/historians. Our headquarters hotel will provide a complimentary breakfast buffet each morning. Tour participants are responsible for transportation to the headquarters hotel, and securing a room reservation, if necessary. Dinner is on your own. Tour goes out rain or shine. Please see our policy page for information about cancellations.

Hotel: We have arranged with the headquarters hotel for a group rate of $79.00 per night plus tax. Please call the Marriott Courtyard Manassas, 10701 Battleview Parkway, Manassas, VA 20109 at 800-321-2211 and ask to reserve your room at the America’s History group rate. This rate will be guaranteed up to 30 days prior to the tour, so please make your reservations early.

About our Tour Guides/Historians:

J. Michael Miller is director of the Archives and Special Collections at the Library of the Marine Corps, Quantico, VA. He is the author of several books and articles on the Civil War and United States Marine Corps, including a 2009 article on the two battles at Bristoe Station for Blue & Gray magazine. He is an experienced tour leader and leads staff rides for the Marine Corps.

Horace Mewborn is an experienced tour leader, lecturer and co-authored the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry Mosby’s Command (1993), edited From Mosby’s Command: Newspaper Letters & Articles by and about John S. Mosby and his Rangers (2005), and has written several feature issues for Blue & Gray magazine including “Stuart’s Ride around McClellan.” He is currently writing a history of the North Carolina cavalry brigade and a regimental history of White’s 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry.

Bruce M. Venter, CEO of America’s History is an experienced tour leader and lecturer whose special interest is Union cavalry. His articles have appeared in Blue & Gray, Civil War and the Washington Times. He is currently completing a book-length study of the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid on Richmond.

The Gamecock vs The Swamp Fox – October 26-29, 2011

Wednesday, October 26 (7:30 PM) thru Saturday, October 29 (5 PM)
Headquartered in Columbia, SC
Led by Joshua Howard, David Reuwer and Bruce Venter

In 2009 our former tour company, Stars & Stripes Events offered its first Revolutionary War tour in South Carolina entitled The Swamp Fox: Francis Marion, Revolutionary War Hero of South Carolina. It was our most popular tour. This year we’re returning to the Palmetto State to explore the military career of another fearless South Carolinian, Thomas Sumter. Popularly known as the “Fighting Gamecock,” Sumter sometimes knocked heads with Francis Marion by his unconventional style. However, he also prompted his British adversary, Lt. Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis to write to Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, claiming Sumter “certainly has been our greatest plague in this country.” While Marion was made a popular hero by Walt Disney’s “Swamp Fox” TV series of the 1950’s, Sumter’s contribution to the War for Independence has remained in the shadows, except perhaps for South Carolinians. Our “Gamecock” tour seeks to remedy this perception.

Our first day will start with a visit to Williamson’s Plantation or Huck’s Defeat where contingents from General Sumter’s command defeated troops under Captain Christian Huck of Tarleton’s Legion. Then it’s on to Hanging Rock where Sumter successfully attacked Loyalists under Maj. John Carden, despite the fact that Sumter lost control of his men when they stumbled into a store of British liquor. A future U.S. president, Andrew Jackson served as a 13-year old courier for the Patriots. Next we’ll stop at Fishdam Ford where British Maj. James Weymss sought to trap the “Gamecock,” but his plans fell apart when the Redcoat commander suffered debilitating wound. The Rebels were again successful but Sumter barely missed being captured in the attack. We plan to end the day at Blackstock’s Plantation, a pristine battlefield where Tarleton switched from chasing the Swamp Fox to pursuing the Gamecock. Sumter turned the tables on “Bloody Ban” but was wounded in the fight. We’ll descend into the wooded ravine where Tarleton initiated his attack and trace the fight uphill to the site of Blackstock’s outbuildings where the British were stopped.

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