Save the Date, September 25 - For the Return of the Lincoln Group's Annual Picnic/Tour

By Craig Howell

Washington D.C.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Tour will focus on the end of the Gettysburg Campaign@Williamsport, MD.


The Lincoln Group will resume our tradition of an annual picnic and tour on Saturday, September 25, starting at 10 a.m. in the scenic and historic Devils Backbone County Park on the banks of Antietam Creek near Boonsboro, MD. The picnic/tour also marks our return to in-person events.


This year's tour will focus on the final days of the Gettysburg Campaign as they played out near Williamsport, MD, where Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was seemingly trapped and unable to cross a rain-swollen Potomac River for several days. President Lincoln and many of his closest advisors were convinced that one last push by George Meade's Army of the Potomac would crush Lee once and for all and end the Rebellion. But that one last push never happened, Lee's army escaped to fight another day, and Lincoln was deeply hurt by what he considered a failure of nerve by Meade (pictured above) and his lieutenants. Historians have been arguing about all this ever since. Was Lincoln justified to feel betrayed by timidity in the Union high command, or was Meade right to resist pressure from Washington to launch a potentially suicidal assault on Lee's entrenchments at Williamsport?


More recently another perspective has emerged. Did Meade fail to exploit other opportunities for forcing Lee's surrender, opportunities that did not entail a frontal assault on Lee's lines?


Veteran Civil War battlefield tour guide (and Lincoln Group board member) Craig Howell will explore the ins and outs of the enduring Lincoln-Meade controversy during our September 25 tour. Everyone will bring their own picnic lunches and beverages, which we will enjoy in our reserved pavilion at Devils Backbone Park. Craig will give his first interpretive talk inside the pavilion once we're done with lunch. Subsequent stops will include St. James School, where a climactic battle could have been fought but wasn't, and the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport, now a C&O Canal Visitor Center, then the site of a critical ford and Rebel escape route across the Potomac. As a bonus, we will also receive a tour of the final action of the entire Gettysburg Campaign, the Battle of Falling Waters on the morning of July 14, 1863, personally led by George Franks, who owns the property where the battle was fought and where Confederate General J. J. Pettigrew was mortally wounded. George requests a $5 donation from each participant for the preservation and maintenance of this critical and privately-owned battlefield. Our tour should conclude at this site by 4 p.m. There is no additional charge for the tour.


RSVPs Required. If you'd like to attend, please RSVP to Craig by calling his home number, (202) 462-0535, or emailing him at: craighowell1@verizon.net. Craig will send driving directions to all drivers as we get close to September 25.


Please note that we need to do everything possible to maximize carpooling and to minimize the number of cars participating in this tour, because parking is very limited at most of our stops. Limited parking also explains why we are gathering at the relatively early hour of 10 a.m. at Devils Backbone, hopefully before the parking lot fills up; the park's dramatic and beautiful setting alongside Antietam Creek helps make it extremely popular. That early start will give everyone plenty of time to walk around the park and to take advantage of the many photo ops there before we commence the picnic. Craig will try to arrange carpools, so he'll ask you where you live, if you can be a driver or if you will need a ride with someone else. Since we'll often be in close quarters, every participant should be fully vaccinated.