Military Historian Carol Reardon ‘74 Brings Battlefields to Life

Dr. Carol Reardon ‘74, a nationally-renowned military historian with expertise in the Civil War and Vietnam Conflict will be offering a free public lecture entitled “Gettysburg in History and Memory” on February 19 at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in downtown Meadville. Prof. Rearden is the George Winfree Professor Emerita of American History at Penn State University and is on the board of the Gettysburg National Battlefield. She will be in Meadville February 12-22, teaching a short course on the Civil War at Allegheny College.

Carol Reardon

Reardon has been hosting Allegheny interns in Gettysburg since 2017. As two summer internships grew to twelve in 2024, Reardon endowed a fund to provide financial support for hands-on experience in History and the Public Humanities. Her audiences have said that she “brings the battlefields to life” through a lively and interactive approach and that her exhaustive knowledge of all things Gettysburg is “simply amazing.” Reardon’s belief that the study of war requires an understanding of its political and social context–and not merely the operation of armies or combat on the field of battle makes for educational and entertaining fare. She encourages the integration of history’s various subdisciplines in researching and writing about armed conflicts.

In her work on the Civil War, Reardon emphasizes the interaction of the forces of “history” and “memory” during and after the war. She explores how Northerners and Southerners shaped their various perceptions of the “truth” about Pickett’s Charge, the Confederates’ fatal decision to charge Northern lines on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Reardon is the author of the award-winning Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory, A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People, and many other books and articles.

Reardon’s investigation also extends to the Vietnam conflict. Using the members of a naval aviation squadron that flew against targets in North Vietnam in 1972–and their families at home–she has reconstructed the history of that unit’s combat cruise. She brings in the experiences of friends and family waiting at home during one of the most heated and controversial elements of that conflict’s air war.
In addition to traditional classroom teaching, Prof. Reardon is heavily involved in professional military education activities for all the various armed forces. She specializes in the conduct of ‘staff rides’ to Civil War battlefields and teaches in open-air classrooms. These allow military personnel to discuss, in historical context, essential elements of the art of war such as leadership, logistics, and decision-making.

Reardon has been instrumental in providing Allegheny students with summer internships at both Gettysburg and Antietam and has impacted the career trajectories and confidence of many students.

“My sophomore year, Dr. Carol Reardon reached out to me and placed me at the Seminary Ridge Museum and I learned what I want to do with the rest of my life. Gettysburg changed everything for me,” says Elaina Ginsberg ’25. “I gained a huge passion for Civil War era history, and loved every minute of working and researching at the museum, seeing the Gettysburg archives, speaking to people, and sharing my passion with others. I also learned about the Civil War in a hands-on way, being able to be around archives, work in a historic building, and go on several tours of the battlefields. I also learned how to publicly speak in front of large groups and feel confident in myself as a woman in history, especially in the male-dominated historical field of Civil War history.”

On fall weekends in 2016 and 2018 Reardon hosted more than eighty Allegheny students and faculty at the Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields. In May 2024, she will lead an alumni bus tour of the Gettysburg National Military Park. A focus will be on the life and battlefield experience of Alleghenians and members of Crawford County.