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Painting depicting battle of Gettysburg.
Travel to DC and Montana to walk the fields of Gettysburg and Little Bighorn, and recapture what it was like to be there.

The Face of Battle

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Our understanding of warfare often derives from the lofty perspective of political leaders and generals: what were their objectives and what strategies were developed to meet them? This top-down perspective slights the experience of the actual combatants and non-combatants caught in the crossfire. This course focuses on the complexity of the process by which strategy is translated into tactical decisions by the officers and foot soldiers and on what actually occurs on the field of battle. We will visit Washington, DC, and meet with national security officials and members of non-government organizations there. In addition, we will spend a day visiting the battlefields of Gettysburg (July 1863) in Pennsylvania, and the Little Bighorn (June 1876) in Montana. The course's battlefield tours are based on the "staff rides" developed by the Prussian Army in the mid-1800s and employed by the U.S. Army since the early 1900s. While at Stanford, students will conduct extensive research on individual participants at Gettysburg and Little Bighorn. Then, as we walk through the battlefield sites, students will brief the group on their subjects' experience of battle and on why they made the decisions they did. Why did Lt. General Longstreet oppose the Confederate attack on the Union Army at Gettysburg? What was the experience of a military surgeon, vivandiere, or nurse on a Civil War battlefield? What role did just war principles or law play in the treatment of enemy fighters and civilians? Why did Custer divide his 7th Cavalry troops as they approached the Little Bighorn River? What was the role of Lakota Sioux women after a battle? The final part of the class covers contemporary military conflicts discussing what the US public, political leaders, and military commanders have learned (and not learned) from the past.  The course is open to students from a range of disciplines; an interest in the topic is the only prerequisite.

Important Logistics

Students will arrive on campus on Monday, September 5 (Labor Day) and will be housed at Stanford before departing for the travel portion of the course. Travel will be provided and paid by Sophomore College (except incidentals) and is made possible by the support of the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).

COVID Caveats

If COVID makes travel impossible, we expect this class will be cancelled.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Scott Sagan

Caroline S. G. Munro Memorial Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Scott Sagan

Scott D. Sagan is the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science, the Peter and Mimi Haas University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, and Senior Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). He is a specialist on nuclear weapons and international security and the recipient of four major teaching awards. His distant relative, Major General George E. Pickett, led the final Confederate charge at Gettysburg.

Allen Weiner

Senior Lecturer in Law

Professor Weiner standing in front of staircase.

Professor Weiner served as an attorney in the U.S. State Department for over a decade before joining the Stanford faculty and is currently the Director of the Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law, and Co-director of the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation at Stanford Law School. He specializes in international law, with a focus on international security issues.