The American Grand Strategy Program at Duke would like to invite you to participate in a staff ride at Gettysburg National Battlefield the weekend of November 22.  The trip will take two full days, and depending on student response, the trip will be either Friday-Saturday (Nov. 22-23) or Saturday-Sunday (Nov. 23-24).

A staff ride differs from a guided battlefield tour in two respects: First, it is an educational technique for studying leadership. In a staff ride, participants ask the questions “What happened?”  “Why?” “With what result?” but then press further: “Did this commander make the right decision at this juncture?” “How would I have acted in his place?” “Should he have made a different decision given the information he had?” It is, to use an unpopular term, a judgmental exercise, and often a counter factual one. A staff ride resembles a business school case study, but conducted, as it were, on-site.

Secondly, a staff ride requires active participation. The challenge and the pleasure of this activity lies in its character as a collective effort, and its success rests on the participants themselves. The staff ride director serves as a moderator or a seminar leader, and only in the last resort as a subject matter expert. What makes the staff ride particularly stimulating is that it is a group exercise in which  we examine many aspects of command and management.To that end each participant takes a turn giving a short talk, in most cases playing the role of one of the main participants in the battle, and is questioned by his or her colleagues about that participant’s view of what has transpired on the battlefield.

The Battle of Gettysburg is among the most famous and hard-fought encounters of the Civil War. To learn more about the battle, please visit There are two ways to be involved in this activity: as a role player, or as a questioner.

  • As a role player, you will take the part of a leading general and you will present and explain his actions on the battlefield.
  • As a questioner, you will interrogate the role players on their decision-making process and their actions.

Interested in applying? Contact Joyce Lau at