Service on the Battlefield – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Service on the Battlefield

Over fall break, members of Ave Bauder’s Reader’s College course, “Gettysburg!,” which focuses on the Battle of Gettysburg, visited the historic location to get a firsthand view of the battlefield and to give a little back to the area. Bauder is the director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning (CCESL) and a Civil War enthusiast.

Three of the four students from the class – Elizabeth Witbeck ’10, Catherine Hotaling ’11 and Eli Gleason ’12- made the trip, along with Bauder’s wife Tina, who teaches social studies at South Seneca Middle School, and Bauder’s two sons. 

Already prepared by class reading including James McPherson’s “Why They Fought,” Stephen Sears’ one volume history “Gettysburg” and Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Killer Angels,” the group visited Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, Slaughterpen and Seminary Ridge, as well as historic downtown Gettysburg, where the original 18th and 19th century buildings still stand.

“We thoroughly looked at both sides of the battle, Confederate and Union,” says Witbeck, a religious studies major and arts and education minor.  “We looked at the reasons why people wanted to fight in this war, the strategies involved in planning the battle, everything. Until you go there, you can never truly know what a place is like.”


There was also a public service component to the excursion.  “I didn’t just want the group to go and tour but to instead be more a part of the battlefield and the history. The park has an ongoing volunteer program where groups can take care of different parts of the battlefield or help where needed,” says Bauder. 

Work ranges from painting to putting up fence lines to clearing brush, which was the task of the HWS group.  They cleared the brush from the stone fence near “the Angle,” the apex of Pickett’s Charge. 

“It is pretty humbling and gives you a great sense of responsibility and pride to be entrusted to work at such a hallowed spot,” Bauder says. “We had this section of the field all to ourselves for a nice chunk of time and worked for about five and a half hours. It certainly looked a lot better when we were through.”


The project was significant, says Gleason.  “To know that I was working to preserve an area where thousands had fought and died left an impression on me that I will never forget.”

“It was a great opportunity,” says Witbeck. “The trip complemented the course because it is a lot easier to get a sense of the battle once you have been to the site where it happened. The service component was great, too!  It’s always great to give back to a community, whether it’s in Geneva or Gettysburg!”