Musters – Events

The First Defenders meet at 6:30 PM on the second Tuesday of each month from September through May. Meetings include dinner and a speaker who may be a guest or a member. Meetings are currently held at The Inn at Reading. A book raffle is held each month with all proceeds donated to battlefield preservation. Guests and new members are welcome. Space is limited in the restaurant, so please contact a board member or the First Defenders by email (see the Regimental Staff page).


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Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg

More than 150 years after the event, the fateful attack by 12,000 Confederate infantrymen against the Union position on Cemetery Ridge still emotionally resonates with Gettysburg enthusiasts like no other aspect of the battle. On the afternoon of July 3rd, Robert E. Lee would order perhaps the most legendary charge in American military history that would ever after be known (perhaps inaccurately) as “Pickett’s Charge.”

Often considered the turning point of the battle of Gettysburg and, by extension, the Civil War itself, much has been written about the battle itself and Pickett’s Charge in particular.  A participant observed the charge “has been more criticized, and is still less understood, than any other act of the Gettysburg drama.”   This program will bring the events of that sultry July afternoon in south-central Pennsylvania into crystal clear reality that will provoke a new understanding of this critical event by seasoned Gettysburg trampers and greenhorns alike.

Wayne Motts is the Chief Executive Officer of The National Civil War Museum, one of the largest museums in the country dedicated to the study, interpretation, preservation and exhibition of the American Civil War.  His professional resume is an impressive list of nationally recognized organizations.  Wayne has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Adams County Historical Society, the Curator of the Cumberland County Historical Society, and Senior Research Historian for the TravelBrains Corporation. Wayne has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at the Gettysburg National Military Park since 1988. In 2013, Wayne received the Emeritus Guide designation for more than twenty-five years of service, and as such was one of the youngest guides to be so recognized with that honor.  Wayne received his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Military History from The Ohio State University. He received his Masters of Arts in American History from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

James Hessler has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park since 2003.  His book Sickles at Gettysburg (Savas Beatie, 2009) was awarded the R.E. Lee Civil War Round Table’s “Bachelder Coddington Award” and the Gettysburg Civil War Round Table’s “Distinguished Book Award” as the most outstanding work on the Gettysburg Campaign.  Jim's latest book (co-authored with Wayne) Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, was released in July 2015 and has been received very favorably by both readers and critics alike as the first battlefield guide ever published on the famous July 3 assault.  Jim has been a guest on Travel Channel, NPR, PCN-TV, Breitbart News, Civil War Radio, and Gettysburg Daily. He was one of the primary content designers for the Civil War Trust’s mobile Gettysburg application and animated maps. Jim has written several articles for Gettysburg Magazine and other national publications He is a frequent speaker at Civil War Round Tables and has taught courses for the Gettysburg Foundation and Harrisburg (PA) Area Community College.  James Hessler has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park since 2003.


April 6th, 1862, was the day any remaining vestiges of the Civil War being a short and painless war were dashed on the banks of the Tennessee River in northern Mississippi.  Although he would deny it to his dying day, Ulysses S. Grant's Union army was surprised by a brazen attack led by Albert Sidney Johnston.  By the time the sun went down, Grant's troops had been pressed back nearly to the river and Johnston lay dead.  The Battle of Shiloh would ultimately prove to be a Northern victory, but the luster Grant had achieved at Forts Henry and Donelson would become a bit tarnished, and the general would spend the next several months playing second-strong to Henry Halleck.

Our April program...our annual "Evening with Ed"...will feature the Battle of Shiloh as only the incomparable Ed Bearss can tell it.  And, with his "devil-may-care" swagger, Ed is sure to have some surprises for us.  Don't miss it!

Ed Bearss is the retired chief historian of the National Park Service.  The author of numerous books, discoverer of the wreck of the U.S.S. Cairo and prolific tour guide and lecturer, Ed is the most frequent guest lecturer of the First Defenders and one of our greatest friends.  Still on the lecture circuit and battlefields as he approaches his 95th birthday, Ed continues to make it appear the Energizer Bunny is standing still!

Sickles at Gettysburg

No one who fought at Gettysburg was more controversial than Daniel Edgar Sickles.  A disgraced former congressman who had shot and killed his young wife's lover (and who beat the charge with the first insanity defense in American history), Sickles was the only military non-professional corps commander in either army at Gettysburg.  

Reviled by many, Sickles would always claim he had won the battle by deploying (and essentially destroying) his III Corps from Devil's Den, through the Wheatfield to the Peach Orchard and along the Emmitsburg Road.  Assailed from two directions by Longstreet's Confederate juggernaut, historians still debate whether Sickles was foolish or extraordinarily lucky.  Sickles would lose a leg during the action on July 2nd, and he would never return to a field command.  He would, however, eventually return to Congress late in the 19th Century and manage to have himself awarded a Medal of Honor!

James Hessler is a Licensed Battlefield Guide who has written what has been described as the first balanced biography of Daniel Edgar Sickles.  His program will discuss this rogue-ish character who left an indelible mark on the Battle of Gettysburg and who lived a long and controversial life.  Love Sickles or despise him, he was unquestionably one-of-a-kind!