Congratulations John Latschar

John Latschar has accepted a position as the next president of the Gettysburg Foundation after 14 years with the NPS.  During that time he has overseen major changes to the battlefield, including the demolition of the national tower and landscape rehabilitation.  His most important project was the planning and completion of a new state-of-the-art visitor center, which includes what I believe to be the finest Civil War exhibit to be found anywhere.  It’s no surprise that Latschar would want to move on to new challenges, but it is comforting to know that he will continue to work closely with the NPS to maintain one of this nation’s most cherished sites.

Latschar’s detractors are already unleashing their venom.  One fellow blogger has described this appointment as a case of Latschar “feathering his own nest”. The article linked to in this post suggests that Latschar was surprised by the offer and took a few weeks to consider it.  This doesn’t sound like a conspiracy to me but, than again, what do I know.

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7 comments… add one
  • Brooks Simpson Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:58

    I want to second John Hennessy’s post, especially about reclaiming historic vistas. When Mark Grimsley and I were touring battlefields in 1995, that issue came up in a discussion with NPS about Manassas. The comment then was that given Manassas’s status, historic sitelines were not likely to be reconstructed. That’s no longer the case, as I saw this past May.

  • John Hennessy Nov 11, 2008 @ 8:39

    Speaking from the narrow (though important) perspective of one who helps manages a battlefield landscape that is also a national park, John Latschar is the most important superintendent any NPS battlefield site has had in our lifetime. Through the park’s GMP and the rigorous implementation that followed it, he was the key figure in:

    – Establishing the primacy of wartime resources and landscapes over all else–a point much in debate for a very long time.

    – The reclamation of the patterns of forest and field at Gettysburg have made it possible for all other sites to seriously consider and pursue such a course–something, again, that was, in the mid-1990s, only a faint dream.

    – Regardless of what you think about the park’s approach to interpreting the battle and Civil War, Gettysburg has has helped re-establish the importance of interpretation, and especially the many reasons why these places matter (or ought to) to the nation. What the NPS does in the way of interpretation may not much interest those already immersed in the story (though I think it really does–there are few things as compelling as a powerful interpretive program delivered on-site, no matter how many times you’ve been there), but it is everything to the bulk of a park’s visitors. Otherwise, these places are just fields and forest without significance.

    Think back fifteen years. All of these issues were much in debate. Our battlefield landscapes threatened to become little more than museums of commemorative expression, with the resources related to the battle managed and interpreted with the same earnestness that we devote to CCC culverts, 1964 visitor centers, and postwar forests. While many people have had something to do with the reordering of our priorities, Gettysburg under John Latschar’s watch have given those reordered priorities tangible form–much to the benefit to park visitors, both casual and hard-core.

  • Kevin Levin Nov 11, 2008 @ 5:55

    Pete, — If the comments over at Eric’s blog are reflective of the majority than I will stay right where I am. The comments, including Eric’s post, say nothing substantive about Latschar’s acceptance of this new position. It’s a lot of emotion and hurt feelings. Eric mentioned that he was going to do a follow-up post on Latschar’s evil reign at Gettysburg.

  • Pete Carmichael Nov 10, 2008 @ 21:18

    I am in the minority with you Kevin. I think Latschar should receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom! I wished all NPS Supers. had his intellectual vision

  • Kevin Levin Nov 10, 2008 @ 10:25

    Thanks Eric. There are two comments in response to your post and neither says anything of interest. Obviously, I believe that your suggestion that Latschar was planning all along for this position has no merit unless you can substantiate it. I await your follow-up post on these matters. We seem to disagree fundamentally with what has transpired at Gettysburg in recent years.

  • Eric Wittenberg Nov 10, 2008 @ 10:04


    You seem to be in the minority on this issue. You might have a look at the comments to my post.


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