Leadership in American History Symposium & New Orleans Tour

In celebration of the 300th Anniversary of New Orleans, we are excited to present this symposium and historic New Orleans tour that features inspiring lectures by our expert historians about leaders throughout history and visits to historical and cultural sites around the city and in nearby Louisiana.

– Terri Sercovich, Symposium Architect

Founded in 1718, New Orleans will celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2018. The city and state have a rich history. New Orleans was the site of the final battle of the War of 1812— the Battle of New Orleans. It was the largest city and economic center of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. On the edge of the Crescent City, Lake Pontchartrain is where Andrew Higgins created, tested and manufactured the Higgins landing crafts that brought Allied troops to the shores of Normandy during the D-Day invasion of WWII. Renowned author and America’s premier historian, Stephen E Ambrose, founded our company here in 1979 and The National WWII Museum in 2000.

New Orleans is also a city with a rich heritage. We are enriched by the melting pot of food, music and culture that has enticed everyone from Stephen Ambrose to author Tennessee Williams.

Our Leadership in American History Symposium and Historic New Orleans Tour will be an enlightening and entertaining of mix daily lectures by and discussions with our distinguished historians, and visits to historical and cultural sites in New Orleans and Louisiana.

We invite you to come to New Orleans and be inspired by our historians, to have experiences in an iconic city that you can’t have anywhere else, and to make new friends. We also have some very fun surprises in store. Of course, our delicious Creole and Cajun food will be a bonus. It’s winning combination!

Read Abstracts of the Historical Lectures

Our historians, experts in their field and published authors, will be speaking and leading discussions on the role leadership has played throughout history. They will cover the Revolutionary War, Battle of New Orleans, American Civil War, WWII, WWI, and the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Read abstracts of the lectures on Lewis and Clark, Revolutionary War, Battle of New Orleans>>

Read abstracts of the lectures on the American Civil War>>

Read abstracts of the lectures on WWI and WWII>>

Read the bios of our expert historians>>


  • French Quarter walking tour of historical and architectural sites
  • Ride on the Creole Queen paddle wheeler to the historic Chalmette Battlefield, location of the Battle of New Orleans
  • Visits to Oak Alley Plantation
  • Visit to Fort Jackson, battlefield during the American Civil War
  • One-day pass to The National WWII Museum, founded by Stephen Ambrose in 2000
  • Swamp tour: Boat trip through the bayous and swamps of Louisiana surrounded by exotic fauna and flora
  • Mardi Gras World: See where artists create the floats that roll through New Orleans for Carnival

Day-By-Day Itinerary

DAY 1 Saturday, February 24

Welcome to New Orleans, home of Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours!

Once you arrive at Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY), make your way to the Astor Crowne Plaza French Quarter. Check-in is 4 p.m. The first activity is a 6 p.m. Welcome Reception followed by dinner at the hotel.

Dinner provided.

DAY 2 Sunday, February 25

The first full day of the tour covers pre-Civil War American History. The morning starts with lectures on the Revolutionary War, the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the War of 1812/Battle of New Orleans.

After lectures, we have lunch on the Creole Queen river boat on the way to the Chalmette Battlefield. From there, we visit the Jackson Barracks Military Museum.

Breakfast and lunch provided. Dinner on your own.


Lecture: Road to the Revolutionary War
Historian: Rick Beyer
A presentation about the events leading up to the first day of the Revolution, and the outbreak of fighting in Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Why did the war start on that day in that place? It’s a riveting story more than a dozen years in the making that includes leaders everyone knows, such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and British General Thomas Gage –- as well as key players most people have never heard of. Based on research done for the book First Shot: The Day the Revolution Began and other projects done for the Lexington MA Historical Society.

Lecture: Leadership Styles of Lewis and Clark
Historian: Hal Stearns
We are truly fascinated with the leadership and vision of Jefferson and his remarkable commanders Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Corps to the Northwest. Leadership: Wow! The Commander-in-Chief was on the 1804-06 journey in spirit every single day. And the leaders, Lewis— quiet, pensive and the scientist— and Clark— the military commander and great cartographer— took on the amazing mission to “discover, locate and explore.” Our greatest land reconnaissance in our rich history. What a team! There is no higher calling than to lead and no piece of our past exemplifies it more than the magical time between1800 and1806.

Lecture: The Battle of New Orleans: Reality and Revisionism
Historian: Ron Drez
It was the climactic battle that guaranteed the U.S. doctrine of Manifest Destiny. It was anticipated to have been an overwhelming British victory, and turned out to be the most lopsided defeat of an opponent ever in the annals of military history. Historians got it right for the first 100 years, but then it became the subject of a late-blooming breed of “proclamation” historians who abandoned research to write bad history.

DAY 3 Monday, February 26

The first day of our study of the Civil War takes us to the Confederate Memorial Hall in New Orleans. Opening in 1891, this museum is the oldest in Louisiana and houses one of the largest collections of Confederate memorabilia in the US.

We then travel to Vacherie, LA, to visit Oak Alley Plantation where we have lunch. Established almost 200 years ago, this plantation now features exhibits on its history, including slavery, sugarcane and blacksmithing. The majestic live oaks that adorn the grounds are a signature of the site.

Breakfast and lunch provided. Dinner on your own.


Lecture: Stonewall Jackson’s leadership during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862
Historian: Jack Mountcastle
In the spring of 1862, Major General T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson led a small army of 17,000 troops through a series of hard-fought battles that tied down over 65,000 Union soldiers in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. His victories brought a ray of hope to a beleaguered Confederacy.

Lecture: Louisiana in the Civil War
Historian: Mark Bielski 
Louisiana was markedly different from the other states of the Deep South. Having just become part of the US in 1803, it had developed as a French and Spanish colony with a unique set of customs, laws and language. We discuss Louisiana as it became “American” and developments leading up to the conflict, the war itself and the aftermath.  

Lecture: How Not to Lead an Army: The Unfortunate Case of Don Carlos Buell
Historian: Gerry Prokopowicz
When he took command of the Army of the Ohio in 1861, he had professional training, combat experience in Mexico, a sterling peacetime record, the trust and friendship of his immediate superior, and an easy act to follow after his predecessor was relieved for going insane. He never lost a battle, yet today there remains practically no public memory of the man: no Fort Buell, no Buell Memorial, nothing. What went wrong? Sometimes it’s easier to identify something by its absence; this talk will look at the leadership qualities that Buell lacked, in spite of everything else he had going for him.

DAY 4 Tuesday, February 27

After a morning lecture at the hotel, the group travels south near the mouth of the Mississippi River to Plaquemines Parish, LA, home of Fort Jackson.

Forts Jackson and St. Phillip (located directly across the river) were the main bulwark of the Confederate defenses near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Damaged in Hurricane Isaac in 2012, the fort is closed to the public, but we have special permission to visit.

Breakfast and lunch provided. Dinner on your own.


Lecture: Lincoln, Grant, and the Birth of Modern Strategy
Historian: Gerry Prokopowicz
In an era when most professional soldiers still thought in terms of the geometric and geographic concepts of Jomini and other interpreters of Napoleon, a small-town lawyer and a failed junior officer were among the first to recognize the essence of modern strategy. What did these two perceive about strategy, and how did they see what others missed? Strategy is not the only aspect of military leadership, but it is a vital component. Paradoxically, it is in many ways the simplest and rarest leadership skill, and one that both Lincoln and Grant mastered.

Lecture: The military leadership of Grant and Lee during the1864 Overland Campaign 
Historian: Jack Mountcastle
Following his victories at Vicksburg and Chattanooga in 1863, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to Lt. General and placed in command of all Federal armies. In this challenging role, Grant undertook a campaign in the spring of 1864 aimed at the destruction of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Lecture: Fall of New Orleans 
Historian: Mark Bielski 
At the start of the Civil War, New Orleans was the biggest city in the Confederacy—larger than Richmond, Charleston and Memphis combined. Additionally, it was the world’s greatest exporting port. It was pure folly that the Confederate leaders did not make the defense of this great city a priority. How did the city plan to protect itself from invasion? From the forts at the mouth of the river to building defenses on land and water, we discuss how the city became helpless while the government siphoned off men and material for use in other parts of the South.

DAY 5 Wednesday, February 28

After morning lectures, drop off at National WWII Museum at noon. Lunch on your own today so can structure your time at the Museum.

Founded by Stephen Ambrose, the National WWII Museum offers a compelling blend of sweeping narrative and poignant personal detail. Through immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences and an expansive collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories, the museum takes visitors inside the story of the war that changed the world.

Breakfast provided. Lunch and dinner on your own.


Lecture: Getting Them Over There: John J. Pershing, the Creation of the American Expeditionary Force and the Birth of the Modern Army
Historian: Chris Anderson
The Kaiser could be forgiven for believing the Allies would be defeated long before a single Doughboy landed in France. When the United States declared war on Imperial Germany in April 1917 its army was a minuscule constabulary force barely sufficient in size to police America’s borders and wholly unprepared for waging a modern, industrial war. It was largely through the vision, singlemindedness of purpose and determination of one- man, General John J. Pershing, that within a year the United States had created, and fielded, a military force that would be decisive in bringing about the defeat of the Central Powers after four years of the most cataclysmic war in human history.

Lecture: Predicting Pearl Harbor
Historian: Ron Drez
The surprise attack at Pearl Harbor was indeed a surprise to all who would not see. But one man saw it and predicted it in 1923--eighteen years before December 7, 1941. General Billy Mitchell, a hero of the Great War, detailed it all and how it would unfold. His railings against the antiquated military and political mind set of the time led to his court-martial and removal from the service; but five years after his death his prophecy came true.

Lecture: Normandy Deception
Historian: Ron Drez
It would be one throw of the dice against the German might: the Normandy Invasion. But Eisenhower’s landing force could be dwarfed and overwhelmed by concentrated German forces. To have a chance of success, the Germans had to be deceived as to where and when the landing would occur. Fortitude South was the tangled web of spies and lies to deceive. 

DAY 6 Thursday, March 1

Today is full of WWII lectures at the hotel. We have some fun activities scheduled to to add entertaining diversions to the schedule.

Breakfast and lunch provided. Dinner on your own.


Lecture: Architect of Overlord: Frederick Morgan, the forgotten hero of the D-Day Landings
Historian: Chris Anderson 
In early 1943 British Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan was told to begin planning for the invasion of France. He did not know where the invasion would take place, he did not know how many ships there would be to cross the Channel with or how many aircraft would fly overhead. He did not even know how many men would be at his disposal or who would command them. Undaunted, with a three-man staff, Morgan began working on the plan for what would become Operation Overlord. It was Morgan and his staff that selected Normandy as the site of the landings, the necessity to construct and transport to Normandy the Mulberry harbors, the deployment of British landing forces on the left and Americans on the right of the landings and the mass deployment of airborne forces on the flanks. Despite the central role he played, Morgan and the staff that he created are largely overlooked in discussions of the D-Day landings.

Lecture: Ghost Army
Historian: Rick Beyer
A few weeks after D-Day, a top secret US Army unit went into action in Normandy. Armed with inflatable tanks, sound effects, creativity and dazzling showmanship, their mission was to fool the Germans right on the front lines. Historian Rick Beyer presents his award-winning documentary on the 23rd headquarters Special Troops, known today as The Ghost Army.

Lecture: General Patton— Leading by Example
Historian: Kevin Hymel 
Could this story be true? During the cold and snowy last phase of the Battle of the Bulge, General George S. Patton’s troops were stymied at the Sure River while the Germans rained artillery and small arms fire down on the Americans. When Patton’s engineers told him they could not bridge the river because of enemy fire, Patton took off his pistol, removed his coat, shirt and pants and swam the river under fire and then swam back, inspiring his engineers and foot soldiers to cross the river and engage the enemy. This long-held myth will be explored for the facts on what happened that day.

Lecture: Leadership in WWII
Historian: Mark Bielski 
If one had to choose the preeminent figure of WWII, who would it be? The countries involved had political and military leaders of every ilk. Dictators, democrats, monarchs, parliamentarians, autocrats and imperialists—which was most successful? We compare and contrast the men and methods and draw a consensus from the group for the most effective leader.

Lecture: WWII in the Pacific
Historian: Don Farrell


DAY 7 Friday, March 2

Besides being a crossroads of American History, New Orleans was 85 years old before the Louisiana Purchase made it American. The culture and food are world-renowned. The environment is unique. It is the birthplace of Jazz and the cocktail.

Today we take you to some unique sites you can only see in New Orleans: a swamp tour, French Quarter walking-tour and Mardi Gras World.

Tonight, the Farewell Reception is at the hotel. With live music and a special performance, we will show you how we entertain in the Big Easy.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided


Lecture: Jefferson’s Vision & the Louisiana Purchase
Historian: Hal Stearns
Thomas Jefferson had a great vision for the brand new republic that was far-reaching and he had an unquenchable curiosity about the West. Buying Louisiana in 1803 would double our size. Some saw the purchase as unconstitutional, others as impossible or nuts. But, we buy it!

DAY 8 Saturday, March 3

No-post tour: Join the group for a late breakfast at Court of Two Sisters, just blocks from our hotel. Check-out at noon.

PT Boat Extension: At noon, after the late breakfast at Court of Two Sisters, we will travel to Lake Pontchartrain for our 1 p.m. ride on the restored PT 305. After the ride, guests will be returned to the hotel, where you have the rest of the day and night free. Check-out on March 4 by noon.

The Court of Two Sisters has become known worldwide for its live Jazz Brunch, romantic Creole dinners, friendly service and beautiful, open-air courtyard. The building was constructed in 1832 and the restaurant itself is 55 years old.

Post-Tour Option: March 3

  • After brunch, ride on the refurbished PT 305 boat on Lake Pontchartrain
  • Free night in New Orleans
  • Checkout on March 4, noon

Tour Dates

  • February 24 - March 3, 2018
  • Optional PT 305 Ride Sold Out!
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Prices are per person based on double occupancy. For a single room add $525. Price includes all lectures, cultural trips and scheduled group meals.

Post-Tour PT 305 Ride

$510 per person based on double occupancy. Single supplement of $90.

Local Option

Do you live in the New Orleans area? Take the full tour without hotel accommodations. Call us!

Singular Interests

If you would like to do a partial tour, for example, only the Civil War days or only the WWII days, we can accommodate you. Please call for more information.

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