Speakers & Historians Biographies | American Battlefield Trust
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Speakers & Historians Biographies

2021 National Teacher Institute

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More Bios and Speakers to Come!

Presenters & Historians:

Garry Adelman

A graduate of Michigan State University and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Garry Adelman is the award-winning author, co-author or editor of 20 books and 50 Civil War articles. He is the vice president of the Center for Civil War Photography and has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg for 25 years. He has conceived and drafted the text for wayside exhibits at ten battlefields, has given thousands of battlefield tours at more than 60 sites and has lectured at hundreds of locations across the country including the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. He has appeared as a speaker on the BBC, C-Span, Pennsylvania Cable Network, American Heroes Channel, and on HISTORY where he was a chief consultant and talking head on the Emmy Award-winning show Gettysburg (2011) and Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color (2015).  He works full time as Chief Historian at the American Battlefield Trust.


Val Branch

Val Branch is an American History teacher at Shawnee High School in Shawnee, Oklahoma where she currently teaches American History, AP American History, and Oklahoma's only Sports History. Recently voted by Shawnee students as one of the school's Most Valuable Teachers, one of her greatest desires is for students to see how the past is truly relevant to them today. This was passed on to Val from an early age when her family visited the Shiloh Battlefield which ignited a passion for history, especially the Civil War. After graduating from Oklahoma Baptist University (BA in Youth Ministry), Val took students on yearly mission trips where we would always stop at least one battlefield. After 30 years of youth ministry, she changed careers to education. Val received her Master's in History in 2019 from the University of Central Oklahoma. Val currently resides in Mustang, OK with her cat's Boomer, Sugar, Lucy, and Socks where she serves on the boards for the Czech National Cemetery in Oklahoma City and the Yukon Czech Hall, a National Historic Landmark. In addition to preserving my Czech heritage, Val enjoys traveling, the Oklahoma Sooners, the Dallas Cowboys, the Atlanta Braves, and "trudging" battlefields and cemeteries with her nieces and nephews, the Wampus Kitties. 


Dan Davis

Dan Davis is a native of Fredericksburg, VA where his love for the Civil War began on childhood trips to local battlefields. He is a graduate of Longwood University with a bachelor’s degree in Public History. Dan has worked as a Ranger/Historian at Appomattox Court House National Historical Site and the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. He is the author or co-author of numerous books and articles on the Civil War and is a regular contributor to Emerging Civil War. He currently resides in Fredericksburg.


Dr. Chris Mackowski

Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Emerging Civil War. He is the series editor of the award-winning Emerging Civil War Series, published by Savas Beatie, and the “Engaging the Civil War” Series, published in partnership with Southern Illinois University Press. Chris is a professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, NY, and historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, a historic property on the Spotsylvania battlefield in central Virginia. He has also worked as a historian for the National Park Service at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, where he gives tours at four major Civil War battlefields (Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania), as well as at the building where Stonewall Jackson died. Chris has authored or co-authored a dozen books on the Civil War, and his articles have appeared in all the major Civil War magazines. Chris serves on the national advisory board for the Civil War Chaplains Museum in Lynchburg, Virginia.


Melvin Morris

Melvin Morris was born in Okmulgee, OK, Jan. 7, 1942, and entered the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1959. He grew up in a military family, admiring an uncle who was a ”smoke jumper” in the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, an all-black airborne unit of the U.S. Army during World War II, and an older brother who served in Korea. He later asked to join the active Army and enlisted at Fort Bragg, NC, in 1961. He was one of the first soldiers to become a Green Beret (U. S. Army Special Forces) and volunteered twice for deployments to Vietnam. 

He was serving as one of five advisors on Sept. 17, 1969, but two were wounded and one killed, leaving Morris to cross enemy lines to retrieve the body of his dead comrade. “I knew I had to go and recover his body, because you don't leave a Soldier behind,” he said. “I took two volunteers to get the body of the sergeant and they were both wounded, so I helped them back. I took two bags of hand grenades, and threw hand grenade after hand grenade, then went back alone to recover the body and retrieve the maps and documents the commander was carrying.”

He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in 1970 and, within 30 days, was back in Vietnam for his second tour of duty, having volunteered to return. 

He retired at Fort Hood, Texas, in 1985, and currently lives in Florida.

Morris received the Medal of Honor for his valorous actions on September 17, 1969, while commanding the Third Company, Third Battalion of the IV Mobile Strike Force near Chi Lang, Vietnam. Then-Staff Sgt. Morris led an advance across enemy lines to retrieve a fallen comrade and single-handedly destroyed an enemy force that had pinned his battalion from a series of bunkers. Staff Sgt. Morris was shot three times as he ran back toward friendly lines with the American casualties, but did not stop until he reached safety. 

Morris received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in a March 18, 2014 ceremony in the White House.


Mia Nagawiecki

Mia Nagawiecki is Vice President for Education at the New-York Historical Society. She oversees all education initiatives at the museum, which serve over 200,000 students and teachers annually through inquiry-driven programs that enliven the teaching and learning of history. She has worked on the development of all N-YHS curriculum guides since 2009, and conceived of and is directing the Women & the American Story project, the first-ever comprehensive U.S. women’s history curriculum website (wams.nyhistory.org). Nagawiecki has designed and led hundreds of workshops, institutes, and credit-bearing courses for K-12 educators in New York and across the nation. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the City University of New York’s MA in Museum Studies program. Nagawiecki holds a BA in history from Barnard College and a Master’s in American studies from Columbia University.


Adrienne G. Whaley

Adrienne G. Whaley is an educator and history-lover who currently serves as Senior Manager of K-12 Education at the Museum of the American Revolution. Adrienne earned her Bachelor's degree in African American Studies and her Master's in Education, and previously served as Curator of Education and Public Programming at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. She has worked in both art and history museums and loves the potential for objects, artifacts and primary source documents to enrich student learning experiences. She carries her love of history and for uncovering the stories of common people into her spare time as an avid genealogist researching her own family history.


Kristopher D. White

Kris is the education manager at the American Battlefield Trust. White is a graduate of Norwich University with an M.A. in Military History, as well as a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in History. For nearly five years he served as a staff military historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. White is the co-founder of Emerging Civil War and is also the co-creator of the Engaging the Civil War Series, which is a partnership between Southern Illinois University Press and Emerging Civil War. An award-winning speaker and editor, White has authored, co-authored, or edited nearly two-dozen books; and he frequently leads tours in the United States and abroad.