McPherson: "rock star" tours America

Retired Princeton professor and author James McPherson has picked up a brief Maryland teaching gig. "St. Mary's College of Maryland has made McPherson the first visiting professor in its new program, the Center for the Study of Democracy," according to the Balitmore Sun (subscription required).

He was recently taking a select group around Chancellorsville battlefield, one member of which included a financial patron: this in lieu of a lecture on democracy.
A 1965 St. Mary's alum now on the board of trustees, Daugherty, a Southern Maryland banker, helped endow the speaker series McPherson is inaugurating. He has already gotten his money's worth, he says. "Maybe our next guest will be from the legal profession, or a sociologist," he says, "but we've started with a great mind. In history, Jim McPherson's a rock star."

This has been a kind of greatest hits roadshow; his week-long gig seems loaded with battlefield tours.
Like a great general, the professor communicates best in the field. After Hazel Grove, he marches his followers to the bottom of a hill, leaps a strategically located creek, and presses on. A few students toss questions, and McPherson answers over his shoulder without breaking stride.

That personal touch was administered by "the man in the wraparound shades."
Thirty-five people trail in James McPherson's wake as he ambles down a brush-covered hillside toward a clearing below, but he casts nary a glance to the rear. [...] If the hallmark of a good teacher is bringing clarity to the complex, McPherson is a fine commander. [...] "There's nothing like soaking in the atmosphere to bring a lot of ideas to mind, and I have to stay sharp." [...]

McPherson has been paid for insight and analysis and is, instead, hurriedly rehashing events on a battlefield tour best given by park rangers. (On the other hand, synthesizing snippets from half-remembered ranger talks is not far from the practice of writing pop history, so the students can watch a Pulitzer winner in action and the day is not a total loss.)

"'Jim's the best in his field,' says a winded Daugherty."

Well, he certainly makes history look easy.